Advertisement Analysis
October 27, 2004


Long before Vance Packard came along with The Hidden Persuaders in the 1950s, people used images of children in advertising. Kids were symbolic of everything that was good and innocent—they were associated with happiness and family. In Packard’s book, Chapter 7 is “Marketing Eight Hidden Needs,” and the very first need is “selling emotional security.” He says that post-World War II families, full of anxieties and uncertainties, “began thinking fondly of former periods of safety and security, which subconsciously took them back to childhood where there was the mother who never disappointed and love was closely related with the giving of food.”

Thesis Statement

Today, kids are still used in ads, including kids eating food. They remind us of growing up. The food is there not only to sell the product, but to sell all the good feelings and memories of childhood.

Splenda’s Ads / Their Stories / Their Components

I have brought two series of ads. These five are from Splenda. These three (the grayscale ones) are from Sun-Maid raisins. Starting with the Splenda ads, here are the stories:

(1)   This one reads, “Lucky girl, you’ve got a SPLENDA daddy.” The images include the house and grass in background. The story is that here’s a girl, probably between five and seven. She’s with her father, about 30 to 35. They’re playing in the yard or in a park; she’s doing something funny with her dad by covering his eyes with cookies.
Source of ad: Weight Watchers Magazine, November/December 2004.

(2)   The second ad says, “Roses are red / Violets are blue / SPLENDA is SWEET / and so are you.” The rhyme normally includes the verse “sugar is sweet.” Here’s another girl. The story is she’s lying on the bed or couch, eating blueberry pie, crumbs falling out of her mouth. Did Mom make the pie for the girl, or did the girl help her?
Source of ad: Better Homes & Gardens, August 2004.

(3)   The text here just says “The SPLENDA bowl.” It has a boy with a big grin. He’s holding deep bowl, colored blue, more than half-full of Cheerios. The simple story is he’s eating cereal with sugar (Splenda), messily of course, and it’s spilling on him and on the counter.
Source of ad: Better Homes & Gardens, November 2004.

(4)   This ad’s text says “SPLENDA and SPICE and everything nice.” This parodies the saying “Little girls are sugar and spice and everything nice.” Here’s a girl in the kitchen. She’s messily eating frosting from a mixing-bowl blender. She has frosting on her mouth, chin and in her hair. The story implies that Mom used Splenda in her cake mix and spent some quality time cooking with her little girl.
Source of ad: Real Simple, August 2004.

(5)   The last ad says “SWEET as SPLENDA.” There’s a picnic table, grass, plates, forks and pie with a piece cut out. There are crumbs on the table. The story is that the boy was at a family picnic and—judging by the clumped piece of pie and the crumbs—decided to eat the pie the old-fashioned way. He’s under the table, licking his finger.
Source of ad: Women’s World Magazine, July/August 2004.

Explanation and Transition

Before I go on to the Sun-Maid ads, I’ll briefly talk about the Splenda ones. The ad’s designers don’t expect us to believe that a tender moment is going to come from sweetener. But, they say, it was part of the moment we’re seeing. The ads show us kids enjoying growing up with happy families. The ads say, “Kids are cute and do cute things.” But now let’s take a look at the ads for Sun-Maid raisins.

Sun-Maid’s Ads / Their Stories / Their Components

(1)   The first ad shows girls playing soccer. The caption says “They’re full of energy, naturally.” The photographer is behind the goalkeeper's net. The smallest girl is kicking the ball, which is being blocked by the goalie.
Source of ad: Better Homes & Gardens, September 2004.

(2)   This ad says “They’re sweet by nature.” We see a little girl dressed as a princess and a little boy dressed as a pirate. We can see the front of the house and the steps leading up to it. It’s obviously Halloween. The kids are “comparing notes” on the different candies they got this year. We might assume that they’re trading for their favorites.
Source of ad: Better Homes & Gardens, September 2004.

(3)   The last ad here says “There’s nothing more natural.” Two kids are in the kitchen, just barely tall enough to see over the counter—but they can see what looks like oatmeal-raisin cookies. Mom probably just baked the cookies recently, and the kids are either waiting for the cookies to cool, or the kids are attempting to get up on the counter.
Source of ad: Better Homes & Gardens, November 2004.

Comparison and Contrast: The Selling Propositions

The Sun-Maid ads are a little different in the captioning because each of the three captions (like “sweet by nature”) are applied to both the raisins and the kids. But the biggest difference is that the Sun-Maid ads use grayscale photographs. Why? For feelings of sentimentality. It reminds us of old-fashioned photographs—and, in turn, of years gone by. It reminds parents of their childhood. Sun-Maid’s ads tell the story more directly, but Splenda’s ads use images more like a scrapbook than a story… as though it were a picture, that the parents took, of their kids doing something cute. Every kid in the Splenda ads is facing the “camera”; none of the Sun-Maid ads’ kids are.

These ad series are very much alike. The common themes are kids eating food, making a mess, and spending time with the family. In other words, kids being kids.


Again, the ads’ selling propositions are similar but not identical. One is that “kids are sweet, natural and energetic. Sun-Maid raisins give them the energy to be kids.” Also sentimentality and associating the characteristics of kids to raisins.

The other selling proposition might read, “Splenda replaces sugar in the bowls—and hearts and minds—of mothers everywhere.” The selling proposition of sentimentality is stronger here, as is the feeling of growing up with a loving family. It says, “Your parents watched you acting cute and you were their child. Share those same moments with your kids.” 

The thesis I stated included two points: Packard’s thoughts on food, and my own point about kids in ads. So it seems that it’s true: Almost nobody can resist a cute, innocent kid. Feelings sell, and kids emote well; they’re expressive. As for the food, does it mean what Packard says it does, psychologically? Maybe, if we develop an association for the reader to take in. Combine it with kids and you’ve got a real “feel-good” message. That’s what sells. In this case, that message is one of childhood, growing up, fond memories … even nostalgia.