20 February 1998


Since vesting day in Nov 1994 there has been no national

generic milk promotion in Britain and milk consumption has

been falling by about 3% a year. With this background,

Gary Yeomans* travelled to the US and Canada on

a Nuffield Farming Scholarship to study their

generic milk advertising campaigns

TWO national generic milk advertising programmes operate in the US. One is funded by dairy farmers who pay a 15 cents/cwt levy on milk sold (0.2p/litre), up to 10 cents of which can be used for in-state milk promotion. The remainder is spent nationwide by Dairy Management Inc. (controlled by farmer representatives), largely on the well known "Got milk?" campaign developed in California.

Each ad highlights a situation where a lack of milk is a problem, usually involving other foods. One example features Kelloggs Rice Crispies characters with a bowl of cereal, but no milk waiting for the Snap, Crackle and Pop, or Sesame Streets Cookie Monster looking sad with plenty of cookies, but no milk. Ads are designed to remind people to always keep plenty of milk in the fridge and of the disaster that running out of milk can be.

Fluid milk processors fund the "Milk, Wheres Your Moustache?" programme, at a rate of 20 cents/cwt (0.27p/litre) which is a separate campaign. Processors carried out research to identify peoples perception of milk – they discovered milks image was not perfect. It was seen as high in fat, boring, conventional, a drink that you would only have at home while low fat milk was perceived to be lower in nutrients than whole milk. The processors, therefore, designed a campaign to change consumer attitudes. It featured ads with well known celebrities sporting a milk moustache after drinking milk, each ad extolling a specific benefit of milk. Super-models and actresses such as Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, for example, are shown promoting milk as low in fat but high in calcium that helps prevent osteoporosis. These ads also feature sport-stars such as Pete Sampras explaining the nutrient and vitamin benefits of milk over other drinks. The campaign has been a huge success with much additional media coverage. Indeed, it was rated in the top 10 best commercials of all time in USA Today newspaper. This popularity has made the ads appealing to celebrities who are often so keen to be seen in the ads they do not demand a high fee.

Both these campaigns are high profile and have attracted much popular acclaim, media interest and additional press coverage.

Campaigns vary

In Canada milk promotion is carried out provincially and campaigns vary; the cost of milk promotion (0.19p/litre) is deducted from milk cheques but the milk price is calculated on a cost of production basis and advertising costs are already accounted for.

Independent research shows that all generic advertising has a positive effect on milk sales and consumption. USDA studies show a return of $5.33 for every dollar invested in advertising. Cornell University economists use econometric models that show a 527% return on investment in generic advertising since 1984. Even in the quota controlled milk market of Canada, Guelph University found up to $8.40 return for every dollar invested.

To back up these promotion campaigns new innovative milk packaging is helping milk compete with rival beverages. Milk jugs that are easier to carry, pour better and have brighter labelling are used. Single serve bottles to sell milk drinks as a beverage rather than a commodity are called Frappucino or Sport Shakes to get away from the traditional image of milk.

Experience in the US and Canada suggests that generic milk promotion should be re-introduced into Great Britain. The success of schemes in North America is well documented and we will continue to see our domestic milk market decline unless we are willing to invest in advertising our product.

Most dairy farmers seem to be in favour of some form of milk promotion but no organisation is willing to take it on. The Milk Development Council and National Dairy Council are ideal bodies to collect and spend a levy.

There is a need for a major organisation representing farmers to pick the ball and run with it – positive noises are not enough. The NFU seems reluctant to make a stand. Last year the message was that nothing could be done as it would jeopardise the MDC remit. This year nothing can be done as Britain has the presidency of Europe. I wonder what the excuse will be next year?

Scarcely a whisper

The RABDF claims to be the voice of the practical dairy farmer but that voice is scarcely a whisper on this subject.

Unfortunately there are some farmers opposed to any form of levy. I have heard the argument when milk prices were rising we didnt need advertising and now when milk prices are falling they say we cant afford it. These shortsighted views must be challenged by a major body representing farmers for the sake of those of us wishing to be in or even have a dairy industry in 30 years time. A levy of 0.05p/litre would cost around £3/cow/year and raise £6m, roughly equivalent to the Walkers crisps TV ad campaign. Processors that retail liquid milk should contribute, as should supermarkets, but it is up to the dairy farmers to initiate a campaign and try to convince the trade to follow.

The domestic UK liquid milk market is our most important market – are we happy to watch it dwindle away? Advertising works or why would other industries spend millions promoting their products. British farmers cant complain about New Zealand dairy adverts if they are not prepared to pay to advertise our products. &#42

*Gary Yeomans works on the 90ha (224-acre) family farm near Monmouth, which carries 40 dairy cows, 350 ewes, and beef cattle.

Gary Yeomans… the Got milk campaign in California has been highly successful. Ads highlight situations where lack of milk is a problem, and remind people to keep plenty of milk in the fridge.

Fluid milk processors in the US fund the MILK Wheres Your Moustache?" campaign – at 0.27p/litre. Above:Michael Johnson – Olympic gold medalist.


&#8226 US and Canada high profile campaigns.

&#8226 US levy is 0.2p/litre; Canada is 0.19p/litre

&#8226 $5 return for every $ invested.

&#8226 Must be reintroduced in Britain.

&#8226 Dairy farmers must initiate campaign.

&#8226 MDC/NDC ideal levy collecting bodies.

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