Quebec dairy producers milk outdoor opportunities

The Challenge...

The Challenge

It’s a bit like trying to market air, when you think about it. People already sort of know that milk is good for them. So what else is there to say?

Such was the dilemma confronting PNMD Communication in 1998, when the Montreal-based agency took on the task of developing a new multi-media campaign for La Fédération des Producteurs de Lait du Québec. The goal: to persuade Quebecers over the age of 30 to start drinking more milk.

When it comes to milk marketing, the traditional approach has been to play up the product’s health benefits, says Martin Beauvais, vice-president and creative director at PNMD. But consumers have heard that message too often for it to be particularly persuasive. So the agency settled instead upon a creative strategy designed to strengthen people’s emotional connection to milk.

The Media Strategy

The campaign – now three years old and still going strong – employs television, outdoor and newspaper. Ads run for two to four months, through the fall and winter period.

The media strategy is simple: to get in the consumer’s face at every possible opportunity.

‘We want to be in the media every single day,’ says Cathy Baier, media director at PNMD. ‘We try to reach people in all different places, at all different moments of the day. The idea is that you read the newspaper in the morning and you see the campaign. You drive to work and you see it. You drive home and you see it. Then you sit down to watch TV, and the milk producers are talking to you again.’

The specific role of the outdoor, Baier says, is to reach those more active consumers who tend not to watch a lot of television. Typically, billboards are positioned along major routes leading from Montreal and Quebec City to the outlying suburbs, in the hope of getting people to think about the product on the drive home from work.

‘It provides a kind of reminder: ‘Don’t forget to pick up some milk, because you might not have any at home. You want to have some in the fridge all the time.”

Beauvais, for his part, says there was another important reason for including out-of-home in the media mix.

‘Here in Quebec, outdoor is kind of weak these days,’ he says. ‘Everything is so boring. So we knew the opportunity was there to really stand out in billboards. Because there’s nothing else out there to look at.’

The Execution

One of the keys to developing an effective multi-media campaign, says Beauvais, is to find some way of establishing a consistent feel, so that all the elements connect, no matter which medium they happen to be in.

In this case, he says, the agency decided that all the advertising should have the pure, clean and simple look of a glass of milk, thereby evoking the essential virtues of the product itself. The television spots, for example, feature white-clad actors against white backgrounds, playing out little slice-of-life scenarios involving milk. These are accompanied by French pop hits of yesteryear, chosen to appeal to the nostalgia of the thirtysomething target audience.

The outdoor ads distill the creative concept to an even simpler form, while maintaining the same minimalist visual style. The first billboard to appear, back in fall of 1998, featured a wineglass full of milk, set against a pale background, and the one-word headline ‘Sante!’ (Literally, this means ‘To your health!’ – the rough equivalent of saying ‘Cheers!’ in English.)

The following year, PNMD created a three-dimensional billboard featuring an actual refrigerator against a white backdrop, its door slightly ajar, and the headline ‘Jamais sans mon lait.’ (‘Never without my milk.’) In addition to prompting commuters to stop for a carton on the way home, this established a subtle link to one of the TV spots, in which a man burst into tears after opening his fridge to discover the last of the milk gone.

The recent 2000 campaign, meanwhile, included two out-of-home executions. The first was a billboard featuring a bone curved in the shape of a smile, meant to hint at milk’s role in preventing osteoporosis. The second was a venture into new territory – transit advertising.

The ads, which ran in transit shelters and subway stations during the holiday season, showed a smiling gingerbread man clutching a glass of milk with one stubby arm. The other arm was conspicuously absent, as if he’d decided to accompany his cold beverage with … well, a little bit of himself. The agency produced three different posters, each of which showed more of our hero’s body parts missing. The ads were concentrated heavily in Montreal’s downtown core, to reach people while they were out shopping. (Again, the gingerbread man also popped up in one of the TV spots.)

The Results

After three years, the campaign is now among the most popular in the province. According to Beauvais, the milk producers’ federation surveyed nearly 700 consumers last year for their opinions on the campaign – and received exactly one negative response. A CD from EMI featuring the songs used in the TV spots (Le Lait: L’Album blanc) is currently one of Quebec’s top recordings with some 70,000 copies sold. And, most important: Milk consumption within the 30-plus target group is up 1%.

Lessons Learned

Integrating out-of-home into a multi-media campaign isn’t about turning TV ads into billboard concepts, Beauvais says. Rather, it’s about creating a sense of continuity between the outdoor ads and all the other elements of the campaign.

‘It should all have the same focus and the same feel,’ he explains. ‘If you look at the milk stuff we’ve done in the last three years, there are a lot of different messages, but they all fit together. In an environment where people see a lot of ads, there are way too many campaigns where the communications don’t make sense together. When it’s all properly integrated, the brand can claim a little space in everybody’s head.’

Also in this report:

- The out-of-home conundrum: Why don’t advertisers do a better job of integrating multi-media efforts? p.B1

- Stampede lures locals with transit blitz: Humorous bus boards take message deep into Calgary’s neighbourhoods p.B4

- Dunkin’ Donuts campaign leaves its mark p.B5

- CIBC targets commuters with whimsy: The campaign began with the ‘billboard thought’ p.B8