What's in a name?
That's the question of the day, which I'm directing toward the PR huckster who inflicted the ubiquitous "Got Milk?" advertising campaign upon the world. These incessant, mustachioed milk ads were cute when they started running a decade ago, but they've grown as tiresome as a telemarketer's recorded phone calls. But this hasn't stopped the sponsors of the ad, the California Milk Processor's Board, from pushing them to the limit ... and beyond.
Just to show how garish, instrusive, and self-involved advertisers can be, these corporate milk giants are actually trying to promote their promotion. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of their "Got Milk?" advertising campaign, they've come up with an advertising stunt so tacky it'd make P.T. Barnum puke. Here's the gimmick: Jeff Manning, the milk board's chief huckster, sent a letter to the top officials of two dozen small towns in California, immodestly asking them to change the name of their town to "Got Milk?, California."
Of course, every small town is cash-strapped these days, so to entice one to switch names, the hucksters waved the one thing they've got more of than ethics: money. They cynically promised free computers for the schools, new playgrounds, and -- get this -- construction of a Got Milk? museum in the lucky burg that's goofy enough to sell its pride. This milk museum, they promised, would draw tourists 'til the cows come home.
One town considering this diabolical deal is Biggs, California, which is scheduled to discuss it at tonight's city council meeting. But the mayor, Sharleta Calloway, is reported to be sour on the idea, and residents are openly ridiculing it. As one pointed out, the Bigg's high school teams are now known as the Wolverines -- so, he wonders, would the name switch mean they'll be called "the Milk Cows and the cheerleaders will wear udders on their heads?"
Even in America, advertising has its limits.
"Wary of the dairy", Austin American-Statesman, 11/3/02. "," www.badads.org, viewed 11/4/02. "Greetings from Your Name Here, USA," viewed 11/4/02. "The Press Democrat: Print a Story," viewed 11/4/02.