Behind the Work: Battle for Milkquarious

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Goodby Silverstein & Partners' new milk campaign follows in the fine tradition of Tommy and The Wall with Battle for Milkquarious. The focal point of the integrated effort for the California Milk Processor Board is a 20-minute rock opera featuring the star of last year's milk advertising, White Gold.

Here, one of the chief architects of the Milkquarious campaign talks about the challenges of this epic genre and how White Gold is out to save the arts for the youth of America.

Creativity: Why did you decide to bring back White Gold. And why a rock opera?

Paul Charney: We brought White Gold back for a couple of reasons. The main one worked last year. Research was telling us that it really did increase milk consumption of teens and helped alter their perception of the benefits of milk. So that's the not-so-fun strategic rationale. The other big reason was that it was so much fun the first time around. We really believed we had just scratched the surface of where this fabricated rock star could go. We tried to think what would White Gold do next? What would be cooler than making more music videos? How bout making music videos that link together to tell one story. White Gold's story. And that's how we landed on making the greatest rock opera ever about milk.

What were your influences?

The rock opera as a genre obviously starts with 'Tommy' and 'Rocky Horror Picture Show'. The over the top epicness of both movies proved to be inspirational both musically and visually. There were also other less known movies that had influence - The Apple and Phantom of the Paradise to name a couple.

What was the most challenging part of doing a longer form project of this... genre.

Nailing down the story and songs were a huge challenge. We knew the story had to be compelling and fun. Without that, everything else sorta falls apart because nobody is gonna keep watching something online for 22 minutes when there's no interest in the story and the characters. Same goes for the songs/music. The lyrics had to deliver a milk message, while also telling a linear story. One of the benefits of the genre is that it's not inherently grounded in reality, so the audience is a little more forgiving if the story gets...umm...weird in places. While we were developing the script we had to be conscious of what we could actually shoot/edit/produce for the budget we had. That was enormously challenging.

Was the idea of tying in the high school kids contest/funding for arts programs a part of the idea from the outset? How did that come about?

It sorta all happened at once. We knew we wanted to reach out to teenagers this round. Needed to get them more involved and actively engaged with White Gold. We thought maybe there's a way to get high school students to re-imagine this rock opera themselves. Display their creativity the way White Gold does. We reached out to schools to find out if this was of any interest. As we came to find out, teachers loved this idea. They mentioned that much of the arts funding in public high schools had been dramatically cut in recent years. Activities and projects like this could really help expose their students to the arts in new ways. There was a genuine need. We went back to the client and discussed creating a contest/giveaway that could help bring some relief to these schools while at the same time getting our target more involved and engaged. And the client, Steve James of the California Milk Processor Board, was more than supportive of the idea. He decided it was the right thing to do. In fact, he pledged $50,000 in prize money from the CMPB.

We created White Gold's Milkdonkulous giveaway. Challenging high school students from all over California to re-create or reinterpret their favorite scene from the rock opera. The winning submissions will receive cash prizes that go directly to their high school theater, music and visual arts programs. As for the submissions themselves, we tried to give the kids as many creative tools and encouragement to make whatever they wanted to make. If they want to just lip sync the songs into a web cam, great. If they wanted to re-create one of the scenes with puppet versions of the characters, fantastic. We were simply trying to promote creativity in general. The whole initiative was also something important to all of us on a personal level. None of us would probably be working in this business if we hadn't had exposure to the arts in junior high and high school.

Who are the judges of the kids' entries?

We have a couple well known judges lined up, but we're going to announce those names shortly within the scope of the campaign.

Do you think it's become more important now for brand creativity to have a utility or a social responsibility angle?

It's not imperative or vital for an ad campaign to be socially responsible. But if there is an opportunity to help make things a little bit better in the world, why wouldn't you try? Or at least help shine the light on real problems and those who are trying to make a difference. Like the organization we're working with on this project, Donor's Choose. An amazing organization that connects donors with teachers looking for assistance for specific class projects. Check 'em out at It's worth it.
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