A dairy advertising phenomenon turns 20

Hoard's Dairyman: 

A dairy advertising phenomenon turns 20

Date: 
Fri, 11/08/2013

got milk?

“got milk?” quickly became a part of American culture . . . and still is.

by Dennis Halladay, Hoard’s Dairyman Western Editor

Advertising campaigns tend to live briefly, see marginal success, and be forgotten quickly. But every once in a while something wildly, madly, profoundly extraordinary happens.

Who could have ever imagined, though, that a simple two-word slogan for the dairy industry would be one of them?

“got milk?” turned 20 last month. Forget dog years; that’s as old as the pyramids on advertising clocks. The campaign put milk into public awareness like maybe never before, spawned perhaps more copycat spinoffs than any promotion in history, and literally became a part of American culture.

Surveys have found consumer awareness levels of 90 percent for “got milk?” and in 2005 advertising professionals ranked it the most influential slogan in the history of television.

Created for the California Milk Processor Board (CMPB), the first “got milk?” TV commercial aired on October 24, 1993. It featured a radio quiz contestant trying to win a $10,000 prize who knew the answer with every essence of his being — but couldn’t say it because his mouth was full of peanut butter sandwich and he had no milk to wash it down. ARRGH!!

The campaign was such a gigantic hit that within two years it went nationwide, being licensed to the National Milk Processor Education Program. And when it did, many of the most famous celebrities flocked to be part of it, including Muhammad Ali, Elton John, John Elway, Tom Brady, the entire TV casts of “Frasier” and “Everybody Loves Raymond”, Superman, Batman, Kermit the Frog, and Ronald McDonald.

There have been countless spinoff versions inspired by “got milk?”, but few have raised the copyright infringement ire of the CMPB. One notable exception, however, was an anti-dairy campaign in 2007 by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Dennis blog footer

The author has served large Western dairy readers for the past 36 years and manages Hoard’s WEST, a publication written specifically for Western herds. He is a graduate of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, majored in journalism and is known as a Western dairying specialist.

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