I guess, for better or worse, the campaign I will always be associated with is “got milk?” Campaigns like this are of course the work of hundreds, if not thousands, of brilliant people, but then that’s what makes for a good tagline. It makes you think. You want to jump on.
Frankly, “got milk?” is the bonsai tree of tag lines. A Zen punch line. But like a lot of good things, it seems more obvious in retrospect and owed a lot to accident.
People always say I incandescently scribbled it out on a napkin. This is not the case. The story is much longer.
Amazingly, in 1993 the idea of selling milk wasn't exactly a flame to the moths of our creative department. Several very good teams like John Butler and Mike Shine deemed it too boring to work on. And they had a point. Milk was a weird product – it had 100 per cent penetration. It was in every refrigerator. People pretty much knew everything there was to know about it. It held no news.
But that’s what made the solution all the more interesting. I have learned that you should always pay attention when everyone else flees. It might be a good time to set up camp.
It’s true that things really got interesting after one of Jon Steel’s inspired focus groups, in which a woman complained “you only notice milk when you run out of it.” Thus was born what we called “the deprivation strategy” – an ingenious formula that required that we merely dramatise what happened when you didn’t have the product. No more lists of vitamins and benefits. Just the absence of the damned thing.
It is still my favorite brief of all time. And I’ve seen a few.