THE MILK TRAY FRONTIER
by The Chocolate Dictionary
Whereas the Milk Tray Approach is about using the power of suggestion to sell chocolates, the Milk Tray Frontier is the line beyond which any pretence to subtlety and symbolism disappears. Exactly where this line is drawn depends on the perspective of the viewer, but if there’s one thing the history of the Milk Tray Approach demonstrates is that some are willing to push it further than others.
A 1969 Flake ad shown on UK television featured model Hoima MacDonald in “exotic” Portugal sensually peeling off the bar’s wrapper before inserting it sensually between her lips. Hoima said she was unaware of the ad’s erotic connotations at the time, despite the symbolism of a gushing waterfall behind her, and the double entendre in the tagline, “Cadbury’s Flake – a heaven all of your own”. But these were still the early years of TV advertising and the frontier was still being explored.
By the 1990’s and early 2000’s the Flake ads had become so popular they had entered the hallowed halls of iconic television. One of the more unforgettable ads showed model Rachel Brown luxuriating in a bubble bath, with the water allowed to overflow, so absorbed was she in the pleasure. Another showed a model in the blissful thraldom of “fold upon fold of creamy milk chocolate”. And yet another featured Australian actress Alyssa Sutherland, seen enjoying her Flake in an open-topped car, the camera lingering on the water dropletsrunning down her cleavage, her thighs, and her calves as the rain came pouring down.
Not surprisingly, with imagery like this the Flake ads have consistently been voted the sexiest ever. They regularly beat other classics such as the Levi ad in which teen idol Nick Kamen stripped to his underwear in a launderette, and the Diet Coke ad featuring a bare-chested workman – played by the adequately-named hunk Lucky Vanous – being ogled by female office staff.
In being pushed further and further, the Milk Tray Frontier is, in the opinion of some viewers, being pushed too far. A 2001 poster campaign for Snowflake (a white version of Flake), featured a bare-shouldered woman eating the bar in a manner suggestive of oral sex. Nothing new there as far as Flake was conserned, but this image was bigger and more in-your-face than any others. In 2010 a new Flake ad had to be withdrawn before it even reached our screens because it was considered too raunchy. As the Marketing Director of Cadbury said at the time, without a hint of irony, “You try things, but don’t always pull it off, and that’s what happened here”.
In America, Mars’s relaunched Fling bar had a hot-pink wrapper covered in shimmering “mica” dust to appeal to the “girly market”. In one of the ads viewers were meant to believe two people were having sex together in a dressing room. Comments were made and much was said in the press at the time. But with straplines declaring the bar was “Naughty, but not that naughty,” “It’s not cheating if you don’t feel guilty,” and, “Your boyfriend doesn’t need to know,” the allure created around Fling only became hotter.
Ads like these demonstrate just how far manufacturers are willing to go before going too far. But it wasn’t until 2004 that an ad for Romanian brand Kandia arrived which, more than any previous ad, defined just where the boundary lay. In this ad there was no doubt as to what the couple were doing. Both were sprawled, completely naked on a huge satin-sheeted bed and, to the background of a thumping dance beat, were engrossed in a lot more than the enjoyment of their chocolate. “Chocolate with love’” was the strapline, but unfortunately the authorities who regulated such matters didn’t think so and the ad was censored soon after being first shown.