Advertising disaster hall of fame: AYDS diet pills, 1982 (video)

I was going through an archive of old TV shows, and stumbled across one of my favorite (if you can call it that) advertising disasters: AYDS diet pills, circa 1982.

I remember AYDS diet pills, or “candy” as they liked to call it. And I remember thinking what a disaster this was later that same year when the term “AIDS” was first created to describe a cluster of specific sarcomas and pneumonias that appeared (at the time) to be primarily affecting gay men, Haitians and hemophiliacs, among others.

I did a little googling, and interestingly, the company didn’t change the name of the diet pill until 1988, six years later. And then, they only changed it to Diet Ayds in the US, and Aydslim in the UK. Both of which, in retrospect, still sound awfully inappropriate. The product was eventually removed from the market.

Ayds image by Marshmallowbunnywabbit.

Ayds image by Marshmallowbunnywabbit.

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CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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17 Responses to “Advertising disaster hall of fame: AYDS diet pills, 1982 (video)”

  1. Qwertyy650 says:

    I remember the ad line “lose weight the Ayds way!” In stark contrast to friends who were withering away with AIDS.

  2. Naja pallida says:

    Ayds was on the market as early as 1940, when it was $2 for a month’s supply at Walgreens.

  3. ca_rickf says:

    I was a little kid in the late seventies, but I remember my mom eating those candies. I Wikipedia’d Aydes diet candy, and, sure enough, the product was around prior to 1982.

  4. Fireblazes says:

    Correct me if I am wrong, but I swear I remember it being advertised on the Liberace Show.

  5. ThomasTallis says:

    Boy have you dated yourself!

  6. gamelan9 says:

    HIV/AIDS: The strictest diet of them all.

  7. therling says:

    That company was a frequent advertiser on ABC Radio News back when I was a DJ in the mid to late 80s. I had to chuckle every time I heard one of their spots during the newscast.

  8. Phil says:

    My grandma tried those – they didn’t work. She decided just to go with the flow and never worried about it again. She wasn’t that overweight anyway. I tried them once or twice (I was 9 years old). They tasted odd.

  9. The_Fixer says:

    I remember those, and wondered what became of them.

    They really had one giant flaw – they didn’t work. At one time, I was trying to lose weight with those things and all I wanted to do was to eat more of them. As greenpointguy below says, they were more candy than diet aid.

  10. Indigo says:

    It was a painful time.

  11. greenpointguy says:

    My mother was always dieting and the only “sweets” in the house were Ayds! I used to eat them like candy!

  12. Dave of the Jungle says:

    Recommended by Nancy Reagan…

  13. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    Ah, well, that’s a bit better. Not good for the blood pressure, I imagine, but at least there’s a real anorectic effect there.

  14. Naja pallida says:

    That was early in the product’s history. They switched to phenylpropanolamine (essentially norephedrine/psuedoephedrine) by the 1980s.

  15. Monophylos Fortikos says:

    If you look up what used to be in “Ayds”, the original magic ingredient was benzocaine. Benzocaine. Cos, you know, it numbs your nerve endings so it deadens your sense of taste.

  16. Naja pallida says:

    You have to remember, by the time AIDS became a household term, Ayds had been on the market for around 40 years. Literally, overnight, they saw their sales dry up because of the association. The company changed management a couple times around the same time, which probably contributed to the delay in addressing the name problem. One columnist I read on it wrote “At the beginning of the 1980s, Ayds meant diets. By the end of the 1980s, AIDS meant dying.”

    The primary ingredient of Ayds was known to dramatically increase risk of stroke, and it was also one of the main ingredients in illicit amphetamine manufacture, which resulted in public warnings from the FDA in the 1990s, and it being banned for over the counter products in the early 2000s. So the product itself most likely would have went away at around the same time, with or without the AIDS connotation.

  17. 2karmanot says:

    Good god, does that ever push all the grief buttons.

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