Marketing Campaign Case Studies

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The BC Dairy Foundation (BCDF) was established in 1974 to promote milk consumption in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Dividing its resources between in-school educational efforts and mainstream media campaigns, the organization, like most milk marketers in Canada, primarily targeted adults in its advertising. For much of the 1980s and 1990s, however, rates of milk consumption in British Columbia, as in other parts of North America and the world, declined substantially. In 2003, enlisting agency Palmer Jarvis DDB (later referred to as DDB Canada, Vancouver), BCDF changed its marketing strategy and targeted teens and young adults in a bold, risky campaign called ‘‘Don’t Take Your Body for Granted.’’ Rather than preaching to young people about the nutritional virtues of milk, ‘‘Don’t Take Your Body for Granted’’ instead took the idea of bodily neglect to an absurdly humorous extreme. In TV, film, print, and outdoor advertisements, bodiless humans—beings made of heads attached directly to feet—were shown in ordinary situations that, without a body, were extremely difficult. For instance, a TV/film spot showed an elderly bodiless woman attempting to walk her small dog but instead being dragged through the streets of her neighborhood, and print ads featured such scenarios as a terrified head being toyed with by a cat and a befuddled male head looking up at an impossibly high public-restroom urinal. A companion website allowed users to create their own scenarios using the bodiless humans from the commercials. Despite a having budget of only $3 million a year during its 2003–04 run, the campaign was able to break through to its target market by using bold humor and memorable imagery.
‘‘Don’t Take Your Body for Granted’’ attracted favorable media attention and won numerous advertising awards. Milk consumption rates, which had been declining for roughly 20 years in British Columbia, increased by 1 percent in 2003.

Though many consumers in the English-speaking world associated milk advertising with the ‘‘Got Milk?’’ campaign that in the 1990s began running in California and then throughout the United States, advertising on behalf of regional and national consortiums of North American dairy farmers was a well-established practice prior to that campaign. The concept of depicting celebrities wearing milk mustaches (associated with a well-known U.S. campaign of the 1990s), in fact, was first used in the 1970s in a Canadian campaign called ‘‘Wear a Moustache,’’ crafted by the Toronto office of ad agency Ogilvy&Mather for the OntarioMilk Marketing Board. Likewise, the Milk Calendar, first produced in 1976 by Toronto agency Allard Johnson for the Dairy Farmers of Ontario (in partnership with the provincial milk boards of Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, and the Maritimes), featured milkcentric recipes and images of health and wellness and was distributed free to millions of daily-paper subscribers in Canada. The Milk Calendar became part of the fabric of Canadian culture, gaining the loyalty of multiple generations of Canadians and accounting for measurable increases in milk consumption upon its yearly release.
The BC Dairy Foundation (BCDF) was established in 1974 to serve as the public voice of British Columbia’s dairy producers and processors. A nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing milk consumption in that Canadian province, BCDF pursued its goal in two primary ways: by partnering with the provincial school system to educate children about the nutritional benefits of drinking milk, and by marketing and promoting fluid milk and cream in the province.
For most of the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s Canadian milk advertising in all provinces targeted adults, while milk producers used educational programs to reach children in the schools. During this time declines in milk consumption became a seemingly permanent fact of North American life. When in 2002 BCDF embarked on an agency search for a new media campaign, it decided to change advertising tactics. The organization selected one of Canada’s top advertising agencies, Palmer Jarvis DDB of Vancouver (later called DDB Canada, Vancouver), to craft a new campaign that would appeal to young people.

BCDF and Palmer Jarvis DDB selected 16- to 24-yearold British Columbia residents as their target for the ‘‘Don’t Take Your Body for Granted’’ campaign. This group was notoriously fickle and difficult to reach, especially by advertising on behalf of milk, which, far from having any fashionable brand attributes, was not even a brand but a raw product fully lacking in properties that might be considered ‘‘cool.’’ These teenagers and young adults, however, were particularly vital to the project of increasing milk consumption in the population at large, because the age of 16 or 17 marked the time in life when most people ceased consuming milk regularly.
Palmer Jarvis DDB enlisted its youth-marketing sibling shop, DDB Kid Think, to undertake substantial research on its target group, gleaning insights from interactions with high school and college students. Based on this research Palmer Jarvis DDB concluded that teens could be convinced to drink milk neither with a pitch suggesting that it was cool to do so nor with preachy messages about the health benefits of milk consumption. To substantially alter milk-consumption patterns among the target group, the agency felt, it had to do no less than make young people see milk in a new way. It thus began the search for a governing concept that was, according to Marketing Magazine, ‘‘unpredictable, slightly outrageous, and purposely non-adult.’’

