25 February 2000

Major milk ad blitz for UK TV

By Alistair Driver

A MAJOR advertising campaign aimed at boosting milk sales could hit British television screens as early as May. But the initiative will have a smaller budget than planned because some dairy processors are refusing to back it.

The long-awaited campaign, jointly funded by milk producers and dairy processors, finally received the green light when processors pledged to commit £4.5m over 18 months. But the money falls short of the Dairy Industry Federations original target of £3.5m a year, which was to be matched by milk producers through a statutory levy.

Jim Begg, DIF director general, admitted that some processors would be open to accusations of "freeloading". However, support for the campaign from liquid dairies of all sizes had been "overwhelming", he added.

"We will continue to encourage those who have not contributed to join in," said Mr Begg. "Some processors have refused to pay because they are already contributing a producer levy, while others have said they feel the money could be more usefully allocated elsewhere."

The DIF wants the government to ensure that contributions from dairy companies are matched precisely by the contributions from dairy farmers. That aim is echoed by the NFU which is equally eager to ensure that farmers do not contribute more than processors.

Tom Hind, NFU assistant milk adviser, said: "Producers are firmly committed to working with the industry to promote the benefits of milk." But the failure of processors to meet their original target will create a shortfall in promotional funds of around £1m after the reduced producer contribution, he added.

Farmers had showed "strong support" for the law to be changed so a statutory levy could be introduced for milk farmers. The legislation, expected to be ratified this spring, will allow the Milk Development Council to increase the statutory levy for promotional use.

The campaign will aim to enhance milks image as a modern healthy product in the face of declining consumption and fierce competition from soft drinks. A similar initiative in the egg sector, which launched a £4 million promotional campaign early last year, shows that advertising boosts sales but that it can also take time.

The milk campaign will be administered by the National Dairy Council. Although processors have committed themselves to only 18 months of funding, the campaign is likely to be extended if it is successful. &#42