THE MILK TRAY FRONTIER
by The Chocolate Dictionary
The Milk Tray Frontier is the line in chocolate adverts beyond which symbolism disappears and overt intention appears instead. Exactly where this line is drawn depends on the perspective of the viewer, but the history of the Milk Tray Approach demonstrates that some advertisers are more willing to push than others.
A 1969 Flake advert shown in the UK once featured model Hoima MacDonald sensually peeling off the wrapper before inserting it suggestively between her lips. That Hoima could say years later she was unaware of the erotic connotations (this, despite the innuendos in a gushing waterfall and suggestive tagline, “Cadbury’s Flake – a heaven all of your own”), was testimony to how little the frontier had advanced up until then. By the early 2000s the Flake ads had become so popular they achieved iconic status. One ad showed model Rachel Brown luxuriating in a bubble bath, with the water allowed to overflow so absorbed was she in her pleasure. There was the blissful thraldom of “fold upon fold of creamy milk chocolate” in another ad. And there was Australian actress Alyssa Sutherland enjoying her Flake in an open-topped car, while the camera lingered on the water droplets running down her top, her thighs, and her calves as the rain poured down.
With imagery like this is it any wonder the Flake ads have consistently been voted the sexiest ever? They regularly top other classics such as the Levis ad in which teen idol Nick Kamen strips to his underwear, and the Diet Coke one featuring a bare-chested workman being ogled by female office staff.
In being pushed further and further, is the Milk Tray Frontier being pushed too far? A 2001 poster campaign featured a bare-shouldered woman eating her Snowflake (a white version of Flake) in a manner suggestive of fellatio. Nothing new as far as Flake was concerned, but because the image was poster-sized, and therefore more in-your-face than anything before, concerns were voiced. By 2010 the Flake ads had become so overt they had to be withdrawn. 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”.
Meanwhile in the States, Mars’s relaunched Fling bar had a simmering hot-pink wrapper to give it maximum ‘girly appeal’. In one of the ads viewers were lead to believe two people were having sex in a dressing room. Comments about it going too far were made and much debate ensued. Mars countered and tried to defend themselves, 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 debate far from cooling down actually got hotter.
Not as hot, perhaps, as the 2004 ad for Romanian brand Kandia which showed just how far the frontier could be pushed before it was considered too far. In this one a couple were sprawled naked on a bed and, to the background of a thumping dance beat, were sensually engaged in a lot more than enjoying chocolate. “Chocolate with love’” was the catchy tagline tagline for this Milk Traty erotica. Unfortunately the authorities weren’t of the same opinion and the ad was immediately banned.