MILK BOARD'S CEREAL TIE-IN REALLY DOES THE TRIX

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The spot opens with a fish-eye security camera's view of a convenience store, and a strung-out young man in the cold cereal aisle. Looking furtively over his shoulder, he takes boxes of Cheerios, Wheaties and Trix to the checkout, where the crone of a cashier laughs, "Trix? Trix are for kids."

The edgy customer tosses the money at her and flees. Back at his apartment, he triple locks himself inside and tosses the Wheaties and Cheerios to the floor. The kitchen table awaits with an empty bowl and an open carton of milk.

"Finally," he gasps, "after all these years of `Trix are for kids! Trix are for kids!' Well, today .*.*. they're for RABBITS! Hah hah hah HAH!"

Thanks to computer animation, the guy has reached back and unzipped his face. What we now realize was a remarkable costume is peeled away to reveal a familiar cartoon character: the Trix rabbit himself.

Cackling with glee, the rabbit takes the carton and begins to pour milk onto the cereal he has been waiting years to eat, but-to his horror and frustration-only a few drops dribble out. Then comes the title card and the voice-over, courtesy of the California Fluid Milk Processor Advisory Board and Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco:

"got milk?"

We don't know why any rodent with the intellectual wherewithal to masquerade as a human would even try to drink milk that's been left sitting out, but let's not be splitting hares. This is the latest, and possibly most wonderful, iteration of possibly the most wonderful ongoing campaign around.

The earlier "Aaron Burr" spot, about a Burr-obsessed history buff who blows a chance at radio-quiz riches because his mouth is full of peanut butter when he has to answer who shot Alexander Hamilton, is one of the cleverest, funniest, most pointed spots we've ever seen. This one, leveraging three decades of General Mills advertising in a remarkable cross-promotion, might be better.

Two generations of children were satisfied with a far less three-dimensional and lifelike Trix bunny. Silly kids, rabbits are for tricks-and Toontown's digital wizards pulled them all to appeal to boomers with more sophisticated animation expectations. But the special effects artists have nothing on the trick pulled off by the "got milk" strategy.

Before the campaign broke in November 1993, reminding consumers of milk's health and nutritional benefits had been de rigueur-a belaboring of the obvious that has accompanied a steady decline in per capita milk consumption.

This campaign flouted conventional dairy-marketing wisdom by positioning milk not as a life essential but as a lifestyle essential, something you need to have on hand, if only to go with the foods you need to have it on hand for. The consequence is a sharp increase in sales-4% in the second half of 1994 alone-and the first leveling off of per capita consumption in years.

This spot will not upset the trend. And it may begin another. One can't help speculating which venerable ad character will next appear in a cross-promotion. Charlie the Tuna for Daiwa fishing reels? Morris the Cat for an eating disorders PSA? The Ajax White Knight for the Ku Klux Klan?

Who knows? In any event, to see brilliant advertising so rewarded in the marketplace, as somebody once put it, does a body good.

Ad Age Bulletin Board on Prodigy, or by Prodigy e-mail at EFPB35A.

Client: California milk board. Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

Ad Review Rating: 4 stars

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