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Can In-Class Huckstering Make Milk Drinking Cool?

By       Message Martha Rosenberg     Permalink
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During the Keating Five real estate boom, they used to ask what is the difference between an Arizona real estate agent--male or female--and a 65 Mustang? Not everyone's had a 65 Mustang was the answer.

Today, they might ask what is the difference between a 65 Mustang and posing for a Got Milk ad.

Is there anyone who hasn't posed with a milk mustache except O.J. Simpson and Phil Spector? And they may be looking at the paperwork now.

Like Wendy's Where's the Beef ads in the 80's, people love Got Milk ads because they're zany, don't take themselves too seriously and are infinitely repeated.

But like Wendy's ads, they also don't sell product.

In fact, since 1983 when the National Dairy Board (NDB) and National Fluid Milk Board (FMB) began advertising milk, consumption has gone down every year and is at its lowest point ever.

Lower than 1983 even if the population hadn't grown by one person.

Worse the National Dairy Board (NDB) and National Fluid Milk Board (FMB) spent a $1 billion on milk advertising to get it that way.

Over the years, NDB and FMB have tried to portray milk as 1) good for your bones 2) good for PMS 3) good for sports' performance and 4) good for weight loss--with varying degrees of failure and calls for correction from the medical community.

But it has been NDB and FMB's desire to make milk "cool" that drives most milk advertising--and the placement of posters with musicians and sports heroes on the walls of 60,000 elementary schools and 45,000 public middle and high schools across the nation.

And now NDB and FMB have another toehold in the schools.

Students at three California high schools, Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, the Center for Advanced Research and Technology near Fresno and Orange High School in Orange in California, will get a chance to create their very own Got Milk campaigns aimed at their peers in seven week advertising and marketing classes to be taught this fall.

Lucky winners will get an all-expense-paid trip to San Francisco to present their ideas to the milk board and its ad agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, $2000 and a chance to have their campaign used in future milk marketing.

Of course cynics might say, $2000 is a pretty cheap price to intensively sell your product inside the classroom for seven weeks--and even get teenagers to sell it for you. Bet milk sales aren't tanking at those schools.

But ad execs says the use of citizen admen-- inviting consumers to create ads for other consumers in a "two-way conversation"--is the way of the future.

And NDB and FMB have other cool initiatives.

Like White Gold and the Calcium Twins, a Spinal Tap-like musical group that rocks out about milk's benefits to hair, teeth, nails and biceps on MySpace, YouTube and television--NDB and FMB's milk advertising 2.0.

And Gotmilk's new "extreme" web site which shows an animated "happy" farm with cows, chickens, ducks, pigs and a horse working out on a treadmill while milk cartons move by on a conveyor belt and a helium balloon that says Tell Your Friends keeps appearing.

"Do you think drinking calcium fortified beverages like soy drinks and orange juice will meet your bones' requirements," asks the new site, selling against healthful beverages instead of the soft drinks NDB and FMB say they are against. "Not really, says research that concluded 75% of calcium added to popular beverages gets left at the bottom of the carton."

Then there's the disclaimer popup which confesses that milk's actual benefits for "bones, PMS, sleep, teeth, hair, muscles, nails" have been "purposefully exaggerated so as not to bore you"--a condescending and cutesy non sequitur that amounts to a breach of truthfulness and contempt toward the very demographic it seeks.

Of course by now most people know milk is not a health elixir but a suspension of fat, calories and cholesterol that contributes to obesity, diabetes, allergies and several cancers.

Nor is it humane as the nation eyes California's bellwether Proposition 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act, which is expected to pass.

Dairy cows' "exhausted bodies are turned into hamburgers or ground up for soup," writes Ryan Huling, college campaign coordinator for peta2.com in Ohio University's The Post in October, "after several years of living in filthy conditions and being forced to produce 10 times more milk than they would naturally."

On animal cruelty the NDB and FMB also show derision and contempt, stating with an apparent giggle, "No animals were harmed in the making of this site. In fact the animals aren't even real. If you think we could get a real pig to wear curlers you're bonkers."

Got insensitivity?
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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)
 

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