Fear of Flying Fluids: Seriously, 'Milk Life.' How Did This Happen?

Still on a post-Oscars, Samsung-mega-selfie/poignant-botched-surgery/did-that-thing-on-Travolta’s-head-perhaps-invade-his-brain bender? Then take a look at this new milk commercial. With its “Milk Life” tagline, and corny vignettes involving perversely spurting bodily fluids, it is so head-scratchingly bad, it’ll sober you right up -- or  make you lose your faith in the entire human race.

But I don’t really blame the new agency. (Sorry, Lowe Campbell Ewald.) After all, the discarded campaign (the milk mustache) also had quasi-porn-film embarrassment possibilities. But with the help of celebrities eager and willing to lease out their virginal above-the-lip real estate, it worked for many years.

Let me just clear up one thing: “Got Milk?” was created in 1993 by Jeff Goodby, at Goodby, Silverstein and Partners (where I once worked) for the California Milk Processors’ Board.

The milk mustache print ads were created by a different agency entirely, which then adapted “Got Milk?” as the tag line. This national group also ran Goodby’s award-winning TV work for a few years. (Like the spot featuring the obnoxious cell-phone user who ends up in hell with a fridge full of chocolate-chip cookies and no milk. The early Goodby work connected because it shows how much the absence of milk -- like when you have peanut butter stuck on the roof of your mouth, as in the Aaron Burr spot from 1994 -- makes you crave it.)

And “Got Milk?” will continue to run in California via the Goodby campaign.

So it was an incorrect oversimplification that had media stories seizing on the new campaign as a goodbye to “Got Milk” (while showing the Burr spot) and hello to “Milk Life.” (Which for the young’uns, suggests “Thug Life” and for the oldsters evokes “MILF” Life.)

Nope, this is the output of a different group of processors, entirely, under the aegis of the Milk Processor Education Program. (MilkPep)  And in attempting to engineer a major switch-up, the PEP people probably insisted on having the new work feature an, um, explosive, new product demo.

And that edict somehow got translated into the seemingly magical idea of making clearish-white fluid fly all over the screen. (Gallons of it!) And once no expense was spared in creating that alchemical effect, I suspect it became a case of the Emperor’s New Clothes, pumped-out-fluids edition.

Yup, perhaps the Milk Processor’s Education board had already invested so much, and was so taken with this compellingly produced digital “process,” that no one at the endless meetings around the conference table had the nerve to stand up and say, “Um, do we think that there’s a potential problem in that it looks like semen?” 

Of course not! Instead, it was more like  “Wow, watch that milk go! It’s super-charged!”  Followed no doubt by a palm-swatting round of high-fives.

Call it the mystifying case of the Immaculate Ejaculata.

Obviously, selling a dairy drink’s protein- and energy-boosting properties by featuring flying liquid emissions does not one body good.

The story is that milk consumption is down for all the expected reasons (the rising popularity of other choices, including almond and soy milk; the decline of cereal-eating for breakfast; health worries about chemical additives, watered-down taste, the advent of veganism, etc.)

But the horror does not come from the use of the fluids alone. It’s the dated, bogus scenarios attached to the soaring liquids that majorly compound the fail.

Ostensibly, this “8 milligrams of protein” is a message for the morning, to launch your day with muscle-building energy.  So tell me, which obviously groovy and happening teen-girl garage band practices first thing in the morning? (And on the driveway?) Not to mention that they accompany all that serious guitar-slamming with the hotel-room-destroying properties of milk, which flies off their flicking fingers. How all this flying stuff doesn’t get anything wet is also a mystery.

The spot opens with a mom chasing her son, both powered by propellers of milk on their backs. (Huh?) The next two shots are even worse: first, a dog walker with a parachute of milk exploding out of her ass (pardon me.) And then we achieve Poignancy Central, with a clip of the dad and son playing basketball on the driveway. As the kid goes for a lay-up, an ocean of white stuff pours out of his pants.

It’s back to the drawing board, I’m afraid. Milk is a female human fluid, and also reminds us visually of a male human fluid.  And the less you "Milk life" and refer to how that happens, the better.

