MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
If a food label doesn't move you to make a certain food choice, maybe a good marketing campaign can. For the dairy industry, the last couple of decades has meant lots of milk mustaches on celebrities from Britney Spears to Susan Sarandon, Harrison Ford to Shaquille O'Neal. The ad showing off the milk-framed pouts and smiles, also feature two words: got milk? Well, the slogan and the milk mustaches are drying up.
The ad campaign has been funded by U.S. milk processors. And this week, they reveal a new campaign again featuring two words. This time it's Milk Life. The idea is to highlight milk's nutritional benefits.
(SOUNDBITE OF AN AD)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Start your day with the power of protein: Milk Life.
BLOCK: Well, it got us wondering why the milk sell needed a makeover, and why milk's image has been curdling. We're going to put those questions to Andrew Novakovic. He's a professor of agricultural economics at Cornell University. Professor Novakovic, welcome to the program.
ANDREW NOVAKOVIC: Yeah, thank you very much.
BLOCK: And if you look at a graph, a chart of milk consumption, milk that we drink - not milk in cheese or ice cream or anything like that - what does that graph look like over time?
NOVAKOVIC: If you look at a graph of total sales, from the 1950s until now, it's a fairly flat line. Unfortunately if you look at it as a per capita graph, it's been steadily decreasing. And if you look at just the last four years or so, it's really taken a dip down.
BLOCK: Well, what about the Got Milk? campaign, do you think it was successful? Did it make more people think about drinking milk?
NOVAKOVIC: Well, you know, there's always the question as to what it would have been otherwise. What I can tell you is that since the mid to late 1980s, per capita sales has been on a continuous decline. You cannot see the effect of the Got Milk? campaign. Advertisers will tell you awareness was terrific, celebrities were lining up outside the studio to get mustaches painted on their face for the posters.
NOVAKOVIC: A lot of folks, in recent years, we're saying this is a bigger deal to promote B-list enlist celebrities than it was actually sell milk. So the agency and the processors that control the fund said that it's not selling milk. We've got to do something different.
BLOCK: And now the idea is focused on protein. The idea is that it's the protein in milk. And in the ad, you see the milk sort of being the engine driving, you know, a kid going up for a basket and a girl playing guitar in a garage band.
NOVAKOVIC: Exactly, the image that they're generating is milk propelling you in your life to be the superhero leaping off a living room couch. It's notable. They're focusing on children. And it's notable that they're focusing on drinking milk for breakfast. It's a breakfast-eating opportunity.
BLOCK: And that's been a problem, breakfast?
NOVAKOVIC: Yeah. So two of the trends that match up - and I think makes sense when you compare them - is the fact that sales of breakfast cereals are down quite considerably. And at that same time, sales of milk is down. We know that milk is often consumed on cereal, so the two go hand-in-hand. They are part of the reason why we're seeing (unintelligible) milk sales decline currently.
BLOCK: Well, let's get back to the new ad campaign from the milk processors. They're going to be spending something like $50 million on these ads. Do you think a campaign like this one, Milk Life, can really drive sales - turn around the trend that we've been seeing?
NOVAKOVIC: Well, you know, I think a lot of our choices when we're young depends on moms and dads. So I think in order for this campaign to be effective, it's got to include adult messaging that reinforces it. They'll identify some fun. They'll want to be the kid was jumping off the sofa with a milk cape behind him. But it's the adults that are going to put the food in front of him.
BLOCK: Professor Novakovic, it's good to talk to you. Thanks so much.
NOVAKOVIC: Oh, I appreciate it.
BLOCK: Andrew Novakovic is professor of agricultural economics at Cornell University. We were talking about milk consumption in this country and why the slogan Got Milk? is being replaced with Milk Life.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.