The other Canadian provinces each had individual organizations similar to BCDF. Rather than compete with one another, they each had the same goal of increasing milk consumption in their respective provinces. Several parallel milk advertising campaigns thus ran at once in Canada during this time, representing a variety of tactics and messages, while the most recognizable milk campaign of all time was airing in the United States. One of the most lauded Canadian milk campaigns of the late 1990s and early 2000s was the work of the Quebec milk-producers group Fe´de´ration des producteurs de lait du Que´bec and its agency BBDO Montreal. Launched in 1998, the campaign targeted adults with the theme ‘‘Jamais sans mon lait’’ (never without my milk) and used French songs by classic recording artists such as Gilbert Be´caud, Charles Trenet, and Edith Piaf, together with sentimental, everyday scenes showing the defining presence of milk in the various stages of life. The immense popularity of the campaign led the milk federation to release The White Album, a CD compilation of the songs featured in the commercials. The album sold 250,000 copies. In 2001 an English-language segment of the campaign was unveiled for the benefit of the 800,000 Anglophones living in Quebec.
In the early 2000s the organizations representing dairy farmers in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba pooled their resources and marketing skills for another noteworthy Canadian campaign, crafted by Vancouver’s Cossette Communication-Marketing. These organizations targeted 9- to 17-year-olds, reasoning that children in this age group had more autonomy than in previous generations and therefore needed to be persuaded to make their own choice of milk over other beverage options. Like BCDF, these marketers understood that a pitch relying on the health benefits of milk would not be effective with young people. Using the tagline ‘‘Never Stop. Milk,’’ individual TV spots employed images that dramatized such issues as first love, emotional loss, and the power of the imagination, all of which played on the idea of growth that never stopped. Milk was not featured explicitly in the commercials but rather was linked to physical and intellectual growth.
The best-known milk advertising campaign during this time—and of all time—was ‘‘Got Milk?’’ It was created by agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners for the California Milk Processor Board. ‘‘Got Milk?’’ began as a California campaign in 1993, ran nationally in the United States from 1995 to 1998, and continued to run in its state of origin through the early 2000s. It took as its conceptual basis scenes in which the lack of milk resulted in humorously serious predicaments. Although ‘‘Got Milk?’’ was associated with the well-known print and outdoor campaign featuring celebrities with milk mustaches, which ran nationally in the late 1990s and through the 2000s, the two were actually separate campaigns. The defining ‘‘Got Milk?’’ spot was called ‘‘Aaron Burr,’’ and it featured a bookish history buff who could not provide the answer to a radio trivia contest—listeners were asked to name the person who shot Alexander Hamilton (the answer was Aaron Burr)—because his mouth was full of peanut butter and he had no milk. The celebrity milk-mustache campaign, created for the nationwide Milk Processor Education Program by agency Bozell (and based on a 1970s Canadian campaign), began its run with the tagline ‘‘Where’s your mustache?’’ When it discovered that consumers already believed that ‘‘Got Milk?’’ was the mustache campaign’s tagline, the Milk Processor Education Program purchased the usage rights to ‘‘Got Milk?’’ from the California Milk Processor Board. ‘‘Got Milk?’’ became one of the best-known ad slogans in recent memory as well as a brand in its own right. The California Milk Processor Board created a briskly selling line of retail products—baby clothes, toys, ice-cream scoops, and aprons among them—with the tagline imprinted on them.

The BC Dairy Foundation followed up its ‘‘Don’t Take Your Body for Granted’’ campaign with a similarly daring 2005 campaign tagged ‘‘It’s Always Been Survival of the Fittest. Drink Milk.’’ The campaign’s TV spots were set in the Stone Age, which BCDF described in a press release as ‘‘a time when making nutritional food choices could have an immediate impact on survival.’’ In the commercials cavemen were shown making poor beverage choices that resulted in their failure to survive. For instance, one spot showed a caveman who stumbled upon a soda can on a desert plain. While tilting the mostly empty can to try and get the remnants of the drink into his mouth, he was trampled by a dinosaur, who was shown trying to scrape the man from his foot at the end of the commercial.

