You may have seen a new string of public service announcements plastered on bus shelters and tube station walls in recent months. Like any good PSA they are bold, eye-catching and feature some witty slogans. But these aren’t announcements from your usual government body – they’re from ‘The Department of Dairy Related Scrumptious Affairs’, and they are all singing the praises of milk, cheese and yoghurt.
The recently-renewed campaign is the latest from Dairy UK and the AHDB, who are hoping to ‘remind people of their love of dairy’ through emotive messages about gooey cheese toasties and generously-spread butter.
Dairy advertisers today may have more of a fight on their hands thanks to the rise of veganism and plant-based, but campaigns such as this have been popping up on our TV screens and in magazines for decades, especially those encouraging consumers to drink more milk. To celebrate the launch of The Dairymen 2018, we’ve taken a look back at 10 of the most famous, innovative and odd milk campaigns that have ever run:
1. Got Milk? Goodby Silverstein & Partners
When American advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners coined the immortal phrase ‘got milk?’ back in 1993, they couldn’t have known the mark it would leave not only on the dairy industry but on popular culture. The original campaign featured a string of adverts in which a character finds themselves in a sticky situation, with a mouthful of food and no milk to wash it down with. The first of these starred Sean Whalen as a historian who receives a call to answer a radio station’s $10,000 question – in the middle of eating a huge peanut butter sandwich.
The slogan was later licensed to the National Milk Processor Education Program, which used it in a raft of print ads starring celebrities, sport stars and musicians sporting ‘milk moustaches’. The likes of Kate Moss, Beyoncé and even Kermit the Frog have all made appearances. The campaign is regarded as one of the most influential in advertising history.
2. Make Mine Milk
Another campaign to adopt the milk ‘tache was Make Mine Milk, which aimed to promote and celebrate low-fat milk. Launched in 2010 and last active in 2014, the campaign was funded in part by UK dairy companies including First Milk and Dairy Crest, with a third of its financial backing coming from the EU. Celebrities including Kelly Osbourne, Gordon Ramsay and boyband The Wanted all put their faces to the campaign, along with a group of Olympic and Commonwealth athletes dubbed Team Milk. The campaign certainly had some weight behind it and its focus on the general health of young people – aided by games and competitions on its website – was admirable. It’s a shame it lost momentum.
3. There’s a Humphrey About, Unigate
A series of star-studded ads from British company Unigate advised consumers to ‘order extra pintas’ in the 1970s, as there was a band of elusive milk thieves on the loose. In the ads, celebrities including Muhammad Ali, Benny Hill and Barbara Windsor tried to protect their milk from the never-seen ‘Humphreys’, whose only visible presence was a red and white paper straw creeping into the frame. They may have been pests, but at least the Humphreys were plastic-free.
4. Accrington Stanley, who are they? Milk Marketing Board
Released by the Milk Marketing Board in the 1980s, this is perhaps one of Britain’s best-loved and most quoted adverts. It features a young Liverpool fan, played by Carl Rice, telling his friend that according to his hero Ian Rush, if he didn’t drink milk he would only be good enough to play for Accrington Stanley. This provokes the priceless response from his friend and a squabble for the white stuff. The ad was recreated shot-for-shot by Black Cow Vodka (which is made with milk) in 2016 and starred a grown-up Rice. However, the ad was banned from airing in 2017 due to concerns that it promoted excessive drinking. Well, exactly.
5. Milk’s Gotta Lotta Bottle, Milk Marketing Board
In this series of fast-paced, innuendo-filled ads from the 1980s, the Milk Marketing Board promoted the benefits of fresh milk and the humble milkman while adding a little excitement to the category. Among other escapades, we saw a milkman delivering to a launching space shuttle and abseiling down a cliff, while knife-throwers, jockeys, punks and cyclists (to name but a few) chanted along to the catchy soundtrack. The ads may have been chaotic – and slightly problematic – but they were a whole lotta fun.
6. Dancing Milk Bottles, Wake up to Milk
On a sleepy British street before sunrise, birds chirp and a jolly tune plays as a milkman leads a line of dancing milk bottles on their morning rounds. After righting a toppled gnome and a fallen bicycle with a nod of his head, the milkman turns and strolls away, followed by yesterday’s empties. Part of the Wake up to Milk campaign, this idyllic 1992 ad portrayed the milkman as a kind of dairy Santa Claus, reliably carrying out his work under the cover of darkness and always knowing exactly what to deliver. Charming.
7. Pick up a Pinta
The versatility of milk was the star of this campaign, which saw residents on a milkman’s round reveal what they planned to make with their ‘friend in the fridge’. Cauliflower cheese, egg & bacon pie and rice pudding were some of the wonderfully retro ideas they gave in this simple but engaging ad.
8. Story of Milk, FrieslandCampina
From the simple to the epic. This emotive, three-and-a-half minute ad from Dutch dairy cooperative FrieslandCampina portrays milk as much more than just a bottle in the fridge. “I know you’ve got a lot on your mind right now”, a gravelly voiceover begins, before encouraging the viewer to think back to their carefree childhood compared to the stresses of adult life. It’s only at around halfway through the ad that we realise it’s about milk, and here it gets a little indulgent. It describes milk as ”something magical” that cows “will only give us if we take good care of them”. This sentiment could leave a sour taste in the mouth of some vegans and animal rights activists, but the ad’s message of the sanctity of nature is certainly an important one.
9. Them Bones, Them Bones, Need Calcium
For years dairy brands have played on the benefits of calcium to children’s bones to sell their products – think of those quaint ‘makes bones grow strongerer’ ads from Petit Filous. But this ad is more likely to induce nightmares than a surge in sales of milk. A giant wooden man, presumably an artist’s mannequin, comes to life and tells two kids that ‘a child’s got more bones than a grown up’s got’ and proceeds to sing a song about it. It may sounds wholesome, but it’s really quite terrifying.
10. Cats with Thumbs, Cravendale
Filtered milk brand Cravendale is known for its off-the-wall advertising, such as Barry the Biscuit Boy and the adventures of unlikely pals cow, pirate and cyclist, who left our screens in 2011. But perhaps their most memorable was Cats with Thumbs, which was a worthy replacement the same year. The quirky ad, featuring a brilliantly sinister narration from Tim Curry, imagines a future where cats develop opposable thumbs, allowing them to cross stitch, turn pages in books and, most frighteningly of all, band together to achieve their ultimate goal – steal your milk. It’s silly, but it’ll have you keeping one eye on kitty at breakfast time.