2014 Bad Ad Contest Runner Up

Splenda

by Kavya Alagendran, 7th grade, Fort Zumwalt West Middle School in O'Fallon, Missouri

On this ad for Splenda, the words “the Delightful Discovery” are written in big, yellow, cursive letters, with two squiggly lines in front and behind. Underneath is printed in small white letters, “Take pleasure in making a delicious choice that’s also a smart choice, with the original sugar-like taste you love and trust from SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener.* Visit facebook.com/Splenda to discover more.” If you follow the star (*) down to the bottom of the page, it says “among sucralose sweeteners.” Right underneath the small description of the sweetener, there is a picture of the box and next to it in white letters is “Splenda makes the moment yours. ™” The background is a blurred picture of a lady, closing her eyes, sitting relaxed on the couch while drinking a beverage, supposedly with Splenda sweetener in it. Closer to us, and much clearer, is an empty cup with packets of Splenda sweetener next to it.

This ad uses many different persuasion techniques to reel the reader into their little trap. First, they use plain folks and association. They have a nice typical-looking woman who is relaxing by drinking the beverage. They are trying to target adults, mostly women who work hard and need time to relax, by associating their sweetener with relaxation. But there are many other different ways to relax such as reading, writing, singing, listening to music, going outside, or even meditating – and these do not expose a person to the dangerous chemicals that are in Splenda. There is also an explicit claim, “Splenda No Calorie Sweetener,” which would appeal to women of this age who are often concerned about their weight. Another technique they use is glittering generalities. They said, “with the original sugar-like taste you love and trust from Splenda.” Powerful words such as “love” and “trust” are used to sway the reader to believe the advertiser’s message. Also, there is the maybe/vague claim technique, when they say “Splenda makes the moment yours.” What does that even mean? Does that mean that if I add Splenda to my beverage I’ll have the greatest moment in my life? Finally they also use secret ingredients/scientific evidence when they say “among sucralose sweeteners.” Many people might not know what sucralose is, but since it sounds scientific, people might think it is good for them.

Regarding sucralose, a main ingredient in Splenda, research shows that when tested in animals, scientists found out that this artificial sweetener reduced the amount of good bacteria in the animals’ intestines by 50%. It also increased their pH or acidity level in intestines (which is not good), increased their body weight, and negatively affected their P-glycoprotein levels tremendously (P-glycoproteins are complex proteins that we need to help remove toxins from our gut, kidneys, brain, and other organs). According to James Turner, the chairman of the national consumer education group Citizens for Health, “The report makes it clear that the artificial sweetener Splenda and its key component sucralose pose a threat to the people who consume the product. Hundreds of consumers have complained to us about side effects from using Splenda and this study... confirms that the chemicals in the little yellow package should carry a big red warning label.”

Also, it is very important for people to understand that Splenda is actually NOT real sugar, even though the advertisement says “with the original sugar-like taste.” It is actually a chlorinated, artificial sweetener that also contains aspartame and saccharin, both of which are bad for you. Artificial sweeteners can cause disorders such as depression, joint pain, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer and most importantly, death. There are three main dangerous types of sweetener: sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin. Sucralose is sugar that’s been modified using acetone, which is also found in nail polish remover. Would you drink nail polish remover?  Aspartame is a very sweet and powdery substance which can cause memory loss, headaches, seizures, insomnia, dizziness, weight gain, and fatigue. Finally, saccharin is made of coal/tar derivatives and ammonia. All of these ingredients are dangerous, and certainly don’t build consumers’ “trust.”

As research clearly shows, Splenda is certainly not what they say it is. This ad is extremely misleading, and they are leaving out very important details.  Little packets of Splenda could be endangering innocent people with serious health problems that could even lead to death. (Maybe, Splenda should be an acronym that stands forSecretly Poisoning Liquid Ensures New Death Approaches!)  They should change their ad before the public starts calling it “the splen‘deadly’ sweet sweetener.”