How effective was the California Milk Processor Board's "Got Milk?" campaign?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The familiar and ubiquitous (seen and known everywhere) advertising campaign known as "Got Milk?" was used from October 24, 1993 to February 24, 2014, making it one of the longest-running and most successful ad campaigns in history. 

Developed by the advertising firm of Goodby Silverstein & Partners, this advertising slogan was nearly discarded as being too simple and too ungrammatically correct. Over time, the ad has featured all kinds of people and situations in which people suffer or lose because they do not have any milk. Eventually the ad campaign expanded to include celebrities sporting "milk mustaches" and asking if we "got milk?"

The slogan was genius in that it was adaptable to a wide variety of uses and advertising angles, and it has become one of the most parodied commercial slogans, as well. Everyone from the Simpsons to the Super Bowl have featured the slogan. It has been translated into foreign languages and the parodies are innumerable. In fact, the California Milk Processor Board, the organization for whom the ad was written, created a "Got Ripped Off?" poster in 2005 featuring what it considered to be the best parodies of their milk-promotion slogan.

In terms of the ad campaign's success, the results are mixed. While the slogan has a 90% name recognition nationally, there has been little evidence that consumption of milk has significantly increased over time. 

The GOT MILK?® advertising campaigned kicked into gear in 1994 and, as expected, the rate of consumption leveled off. If it had continued to decrease at two to three percent per year, demand would have gone down cumulatively by hundreds of millions of gallons. So, [the campaign] didn't drive sales up. What [it] did was stop the hemorrhaging in the face of competition from Coke, Pepsi, Snapple, Gatorade, Evian - a whole slew of competitors with deeper pockets.

If the success of the campaign is measured by popularity and presence, the ad was a success. If success is measured by the thing which presumably matters most to the organization that bought the ad--increased consumption of milk--the ad was marginally successful.