Snowballing advertising funds from the National Fluid Milk Pro-cessor Education Program and dairy-farmer group Dairy Management Inc. have catapulted humble milk, until a few years ago an also-ran in the advertising race behind soft drinks and juices, into a key beverage-industry player.
These two groups alone will spend $216 million in national advertising this year, and that's not counting localized efforts by regional producers and processors.
"We're going for the same thing: to increase milk consumption," says Kurt Graetzer, executive director of the MilkPEP, funded by 300-odd milk processors. "And together, from a budget standpoint, milk is coming close to some soft drinks."
Mr. Graetzer, 49, is most well-known for his "milk mustache" campaign, supported with $110 million in advertising this year.
This figure marks a substantial boost from 1995, when Washington-based MilkPEP spent $55 million, but still generated a lot of buzz from a relatively small budget. That came from a reliance on print, where Mr. Graetzer says $35 million goes a long way.
"We could own print. There's no clutter, we got great positioning and the magazine partnership was great," he says. "If we used TV, we would have been smoked by the likes of beer, soda and juices."
The creative, from Bozell, New York, was also a real attention-getter, showing celebrities from Joan Lunden to Rhea Perlman and Danny DeVito sporting the famous white mustache.
The marketing mission of the campaign in the first year was to attack four misconceptions about milk: that it's fat-laden and unhealthy; that it's an old-fashioned drink; that it's only for kids; and that it's good only as an accompaniment for high-fat foods like cookies.
Mr. Graetzer says the campaign has so far accomplished those goals, at least enough to move onto Phase Two: to increase milk sales volume 4%. That's an extraordinarily ambitious goal for a category in which volume hasn't climbed much cumulatively in 20 years.
"It's been like watching grass grow," Mr. Graetzer says.
NEW GROUPS TARGETED
To move the needle, MilkPEP is concentrating on new target groups.
The initial mustache campaign was aimed at women ages 25 to 44. But the new mandate is to also reach young women 13 to 17, college-age kids of both sexes ages 18 to 24 and men ages 25 to 34. Those groups represent about 57% of all milk volume, he says.
So while MilkPEP will still put 60% of its money behind print, Mr. Graetzer says there will be more use of outdoor and unusual "media" such as bookcovers and postcards.
FROM BEEF TO MILK
MilkPEP will also, for the first time, start coordinating closely with Dairy Management, the producers' group headed by commodity marketing vet Jeanne Sowa.
Ms. Sowa, 44, joined DMI as group executive-marketing programs and services in August from the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, where she coordinated the high profile, "Beef. It's what's for dinner" campaign.
At the beef board, Ms. Sowa had a $25 million budget, while at DMI she controls $106 million in marketing spending this year, including $42.4 million in advertising to dole out for milk and another $18 million for media on cheese.
"Milk consumption has declined because there are so many alternatives," says Ms. Sowa, who is also a registered dietitian. "It's so much easier to reach for a Coke or a juice box than to reach for milk. It's an availability and packaging problem."
DMI ASKING, `GOT MILK?'
To tackle the issue, DMI has licensed the famous "Got milk?" campaign-created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco-from the California Milk Processors Board. Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, is the agency of record for media placement, with DMI's cheese advertising handled by Grey Advertising, New York.
The ads are overseen by the 20-member board of dairy farmers, whose previous campaigns include "Milk. It does a body good."
This year's goal is to drive volume among 18-to-34 year-old females who often buy milk for the family, and Ms. Sowa hopes to get there with strategic analysis.
"We are forging our direction with new research," she says. "We have data showing consumption by individual households in-home and away from home" that will help determine that direction. "It's fact-based and exciting."