Latest ‘Got Milk?’ Campaign Shows Worst of Marketing

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“We accomplished what we set out to accomplish.”

Keep that quote in the back of your mind as you read skim pick apart the main points of this post. I’ll tell you who uttered this seemingly innocuous statement in a minute, but first, some background information:

It seems that the California Milk Processor Board — you probably know it as the folks who brought us the ubiquitous “Got Milk?” campaign and its many impostors — has gotten itself into some social media hot water over its most recent campaign.

What could be so unseemly about a milk ad, you ask? Well, when you try to use something that is wholly unfunny (like milk) as a way to poke fun of something that is also not humorous (e.g., women struggling with PMS) into an ad to sell more of your product, people tend to take offense at that. Or just get really annoyed.

And that’s exactly what happened in this latest iteration of the world-famous “Got Milk?” campaign, as Stuart Elliott of The New York Times detailed last week in the appropriately headlined article, “Milk Campaign Ended Amid Social Media Firestorm.” Predictably, all hell broke loose on Twitter and Facebook, as the California Milk Processor Board, and the ad firm that created this ill-advised campaign, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, received flack and condemnation, ultimately pulling the campaign.

What was once a stalwart of the global advertising industry — an ad campaign that was copied by many but matched by few — has apparently fallen so out of favor that it is now scraping the bottom of the (milk) barrel by developing a new campaign that, at its best, was destined offend half of its consumers, and at its worst, just seems pathetic.

Aren’t there better ways of selling milk than this?

Back to that quote from earlier: “We accomplished what we set out to accomplish.” Those were the words of Steve James, executive director of the California milk board. He goes on to tell The Times’ Elliott that what they were aiming to accomplish was visits to a special microsite it had set up to promote the “Milk can help reduce the symptoms of PMS campaign” (yes, that is exactly what the ad says) and conversations about the campaign.

The microsite was called “EverythingIDoIsWrong.org.” It’s a play on how … well, you know.

Congratulations, California milk board! You’ve successfully taken marketing back five years. Honestly, I thought we were past the point where companies blatantly threw whatever lame idea they could think of against social media to see what stuck or what generated the most eyeballs and clicks.

Apparently not.

But it gets better. Once the California milk board realized it had alienated some of its customers, it realized it had an even better marketing opportunity from this ad #FAIL: turn the microsite into a giant discussion about milk. Which, according to The Times, should generate more “readership” (read: eyeballs and milk purchasers).

What’s the lesson here? The cynic in me says this incident merely reaffirms the negative impression people have of advertising. The optimist in me, however … nah. There’s nothing good about this campaign.

Just like spoiled milk, bad marketing sure does stink.

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  • Sam Sosa-Rodriguez

    Ultimately, this was a risk that CMPB took, and I can appreciate that, although I probably wouldn’t have taken the same risk.  What they’ve done with the backlash is admirable, and downright ballsy. I don’t buy that there’s truly a “giant discussion about milk”, but I have never seen a company do anything like this before.  I disagree.  There’s a lot of good going on with this campaign.  After all, we’re talking about milk.

  • Rmw26

    Wow they made such a neat “reactions” page