“Got Milk?”— Get Sleep

By Emily Young
Los Angeles, CA

A uNAF submission.

The Milk Processor Education Program announced in February that they are moving on from their nearly twenty-year national advertising campaign “Got Milk?” to a new campaign called “Milk Life,” to promote the nutritional benefits of milk. The California Milk Processor Board will continue to use the “Got Milk?” campaign, but is their future a glass half empty or full?

The “Got Milk” campaign is one of America’s most recognized and effective advertising campaigns. The original “Got Milk?” commercial won the Best in Show award at the 1994 Clio Awards and eight years later was still named one of the top-ten best commercials of all time. However, few know that the iconic advertisement was born out of desperation. In 1993, the California Milk Processor Board needed to reverse declining milk sales in California to maintain control of their farms. Desperate they turned to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, who identified that more than 90% of all milk occasions were with food and consumers only took an interest in milk when they ran out. Built around those insights, the milk-deprivation strategy for “Got Milk?” was born. Their strategy and campaign was effective in increasing milk sales. In 1995, the California Milk Processor Board licensed the tagline to the National Milk Processor Education Program and created “Toma Leche” [Drink Milk] in 2008.

Many other companies recognized the success of the “Got Milk?” campaign and created their own spin-offs such as “Got Junk?” and “Got Fleas?” Now that the campaign is twenty years old and the Milk Processor Education Program has moved on to new pastures, how will this affect the California Milk Processor Board’s current campaign strategy?
Every few years the California Milk Processor Board realigns its “Got Milk?” campaign to reflect consumer trends: healthy breakfast compliment, calcium, weight-loss, protein. Currently, the market indicates relaxation and anti-energy drinks are rapidly growing with profits doubling from 2010 to 2011 and projected to rise to $223.5 million in 2016. Consequently, the California Milk Processor Board’s latest advertising is aimed at a new consumption occasion, bedtime. Can the “Got Milk?” and “Toma Leche” campaigns effectively move past the cereal scenes or has the California Milk Processor Board lost its udders?

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                                                           Classic Got Milk Ads

The new “Got Milk?” nighttime commercial dubbed “Flight” has a similar feel to other “Got Milk?” commercials. The thirty-second spot produced by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners features a man in his late 20’s to identify with busy, young corporate Americans that are skipping breakfast or eating on the run and missing their daily glass of milk. Young corporate Americans, especially males, are a demographic more apt to try relaxation or anti-energy drinks. The commercial opens with the young man running through a wooded park. He gradually lifts off into flight where he flies over a woman dressed in 18th century garb and the landscape below. When his dream of flying comes to a comical end, the classic milk-deprivation strategy introduces milk as a drink that can create sounder sleep and longer dreams. The commercial ends with a glass of milk in a moonlit kitchen with the iconic line, “Got Milk?”

“Toma Leche”

“Flight” effectively use association with positive elements by centering on dreams. Flying is known to be one of the most common dreams people have . “Flight” causes views to relate to the actor as he flies though various positive elements such as soothing dream-like music, a scenic landscape, and fun incongruities conveyed by the 18th century woman and the talking Canadian geese. This positive associations condition a favorable attitude towards milk as a drink that can make dreams last longer.

The ingenious strategy behind Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ use of positive associations is that the commercials’ influence is actually strengthened when consumers have no prior knowledge of the functional benefit of drinking milk before bed. The commercial effectively introduce the new bedtime consumption period without ever revealing that a protein naturally found in milk has been proven to improve sleep quality and calcium helps the brain produce melatonin.


Although the California Milk Processor Board employs successful advertising strategies to stay relevant with consumer trends, the bedtime occasion will be their hardest sell yet. Milk mustaches and Oreos are not suitable for bed. This sell becomes harder now that the Milk Processor Education Program has moved on to “Milk Life.” “Got Milk?” will lose critical visibility and the California Milk Processor Board must carry the entire financial burden of creating marketing measures to promote milk as a bedtime drink. Although firing with fewer cannons, the California Milk Processor Board will not claim defeat. Steve James, executive director of the California Milk Processor Board said, “‘Got Milk?’ holds too much customer recognition to toss it. Its consumer equity continues to be very much alive in California.”

If the California Milk Processor Board plans to continue using its beloved slogan for years to come, they will need to borrow new equity by partnering with brands that build visibility. The California Milk Processor Board needs to wake up consumers and let them know “Got Milk” is here to stay and not something to yawn about.