Dear Splenda and US Airways

I recently learned that US Airways has decided to carry ads for Splenda’s products on the tray tables of their airplanes. I’m sure you’ll agree that air travel has become less comfortable in the past 25 years. There’s less leg room, fewer services and I can barely fit my small laptop on the aforementioned tray table.

Why, then, would you go out of your way to make an unpleasant experience even worse? Surely you’re not under any illusion that consumers want to view more ads?

I’m in marketing, and I can’t for the life of my imagine why Splenda would want to associate their brand with the uncomfortable necessity that air travel has become. Tray tables, after all, are the clichéd fodder of comedy routines.

And while I’m at it, aren’t the majority of US Airways’ customers business travellers? Is artificial sweeneter sweetener really a high priority for that demographic?

As a result, I’m going to encourage my friends and family to eschew both of your products. Happily, there’s plenty of competition in air travel and sweeteners.

And by ‘friends and family’, I also include the thousands of people who will read this letter on my websites (adding to the millions who have already heard about this dubious campaign).

UPDATE: This post has been republished to the front page of Just Plane News, “News & Information for the
Employees of US Airways”. That’s cool, as maybe the folks in marketing and promotions read that site. It’s also cool that such a news aggregator for employees exists.


  1. I suppose some marketeers are more interested in getting their product name out there, then thinking of where they are putting it.

    Maybe the environmental companies could put their name somewhere on the plane advertising how much pollution is caused by air travel so then those business types may think twice about the frequent flyer miles.

    Note: you may wish to check how to spell “sweetener” in the third last paragraph

  2. I get pretty sick of people (and I use the term loosely) shoving ads into every imaginable space and treating viewers like turkeys that need to be stuffed as much as possible. It makes GM Place an absurdist joke of what could have been a nice venue. People who allow things like the splenda ads would tattoo their infant’s foreheads with logos if they could get away with it.

  3. As a former USAirways Flight Attendant, I was absolutely shocked to see these ads on the tray tables when I flew recently. How low can you go? I am also shocked at how the Flight Attendants are now cramming the sales pitches for the Visa down your throats during the flights. This is absurd! Since everyone is has already been made uncomfortable about these new maketing “tools”, I would not be surprised to see ads in the lavatories or even on the toilet paper. When I flew/worked as a Flight Attendant it was unacceptable for us to even use the PA to have fun with our passengers, which in my opinion is a far better marketing tool. Go figure, make a buck any way you can.

  4. Ads on airplanes are no more offensive than the bombardment of adverting that takes place everywehere on the web and this includes your Blog.

    Hapy New Year

  5. Mike: The difference is that, in terms of aesthetics, the advertising on the web has been more or less the same for the past decade. And the ads on this site are pretty innocuous compared to the dancing monkeys and pop-over windows that we all routinely experience.

    Regardless, there are two options: get yourself an ad-blocking plug-in for the browser of your choice, or don’t read this blog. I use Adblock Plus for Firefox, and it kicks eight kinds of ass.

  6. Darren,

    Nevertheless, they ARE ads.

    Btw, I use the same ad blocker.

    You miss the point bro.

    I can’t even turn on my Tivo without seing what I know is an ad at the bottom of my screen. And that IS the point. It is my choice to ignore it.

    Whether it be in my own home watching my Tivo, on the web, watching the superbowl or on an airplane at 30,000 feet.

    I make the choice if I want to be part of it.

    Innoculous or not and your included, ads permeate (sp?) the very fabric of our society.

    So whether I choose your Blog, an airplane ride from here to there or to simply sit in my underwear and surf the web, the ads are there.

    I would rather you just come out and say you hate US Airways.


  7. Mike: My concern is that ads increasingly permeate our society. With each passing year, there are more and more formerly-blank surfaces covered in ads.

    Now, an ad free world would be nice, but it’s not going to happen. There is a happy medium. I’ve explained my ad policy elsewhere, but there’s only one small ad on the front page (the NV badge is a non-revenue generator and a personal project, and the orange ad is temprorary). So, regular readers see few or no ads. The ads target the searchers who visit a single page and then leave my site via these ‘individual archive’ pages.

    Also, as a marketer, I’m not a big believer in ads. Most of them are ineffective, and we’re still very poor at measuring their effectiveness.

    So, I would argue against an advertising-saturated world. It’s both ugly and, I think, largely a waste of time and money.

    A single misstep is hardly cause for hating US Airways. I don’t think I’ve ever actually flown on them. Why would I claim to hate them?

  8. I quote you, sir. “I’m in marketing, and I can’t for the life of my imagine why”…Yep, you’re definitely in marketing alright.

  9. I share your frustration at the pervasiveness of advertising. One local supermarket (at least) now has small ads on the dividers used to separate groceries on the checkout belts. I can’t help but feel a little bit angry at all of it :/

  10. It’s interesting which ads get placed in which spaces. On transit, all the ads are for gum (grrr, hate the sound of it), debt counselling, dodgy career training schools, and pregnancy counselling. I always wonder, what are they trying to say about the average rider here?

    In the same vein, you’ve now got an ad for a sugar substitute that people will see when they’ve got their butt crammed into one of those tiny airline seats.

    I wonder if the business class or first class passengers will also be inundated with tray table adverts?

  11. There is nothing to cry about in regards to tray ads. The surface is much easier to clean and at least is slightly easier to look at than a dirt stained nasty tray. Also, the airline makes revenue to keep fares somewhat low on a Low Cost Carrier like US Airways. One thing to keep in mind is that more airlines will pick up this easy revenue generator. Most people actually like the creative ads that are placed on the trays. Don’t be bitches.

  12. Peter: I’m not sure why cleanliness is an issue. It’s the airline’s job to keep the plane clean. I travel a lot, and I can’t recall a single instance of a table tray being ‘dirt stained’ or ‘nasty’. If that’s the case, I assume the airline is responsible enough to clean or replace the tray.

    Fares are already low, and there’s plenty of competition and downward pressure to keep them low.

    Do you have any facts to support your claim that “most people actually like the creative ads that are placed on the trays”?

    I’d be curious to see that supporting material, because I can find you plenty of data that shows that most people don’t like advertising.

  13. Trust me guys these planes are filthy, I could tell you stories……And by the way, the ads are tolerated. I think we, as a population have become numb to them. I simply tune out the ones I do not like. I do pay close attention to the creative ones. I however, find it hard to think of a tray table as a good advertising spot after knowing how many people actually vomit on it.

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