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Kurt Graetzer considers 1996 momentuous. That's because it's when the National Fluid Milk Processors Education Program began its successful "milk mustache of the moment" marketing plan.

By tapping celebrities in the news for up-to-the-minute print ads showing them with the now-popular white upper lip, Mr. Graetzer, MilkPEP executive director, got a substantial bang for his already substantial $110 million budget by touting new ads via public relations.

Among those featured were Senator Bob Dole and President Bill Clinton during their election campaigns, dueling Super Bowl quarterbacks Brett Favre and Drew Bledsoe just before the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots met on Super Sunday, and even St. Nick during the Christmas season.

The opportunistic photo ops will continue, promises Mr. Graetzer, 50.

"People are the sugar coating on the pill that gets us in the door with our message and nutritional information," he says.

The ad campaign from Bozell Worldwide, New York, continues strong. Recent executions featured Martha Stewart, Cal Ripken Jr. and former "E.R." star Sherry Stringfeld. Mr. Graetzer says celebrities such as Ivana Trump have approached MilkPEP about wanting to appear in an ad.

The initial advertising was to change people's perception about milk as stodgy and unhealthy. But rising milk prices have contributed to overall volume increases of less than 1%.

So in '97, "we are shifting our focus to activity at the retail counter," says Mr. Graetzer.

Among the plans: Offer premiums and team up with magazines for promotions such as giving away a free issue with the purchase of milk.

"Magazines continue to amaze us with their marketing savvy; they have come to us with astounding programs," he says.

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