by The Chocolate Dictionary

A game consisting of matching chocolate ads with categories in the Master Formats of Advertising. These formats were first identified in the late 1970’s by Donald Gunn, then a creative director for the agency Leo Burnett (the agency that came up with the Milk Tray Man). After several months studying the best and most creative adverts on TV, Gunn discovered certain patterns kept repeating, and from these patterns twelve distinct formats or strategies emerged.

Today, over forty years later, these strategies are still very much alive and well. The game of Chocolafit involves nothing more than watching television, identifying which Master Formats the chocolate ads fit into, and then ticking them off a personal list. There are no winners or losers as such, and the game is usually spread over several weeks, but the enjoyment comes from recognising which format is being employed and ticking it off one’s list.

Gunn’s twelve formats, with examples from well-known chocolate ads, can be summarized as follows:

  • The Demo – A visual demonstration of a product’s capabilities.
  • The “Show the Need or Problem” – The Classic “I’ve Fallen and I can’t get up!” strategy.
  • The Symbolize the Problem – Using symbols or exaggerated graphics to bring the problem to life.
  • The Symbolise the Benefit – The use of symbols to focus on a product’s benefit.
  • The Comparison – Pointing out how one product is superior to its rivals.
  • The Exemplary Story – When an ad uses a story or narrative to exemplify the product’s benefits.
  • The Benefit Causes a Story – When the use of product creates a unique story. An example is the Axe body spray commercial (named Lynx in the UK) in which a man turns into a chocolate version of himself and has women desperate to lick or bite chunks off him.
  • The Testimonial – Real people telling other real people about the product.
  • The Ongoing Character or Celebrity – A consistent character or celebrity keeps a brand in the public’s memory. An example is the Terry’s Chocolate Orange ads, featuring quirky comedienne and roly-poly actress Dawn French.

Dawn French – identified with Terry’s Chocolate Orange for over a decade till 2102. (Image from: YouTube)

  • The Associated User Imagery – Ads that showcase the types of people brands want to associate with. For example, the way in which the chunky Yorkie chocolate bar was advertised in the 1970’s by lorry drivers in a bid to make milk chocolate more appealing to a “masculine” audience.

Yorkie bar – advertised in the 1970’s as the “masculine” way to eat milk chocolate. (Image from: YouTube)

  • The Unique Personality Property – Highlighting a feature that makes the product stand out. Cadbury’s Flake ads are the best example of this format, for the way they showed, in a very sensual way, how only the “crumbliest, flakiest chocolate tastes like chocolate never tasted before”.
  • The Parody or Borrowed Format – In this format, instantly recognizable themes from popular movies, music or television programmes are parodied to sell products in an entertaining way. The classic Milk Tray ads, parodying spy movies, are the best and most well-known example of this.