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Milk board abandons “PMS” campaign

This turned sour fast. Facing brutal ridicule and near-universal criticism, the California Milk Processor Board has pulled the “Everything I Do Is Wrong” campaign, in which they pitched milk as a way for men to help women deal with PMS. What the hell were they thinking?

I called the campaign a sexist throwback, joining a chorus of other writers who said it demeaned women in a particularly old-fashioned way.

Nobody did a better job of skewering this campaign than Funny or Die, which published a slide show called 6 Rejected Milk Ad Campaigns (Even More Sexist Than The Original). The image at the top of this post shows one of their fake ads on the right, and an actual ad from the campaign on the left. You can see more of the actual campaign here.

One visitor to the Got Milk Facebook wall posted, without comment, a series of old ads like this one:

Don't worry darling. At least you didn't burn the beer.

By late last week, things had curdled beyond the point where the milk board reasonably could keep using the “Everything I Do Is Wrong” creative. Since about Thursday, the URL of the campaign (everythingidoiswrong.org) has been redirecting to gotdiscussion.org, a page about the controversy. It includes this note at the top:

“Over the past few weeks, regrettably, some people found our campaign about milk and PMS to be outrageous and misguided – and we apologize to those we offended. Others thought it was funny and educational. It has opened up a topic that affects women, of course, but also relationships. We have reproduced a representative sampling of the reaction here. Thank you for your comments, pro and con. And for those of you who would like more information about this benefit of milk, we have provided some links below.”

The cynic in you is probably thinking, “They did this on purpose to get attention.” I don’t think that was the plan. (The campaign, by the way, was created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco and was only running regionally.) Damage control costs time and money. The advertisers put a lot of effort into a fancy Flash website nobody can see. And the campaign ended with hand-wringing and a half-assed apology, not with a wink and a smile.

Through this whole ordeal, two men have been dispensing quotes on behalf of the campaign: Steve James and Jeff Goodby. (James, executive director for the California Milk Processor Board, told NPR’s Shots blog: “It was edgy on purpose, and we knew it would get some attention. We just miscalculated the ferocity of the reaction among people who were against it.” Speaking to The New York Times about the failed campaign, Goodby said, “we think it’s served its purpose.”) They sound more amused than contrite. Neither one of them has persuasively communicated that they understand why this campaign bothered people. Hint: It’s not because people are embarrassed to see “PMS” mentioned in ad copy.

The ad campaign is over, but the problem is still there. It’s tone-deafness. These guys sound like marketers talking to other marketers, not humans talking to humans.

— By Daryl Lang. Filed under Advertising, Complaints

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