“Got milk?” and “Got Polio?: Me Neither

When I saw this, it reminded me of another famous advert with a similar narrative. It was aimed at increasing milk consumption among US consumers in the past: “Got Milk?”.

“Got Milk?” was one of the most famous US campaigns. Jeff Manning, the Executive Director for the California Milk Board hired an Advertising company in San Francisco to develop a campaign; “Got milk?” was the result.

The published literature about this campaign teaches us important lessons. I am attempting here to apply their strategies that may be applicable in raising vaccination rates and possibly to other campaigns too.

During that time, milk was seen as a nutritional healthy food, and advertised it echoing that sentiment. However, research showed that milk’s place was robbed by soda drinks due to soft drink companies’ aggressive advertising campaigns. These companies related soda drinks with youth lifestyle and happiness.

Instead of adopting this soda strategy, aimed at wooing new customers, the “Got milk?” campaign focused on already existing milk drinkers as the target audience. So, the campaign managers attempted to exploit the food – milk nexus; the majority of consumers drank milk with some food items such as cereals and at a specific time of the day – at breakfast.

Using deprivation as a marketing strategy

Instead of just highlighting the food – milk connection, they focused on a very specific situation that generated anxiety: an uneasy emotion. Through focus group research with milk consumers, they unearthed that consumers felt anxious whenever they tried to swallow either bread or cereals without milk. They translated this particular moment into the now-famous tagline: “Got milk?”. They finally created print adverts and television commercials highlighting this particular moment. You can watch a brief discussion between then-campaign designers: Jeff Goodby and a partner of Silverstein and Partners.

It seemed that several other campaigns that did not have any relation with the milk campaign copied this “got milk?” strategy – Got Jesus? Got beer? etc.

I like this one: “Got Polio? Me Neither” advert.


“Got milk?” campaign managers placed their ads at places where consumers make decisions for groceries: bus stops, grocery stores, in front of televisions at home, etc.

All these attempts were to make mental connection with the deprivation strategy in which was instigated by the television ads.

Image source: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners

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