Variations on clever theme keep milk fresh

Constant complaints of protectionism and polarization can make any agency type feel down. But as two winners at last month's Coq d'ors show can attest, Montreal's agencies can still craft truly outstanding creative.

Constant complaints of protectionism and polarization can make any agency type feel down. But as two winners at last month’s Coq d’ors show can attest, Montreal’s agencies can still craft truly outstanding creative. Following is a profile of one of the winning campaigns.

It’s the industry’s timeless challenge: how do you follow up a hit ad campaign? Last year, Stephane Charier found himself in that somewhat unenviable position.

‘Every time we start a new campaign we think: Oh my God, what are we going to do to make it better?’ says Charier, a copywriter at BBDO Montreal, who faced the task with Martin Beauvais, group creative head. ‘But the thing is, we try not to think about doing it better. We think about doing something that will please people and be relevant to the product – that’s the only way to work on a campaign.’ That kind of focus is what kept their campaign for la Fédération des producteurs de lait du Quebec fresh for three years now, as it continues to resonate with consumers and earn respect (not to mention Coq d’ors) in the ad industry.

When the campaign broke three years ago, it set up what would eventually be a signature look for the campaign: a white background with the ‘le lait’ logo. The objective for the annual $4-million campaign was to get people 30 years and older to drink milk again. But it had to do something different: adults know that milk provides calcium, makes for strong bones and all the other benefits we learned as kids. So Charier and Beauvais decided to make the health message more subtle, and use an element that all good advertising contains: the emotional appeal.

For the 2000 campaign, one 60-second execution shows an old woman holding a glass of milk. As the camera pans past her, another, slightly younger woman comes into focus – the same woman it turns out – also holding a glass of milk. The panning continues going back through the woman’s life, back to when she was a four-year-old girl, holding that milk. The subtle message? Drinking milk all your life keeps you healthy. It’s a nice concept, but the creative team knew that to make the emotional kill, music would be key and they added the nostalgic Edith Piaf song ‘Non je ne regrette rien’ (‘No I don’t regret a thing’) to the execution.

‘We thought, ‘What will be the things to get those adults?” says Nicole Dubé, advertising director for la Fédération. ‘They have to remember something, and if they have to remember something, then the best thing would be an old song.’

Another TV execution takes us through a similar time travel concept, this one showing a crying little boy who is soothed when he drinks milk out of a carton in front of the refrigerator. Then, all grown up, we see the boy – now a man – soothing his baby with milk, and this time the music is more of a love song. Both executions use the tagline ‘Never without my milk.’

In the campaign’s magazine and outdoor advertising, the health message was played up a bit more. One ad features a bone curved like a smile, accompanied solely by the logo, another execution features a gingerbread man with part of his arm bitten off holding a glass of milk in his remaining hand. A third, more health-oriented ad, shows the top of a fridge, where an assortment of vitamin bottles cluster around a milk bottle. The implication: why take vitamins when you could just drink a glass of milk?

The campaign earned eight Coq d’or awards at last month’s 42e concours de création publicitaire du Publicité Club de Montréal, many of them gold, silver and bronze (adding to the six Coq d’ors the campaign has already earned in past years).

Beyond bringing in the hardware, Dubé says the campaign has been quite a success commercially, helping milk consumption maintain its volume – no easy feat when consumers are turning to other products such as yogurt, cheese and multivitamins for calcium intake.

The campaign has turned heads in the industry, as well. ‘It’s a pretty breakthrough idea,’ says Yves Gougoux, chair and CEO of Montreal-based Publicis. ‘It’s a simple idea and it worked well.’

‘I love the billboard with the bone,’ says Brigitte Mittelhammer, VP, director of client services for Tam-Tam/TBWA in Montreal. ‘It’s so simple and it says everything – and it’s so strategic.’