Laughing boy with glass of milk
Health Policy, In the News , , , , , ,

Milking it

I admit it: I just spent 20 minutes on “The Breakfast Project” website, the new online-arm of the dairy industry’s Milk Mustache campaign. The new campaign launches this week.

I didn’t grow up drinking milk, I still don’t eat as much dairy as the average American, and as a nutrition researcher, I KNOW there are other ways to get those “9 essential nutrients” that America’s Milk¬†Processors¬†tout in all their ads.

But the new ad campaign has three things going for it that are hard to resist:

1) Salma Hayek is the new beautiful face of the campaign, along with other celebrities that are meant to reach the majority of the American audience (sports fans, Latinos, moms, white middle America…the list goes on)

2) The online campaign, in English and Spanish, is sleek, well designed, interactive and has a large presence on Facebook. They are reaching their audience from so many angles: TV, print media, in-store/school campaigns, websites, social media.

3) The campaign couches milk as an important part of breakfast, and the ads really are pushing America to eat breakfast. The nutritionist in me is shouting HURRAY because the “eat a healthy breakfast” message is so important.

And then there’s the catch. While the dairy industry is promoting their product (milk has its merits, industrial milk has its problems, and the majority of the world is lactose intolerant–all for another post), they are also promoting less-than-healthy breakfast ideas. The pictures on their website are gorgeous, but among the Top 10 breakfast items to consume with milk are yogurt (your body will only absorb so much calcium in one go), bacon (really?!), and cold cereals. Cereals rank #1 on the dairy industry’s breakfast list, but the majority of cereals in American grocery stores contain more added sugars than a kid (or adult) should consume in a day (assuming you eat more than the single 3/4 cup serving–see Allison’s post for serving size commentary). Yes, they suggest fruit, eggs and toast too, but they are equated with waffles dripping with syrup and breakfast sausages.

So here we are: the dairy industry spends $60 million per year on the milk mustache campaign. This year, that $60 million is promoting a public health cause, sort of. How do we deal with advertising that gets part of the health message out there, but then falls short? Should public health have some say in advertising that blurs the lines between profit-driven industry and health communication?

Image courtesy of photostock