Friday, August 25, 2006

JUST SAY NO TO THE CANDY MAN: How Candy Advertisements Tempt Us To Eat Too Much

I think candy advertisements are the worst. Why? Because they are selling a high calorie food that has virtually no nutritional value -- known as empty calories -- and selling it to us with the belief that we can be kids again.

A slew of ads present the idea that those wonderful feelings of childhood can be recaptured by savoring the candy you liked when you were young. At best those feelings will be fleeting, but the long term effect will be to add tons of calories to your diet -- a diet that probably has too many already. Think I am exaggerating? Consider this: Nestle's Crunch has trade marked "For the kid in you (TM)" and you can go to their web site:

Some ads even flat out call their candy 'comfort food' or say that it will bring you happiness. So when you need a hug or a lift or you think no one loves you, eat a chocolate bar instead of having a real relationship with a living breathing person. And gain a pound or two.

In this culture as adults, we are rarely allowed to be silly or whimsical or playful. Candy ads often show grownups doing funny or dumb things to demonstrate that candy can help find expression for an adult's 'inner child.' Now all adults have an inner child and in this society they probably have trouble finding a means of expression. Candy is marketed to us as a 'safe' way to feel childish because in eating it, there is no risk, no chance of someone criticising a person's childlike feelings.

Another pitch of ads is to appeal to the vulnerabilities of women. One, for example, shows an incredibly thin young woman eating a chocolate cake as though it were a bit of heaven. Another appeals to busy women and says that by eating their product she will regain some personal time for herself. Neither ad, of course, mentions the health or weight consequences.

And try to get away from candy. We are tempted at the check-out counters of virtually any store such as supermarkets, dollar stores, discount department stores and convenience stores. I have even seen displays at hardware and auto parts stores. Candy consumption has increased by about twenty percent in the last twenty years according to the

It's no accident that we are vulnerable to candy ads. We all have a sweet tooth and candy is often associated with happy times as a kid. Candy might have been used as a reward or been part of a special time like the county fair, a birthday, a holiday or especially Christmas. Once these feelings are associated with candy, it does not take much to get us to eat more as adults.

And it's no accident that candy and sugary cereals are today heavily marketed to children. This is a way of both selling a highly profitable food to kids and then to build future consumers who will be vulnerable as adults to the pitch of the 'candy man.'

Now don't get me wrong. I love candy just like everyone else, but that is the problem. We like it so much, we are ready targets.

While I cannot get rid of your sweet tooth -- that is hardwired into your brain from millions of years ago -- I can alert you to the siren song of candy ads that, like many ads, promise you a feeling or a means of expression that is at best temporary and not deeply satisfying.

If you want to really deal with these emotions, you can do it in a much better, cheaper and healthier way by learning to be a child again at times that are appropriate.

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