California milk producers have modified an eyebrow-raising advertising campaign that promoted their product to men as a way to lessen the effects of premenstrual syndrome in their wives or girlfriends. But some critics wonder if it's time the dairy organization moved on to greener pastures.
While the benefits of calcium to women are widely accepted, the over-the-top publicity campaign featuring harried-looking men, color-coded PMS meters and "video apology enhancers" may be doing the industry in the nation's top milk-producing state more harm than good.
Marketing experts say the California Milk Processor Board, previously known for its popular "Got Milk?" promotions, resorted to shock advertising that may have earned it negative attention without benefiting the product it was trying to sell.
"It might have been too shocking, and too much negative attention. And really, it was negative attention that was not related to milk," said Laura Ries, president of the Atlanta marketing strategy firm Ries & Ries.
The board, which is overseen by the state Department of Food and Agriculture but is privately funded, decided Thursday to modify its two-week-old campaign and redirected users from its website, www.everythingidoiswrong.org, to another that will encourage discussion of the issue. The original campaign, featuring an Internet splash page, billboards and announcements on National Public Radio, had been scheduled to run through the end of August.
Steve James, the milk board's executive director, said the advertising had accomplished the board's goal of spreading awareness about the benefits milk can have on women who suffer the effects of PMS — and on their male partners.
"We've started out as a California campaign, and it has become a subject of discussion around the country," he said. "We set out to spark the issue about something that affects both men and women, and we certainly did get a discussion going."
There is no doubt of that.
The campaign's website said as many as 1,500 media outlets worldwide reported on the ads, which drew attention on national television talk shows and resonated widely online. Negative comments poured in from women and female-oriented media, and a Facebook site was dedicated to reaction — most of it negative.
Many comments suggested women were offended that the campaign portrayed men as the victims of premenstrual syndrome. Billboards in Los Angeles and San Francisco, for example, showed young men holding cartons of milk accompanied by tag lines such as "I'm sorry I listened to what you said and NOT what you meant," or "I apologize for not reading between the RIGHT lines."