In ‘‘Don’t Take Your Body for Granted,’’ which was launched in January 2003, Palmer Jarvis DDB attempted to satisfy its mandate of changing the way teens looked at milk with an absurdly humorous visual conceit: the campaign theme was dramatized through images of human beings who literally had no bodies. They instead consisted of normal heads attached directly to feet, and each of the campaign’s many TV, cinema, print, and outdoor executions illustrated the difficulty of life without a body. For instance, one TV/cinema spot, ‘‘Dogwalker,’’ showed the bodiless head of a grandmotherly woman being dragged behind the poodle she was attempting to walk. Another spot, ‘‘Bus,’’ centered on a public-bus driver who, because he consisted only of head and feet, could not effectively reach either the pedals or the steering wheel of the vehicle; meanwhile, his bodiless passengers rolled about on the bus’s floorboards. These commercials generated substantial tension and drama as the bodiless humans struggled unsuccessfully to regain control of their respective situations—situations that would have been ordinary but that had become positively harrowing in the absence of bodies. At the conclusion of each suspenseful action sequence, a white screen appeared with the message ‘‘Don’t take your body for granted’’ imprinted upon it. This screen was then replaced with a second white screen reading ‘‘Drink Milk.’’ Print and outdoor ads used the same concept, with the tagline printed along the bottom of each image. One print/outdoor ad, ‘‘Urinal,’’ showed a bodiless man looking up at a public-restroom urinal, which towered over him and presented an obviously insurmountable challenge. In ‘‘Cat’’ a cat toyed with a fearful head instead of a nearby ball of yarn, and ‘‘Escalator’’ showed the upturned, high-heeled feet and panicked head of a bodiless woman whose hair was caught in the teeth of an escalator.
An online component of the campaign, accessible at the website, supported the media placements by offering an interactive experience with the campaign’s bodiless humans. Users were asked to create their own 3-D images—employing their choice of backgrounds, characters, objects, speech bubbles, and motion lines—illustrating the difficulties presented by the lack of a body.
One of the initial difficulties Palmer Jarvis DDB faced was selling its conservative client on the outrageous idea it was suggesting. It therefore made a highly unusual proposition: if BCDF was not satisfied with the results of ‘‘Don’t Take Your Body for Granted,’’ the ad agency would create another campaign for free. BCDF took Palmer Jarvis DDB up on its offer, deciding to risk its reputation on the innovative campaign. The agency’s director of brand management, Bill Baker, told Strategy magazine that, faced with negative feedback from constituents in the organization, one board member responded by saying, ‘‘Listen, I’m not sure I entirely get this campaign either . . . .But my teen-aged kids love them. They laugh hysterically every time they see them, and that’s what we’re trying to do here.’’ The arresting nature of the campaign’s individual executions was particularly necessary given another of Palmer Jarvis DDB’s key obstacles: a budget of only 3 million Canadian dollars, which did not allow it to place the commercials with the frequency that was usually necessary to reach its target market effectively, and which did not remotely approach comparable ad spending on behalf of branded beverages. Palmer Jarvis DDB creative director Alan Russell told Boards, ‘‘Apart from being a strategically smart campaign, the ads will draw tremendous attention because of their originality. The concept, the story lines, the visual craziness and the surprising payoff are all so unexpected for the milk category that I can’t imagine not recalling these commercials, even after one viewing.’’

Creativity said of the ‘‘Don’t Take Your Body for Granted’’ campaign, ‘‘The fact is, our neighbors to the north at Palmer Jarvis DDB have out-mooed ‘Got Milk?’ with a disembodied piece of genius youth marketing.’’ The campaign won numerous Canadian and international awards, including a Bronze Lion at the Cannes International Advertising Festival for the TV spot ‘‘Dogwalker’’ and a Bronze Clio for the 2004 print campaign. Market research found that, despite the limited TV and cinema placement of the campaign’s spots—an unavoidable result of its minimal budget—80 percent of young people in British Columbia saw at least one of the commercials in 2003, compared to the 56 percent norm for campaigns with the same budget. Ninety-two percent of the young people who had seen individual spots agreed with descriptions of them as unique and different, and 83 percent deemed the commercials enjoyable. British Columbia’s milk consumption climbed by 1 percent in 2003, at a time when the dairy industry hoped at best for modestly declining—rather than rapidly declining—sales. The consumption of flavored milk by teens and young adults climbed by 11.5 percent in 2003 as well. The campaign ran through 2004.

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