Editor's Note: The following letter was sent to Dairy Herd Management by a representative of the California Milk Advisory Board. She was responding to criticism of the "Happy Cows come from California" commercials that appeared in an editor's commentary last week in Dairy Alert. The editorial was prompted by a recent broadcast on the ABC News program "Nightline." 

"We wanted to respond to your editorial regarding the recent Nightline segment showing images of animal abuse in New York. This segment used a number of dairy promotion images – from milk mustaches to the Happy Cows – as well as the iconic “Got Milk?” tag line to paint the entire industry in a negative light. I believe that to call out one consumer advertising campaign like Happy Cows as the cause of the industry’s woes is shortsighted and does not take the researched facts into consideration. 


The California Milk Advisory Board’s purpose is to promote California dairy products and build dairy product demand. Our advertising does that very successfully in a whimsical, over-the-top way that consumers recognize and appreciate as entertainment. We know this because of the extensive consumer research we regularly conduct to determine not only the direction and effectiveness of our promotional campaigns but also any negative impacts that may arise from them as the consumer landscape changes over time.  

"Our dairyman-directors have been frustrated by the recent theories floated publicly by a couple of academics drawing conclusions about a subject they are not well-versed in – selling products to the American consumer.

"Consumers look to our advertising to entertain. They know it is fiction. They know cows don’t talk or sing. And they do not think about actual animal welfare issues when they view the Happy Cow commercials—we have researched this fact extensively.  These commercials engage our audience and drive huge numbers of them to the RealCaliforniaMilk.com site where we can truly educate them about the state’s dairy production practices in a way no 30 second ad can. Our “Real California Dairy Families” documentary series and videos on cow comfort, animal welfare and sustainability live on the site and expose consumers to the truths about our industry in a very effective manner.  We reach consumers initially in a way that resonates with them through our ads and then we truly educate them on the facts in our dairymen documentaries.


Our staff would welcome the chance to meet with you to help you understand the strategy behind this campaign, its remarkable success at strengthening consumer awareness and purchase intent for California dairy products around the country and the metrics we have in place to assess the campaign’s return on investment. Absent that, these misplaced “theories” concerning the campaign will continue rumbling through our industry, negatively impacting one of the few truly positive assets our dairymen have working for them.


Signed, Jennifer Giambroni, director of communications, California Milk Advisory Board.