That's until Jeff Manning, 48, backed an unorthodox strategy: run a campaign showing people deprived of milk. The result, the highly acclaimed "Got Milk?" effort from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, ended the drought in California's per-capita milk consumption.
A 24-year-agency veteran with a commodity-marketing track record ranging from eggs to potatoes to beef, Mr. Manning left Ketchum Advertising USA as a senior VP in 1993 to join the California Milk Processor Board as executive director.
"I was tired of making recommendations. I was ready to make some decisions," he says.
The decision he made was a precipitous one. His "Got Milk?" campaign halted the state's decline in milk consumption, which had fallen to 24.1 gallons in 1993, down 3.2% from '92. After the "Got Milk?" effort, consumption last year held almost steady at 24 gallons.
The award-winning campaign features people without milk surrounded by indulgence foods such as cupcakes and chocolate-chip cookies. It also highlights slightly anti-social situations, such as a baby talking back to his father, who is covetously eyeing his milk. In each TV spot, the product isn't shown in the traditional flattering light; instead, only a few drops are seen splashing around and, in the out-of-home execution, the product isn't shown at all, just the foods that go so deliciously with milk.
But what is really powering sales is an unusual co-op promotion that works well even though Mr. Manning admits it isn't "the sexiest part of the program."
He arranged to have the "Got Milk?" slogan printed on packages of complimentary products such as cookies and cereal, and arranged for marketers of those products to give out coupons for milk. The co-promotion partnerships were necessary because processors are unable to give out coupons for milk under California law.
"We've had 50 years of milk boards, but nobody ever reached out to General Mills" or other natural marketing partners, says Mr. Manning, who certainly ended that deprivation.