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18 comments about "Fear of Flying Fluids: Seriously, 'Milk Life.' How Did This Happen?".
  1. Jonathan Hutter from Garrand , March 5, 2014 at 4:13 p.m.
    Thank you for clearing up the origins of the Got Milk campaign. So many media outlets reported it wrong, it was driving me crazy. This campaign leaves behind the strategic genius of Got Milk (There are some things that only milk goes with, PB&J and cookies being two of them. And it's in your fridge, so have some). Instead, the "power of protein" is just so old hat. The morning rock band vignette reminds me of "Coffee Achievers." Remember that gem? David Bowie comes off stage and immediately goes for...coffee.
  2. Dyann Espinosa from IntraStasis , March 5, 2014 at 5:21 p.m.
    The spots are bad enough, but the real insanity is how an entire company of smart, young, hip (?) professionals was able to delude themselves that this work was a sensational new idea...? I remember when Goodby, Silverstein came up with the "Got Milk" campaign. I was working in production in SF at the time. As Jeff described their thinking, they approached it from the angle of "When would people really miss milk?" That gave rise to the situations where you viscerally reacted to the clump of peanut butter stuck in your throat and the empty milk carton. Brilliant. Is there some mass hypnosis or pack mentality that could account for the current "Milk Life" embarrassment?
  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited , March 5, 2014 at 6:42 p.m.
    Upteen years ago, a very creative copy writer at an agency (long gone) where I worked always used to say advertising is incestuous. Somebody's kid come up with this ? Oh well. Changing agencies at the end of ROI is not new either.
  4. david marks from self , March 5, 2014 at 7:33 p.m.
    Superb take on the perverse, Barbara Lippert. Frankly, whether an explosion of semen, or an avalanche of breast milk over unsuspecting innocents, the bizarre of all things commercial just transformed my view of the perfunctory in advertising.
  5. George Parker from Parker Consultants , March 5, 2014 at 10:08 p.m.
    Barbara... This is yet another example of how dumb (that's the D in BDC's) are. Obviously an integral part of any MBA course is... "If it's worked for years, change it." Remember "When you're #2 you try harder." One of the great lines of all fucking time, one that worked for centuries... Avis hires a new CMO and she dumps it for... I have no idea. Wouldn't it have been great if Lowe Campbell Ewald had had the balls to say to the client... You know what... Let's stay with "Got Milk." As Zippy the Pin Head would say... Nah! Cheers/George
  6. Cliff Medney from Flightpath , March 6, 2014 at 9:26 a.m.
    Splash, Rattle and Roll!
  7. Scott w. Tilden from SWTilden , March 6, 2014 at 11:13 a.m.
    Got milk? Not any more (at least on most ads). Hated mustaches anyway. But as God is my witness may I never "got" what afflicts this poor lady has who's walking the dogs... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ISZ2GLuVdE
  8. Mickey Lonchar from Quisenberry , March 6, 2014 at 12:57 p.m.
    'Got Milk' is such a strong, versatile line. It tapped in to the REAL reason people kept milk on hand. After all you can't dip your Oreos in sparkling water. But the idea is way bigger than that specific application. 'Got Milk' could easily punctuate a nutritional message. And rather than go strictly with a nutrition message (which didn't work prior to 1993, and I doubt would work today), why not keep with the emotional appeal and occasionally drop in nutritional info? Other than ego, of course.
  9. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , March 6, 2014 at 1:41 p.m.
    THanks for the dead on comments, guys. I think they should focus on all the milk dispensed at a coffee shop, and show the different pitchers, and do something with that. People can identify with that. You can't sell it by showing a kid drinking a glass of milk in the morning. (To go with a "nutritious" breakfast along with toast, an egg, and cereal. People don't eat that way.) Also, there's something gross about mixing fun in the sun and milk. And yes, that was done in similar (SFX-free) vignettes in the '80s, and didn't work.
  10. Jonathan Hutter from Garrand , March 6, 2014 at 1:47 p.m.
    There's a whole genre of ads that attempt to put products or brands in situations where no normal human being ever would. Two that immediately come to mind include the American Express one where the daughter gets hurt in the wilderness, dad gets to the first phone he can find (pre-cell), and calls American Express. I also recall a Dannon Yogurt commercial where a woman is out of breath after a long run, and the first thing she does when finishing, before catching her breath, is start to eat a cup of yogurt.
  11. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , March 6, 2014 at 2:12 p.m.
    @Jonathan-- Phlegm alert!
  12. Tom Scharre from The Hunch Fund , March 6, 2014 at 3:18 p.m.
    The 'milk money' shot.
  13. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2013ac.com network , March 6, 2014 at 6:31 p.m.
    Pardon my going a bit off-topic, but since weird ads are being discussed (and the milk/bodily fluid thing being a bit of a segue). ... What's the deal with the Viagra ad where the guy driving a classic Mustang stops at a gas station in the desert, and buys bottled water for his radiator to show how innovative he is in a pinch? Gas stations have water hoses, right? Or is the hook the fact that the guy loves his Mustang so much that he only uses expensive H2O? While I'm at it, how about the other Viagra ad, where the guy on his boat, all alone, brilliantly (sic) decides to disable his only life-jacket to fix a busted shackle? Considering that the boat is falling apart, having a functioning life-jacket available would seem to be the rational choice. ... Yeah, I know, ... too much time on my hands.
  14. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com , March 6, 2014 at 8:34 p.m.
    @Chuck-- to show that these guys can adapt to any circumstance (sorry) and do some creative tinkering?
  15. George Parker from Parker Consultants , March 6, 2014 at 9:17 p.m.
    @Barbara @Chuck... To show that the people who create this shit live in lofts, do Pilates with a private trainer, get driven to work in a limo, and never leave Manhattan. What's a Viagra? Cheers/George
  16. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc. , March 7, 2014 at 3:30 p.m.
    This hateful campaign sends a simple visual message: milk gives you explosive diarrhea. I doubt that's a good selling point.
  17. Jim English from FJC , March 7, 2014 at 5:43 p.m.
    I found the propellers and the parachutes rather engaging. Thank God those mustaches are gone, so phony for so many years.
  18. Chuck Lantz from 2007ac.com, 2013ac.com network , March 7, 2014 at 6:42 p.m.
    "@Chuck-- to show that these guys can adapt to any circumstance (sorry) and do some creative tinkering?" Barbara: That's my point. How creative and adaptive is buying a bottle of water for your radiator when there's a hose with free water two steps away at the gas station? Come to think of it, maybe that IS the point; ... any guy who needs to take a pill to replace using his imagination, plus doing some "creative tinkering", ... oh, never mind. I think you see where I'm going with this.