Flake girl in the bath

The famous, oh so subtle, flake adverts

If we’re talking about famous advertising, it’s impossible to ignore cadbury. After all, it’s one of the most famous chocolate brands in the UK, and it’s been responsible for some very smart advertising back in the day. Arguably, none of this has been smarter than the adverts for the Cadbury Flake. They’ve been lampooned and they’ve been mocked, but they’re also remembered very fondly. And they’re absolute proof that sex is almost always successful when trying to sell a product.

These date back to the 1960s, and it’s almost difficult to imagine adverts making a product look much more phallic on-screen without actually getting banned. The flake dates back to 1920, and was actually invented by accident. Excess chocolate spilt over the edge of moulds and folded into the kind of texture we see in flakes. Although it may seem like a more recent invention, the ’99 flakes’ date back to the 1930s. The flake girls started being used in the 1960s as above, however they were causing controversy by the 1970s, when one of the adverts was banned for a while due to the ‘suggestive manner’ in which the woman bit into the bar. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly which one it is, but it’s likely to be this one – with extra points for the Cannon and Ball logo at the start

By the 1980s, the sex appeal had gone into overdrive. It’s unlikely to be by accident that the model in this advert is lit, styled and dressed similarly to Kim Basinger in 9 1/2 weeks, while she sells the crumbliest, flakiest milk chocolate…

But there’s a stroke of genius in the advert as well. As much as it may be aimed at men in some regards (with the sexy, sultry model, and the camera very much playing up her looks, to say nothing of…well, again, the way she eats a flake), there’s also a decadence at play, which shows a rich, almost unattainable lifestyle. After all, the majority of people watching the advert probably didn’t live somewhere which allowed them to regularly see lizards crawling over their phone. This leads to (probably) the most famous of the bunch. The 90s advert, featuring the model with short, dark hair luxuriating in the bath. Again, it’s suggestive, beautifully shot and features a beautiful woman eating something that’s somewhat phallic, but also it’s promoting luxury, comfort and calm. Who wouldn’t like to believe that’s the best way to eat chocolate? (Note – please excuse the language on the link. The perils of youtube…)

Cadbury obviously agreed, since they’ve continued down the ‘luxury’ route with their Dairy Milk adverts since, and made them more obviously aimed at women. The adverts may be naff and impossible to watch with a straight face today. This is probably why Cadbury’s decided to drop the models and replace them with the singer Joss Stone. You’ll note that, for the first time, she takes the time to break a chunk off before eating it. There’s no way that wasn’t a deliberate decision.

The Flake adverts show a simple formula. If you’re attracted to the person in the advert, or even attracted to the lifestyle of the person in the advert, you’re more likely to associate the product with that feeling of attraction. It’s been done for years, although the Flake adverts were possibly the best produced example out there. it was also topped off with an eminently hummable tune and a catchphrase that rolled around the tongue, much like the chocolate it was trying to sell.