The California Milk Processor Board abruptly ended an ad campaign that promotes drinking milk as a way to combat premenstrual syndrome after much controversy this week. However, the group is using the debate to fuel a social media campaign to further promote discussion and milk.
The ads, which are from the same group that conducted the highly successful “Got Milk?” campaign, feature men complaining about their partners' PMS symptoms. An online backlash to the ads has some saying the ads are sexist.
The milk campaign originally had its own website, everythingidoiswrong.org, which now redirects to gotdiscussion.org. Milk producers apologize to those offended through a statement on the new homepage, which primarily highlights the reaction statements of others, both good and bad.
“Over the past couple of weeks, regrettably, some people found our campaign to be outrageous and misguided – and we apologize to those we offended,” the board stated on the “Got Discussion?” site. “Others thought it funny and educational. It has opened up a topic that affects women, of course, but also relationships.”
The website also has a link to a “Got Milk?” Facebook page and encourages everyone to continue the discussion on Twitter. The back-and-forth on Twitter about the milk board’s PMS ads can be found in tweets with “#gotdiscussion.”
At least one marketing expert questions the motivation behind pulling the ad campaign and then having another campaign centered on the controversy.
“If you do something like that and the public doesn’t like it, what you do is make it easy for everybody to respond. You are really trying to take this thing viral,” said Tim Hanst, founder of INTTRA Promotions and a 32-year veteran of the marketing business. “It sounds to me like they are creating that controversy by making all these platforms available for people to respond.”
“The bottom line is it’s going to help the milk industry. No matter what they say as long as there is a tie-in to milk,” Hanst said.
Online discussion has been going at a rapid pace, including on Facebook.
“I don't think we need to encourage men's misunderstanding of women's needs especially when her hormones take control every month.” - Debbie
“Not everything we say or do to poke fun at one another is sexist or racist or homophobic or anything other than just humor. If your feelings are that easily hurt then maybe you do need another shot of milk!” - Ron
“I think these ads are hilarious. There are so many other ads that are MUCH more offensive than this milk ad. Besides, God gave us a sense of humor,” Chicago resident Alejandra Marquez told The Christian Post. “Why not embrace what God gave us in everything?”
The website also points to a 1999 scientific study that linked PMS to a deficiency of calcium.
MSNBC reported that Rebecca Cullers, a contributor to AdWeek who wrote an editorial after the "Everything I Do Is Wrong" campaign launched, said she was not surprised that the California Milk Processor Board decided to shift gears in the campaign so rapidly.
"The fact is they're pretending that women are completely irrational beings during their time of the month and they're blaming PMS. And PMS has a wide variety of symptoms. It's having back pains, cramps, irritability," she told The Associated Press. "In their mind, it's something to joke about."
The PMS-related original campaign was launched last week and scheduled through August. In addition to the website, billboards in Los Angeles and San Francisco were planned, as well as announcements on National Public Radio.
The billboards that are no longer going up showed men holding milk cartons and lines of text that include "I apologize for not reading between the RIGHT lines,” and “I'm sorry I listened to what you said and NOT what you meant."
The Department of Food and Agriculture oversees the Milk Processor Board, which is funded by contributions from dairy processors in California.