23 November 2001

ACROSS-THE-WORLD LINK MIGHT GIVE MILK SOME REAL MARKETING MUSCLE

If Harry Potter is so clever why does he prefer Coca-Cola to milk? With his superior intellect and special powers, Harry must be fully aware that fresh, nutritious milk provides all the calcium a young magicians bones need to withstand all those hard broomstick landings.

So perhaps we have to look elsewhere to explain Harrys favourite tipple, as portrayed in the new block-buster Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. A more down-to-earth explanation can be found in the £100m sponsorship deal struck between the film maker and the soft drink manufacturer.

Predictably that has led to bleating complaints from the Milk Development Council. Its chief executive, Keith Bellamy, said, with some justification, that the deal sent out the wrong message to children. What he was unable to do was to conjure up a novel solution to counter the massive buying power of the world-leading soft drinks company.

Has anyone concerned with UK milk production considered teaming up with other milk marketing boards across the world to match, and indeed better, the promotional budgets of leading multinationals? How often, if ever, has the head of the MDC discussed joint projects? Yes, such a project would be fraught with difficulties. Yes, it would be challenging to put aside narrow domestic interests in the drive to promote milk across a continent or, indeed, the world. Instead we have learned last week that the White Stuff advertising campaign, which has boosted milk sales by about 60m litres in 18 months, will soon come to an abrupt end. The sad, not to say infuriating, reason is that the dairy companies have refused to extend the funding period. Apparently the companies want to analyse their campaigns impact before approving more funding, according to the Dairy Industry Federation.

How much more effective would be a new spirit of co-operation between UK and foreign dairy companies to promote one of natures most wholesome and simple foods. Why stop at milk? Why not international co-operation to promote the benefits of meat and vegetable consumption? Now that really would be a wizard idea.