Milkvertising: Good? Bad? Both?

Posted by Rob Walker on August 27, 2008
Posted Under: Ethics,Murketing

I’m on a deadline today and both too busy and too cranky to come up with something current and original. So meanwhile, this: Some months ago I bookmarked this item (via Commercial Alert):

Build-A Bear Workshop is teaming up with Milk Rocks to feature its virtual world,, on 120 million milk cartons in 95,000 elementary schools.

Each milk carton will include facts about the site and a code for a free virtual milk carton….

The campaign is designed to be a fun way to promote health and nutrition and to encourage kids to drink milk, Build-A-Bear Workshop said….


It caught my eye because I once wrote about Build-A-Bear, and have written about virtual worlds several times. But I bookmarked it because I was curious about Milk Rocks. This seems to be an offshoot of Milk Media, which bills itself as “a pioneer in communicating with elementary, middle, and high school students.”

According to its about page, it started 10 years ago. Back then, dairies were using “self-created characters” on their packaging for the school market to promote their “pro-milk messages.” Milk Media “introduced the concept of branded cartons to forge relationships between sponsors who had characters that kids really cared about as a more effective tactic to make milk ‘Cool for Kids’.” The company says milk consumption in schools using its carts with characters such as Batman and Disney’s Doug is up 34%.

Next up came Milk Rocks, which involves a lot of pop celebrity tie-ins, and this video-loaded website, but which I frankly don’t understand.

I gather the overriding goal is to get kids to drink more milk by associating it with “cool” stuff.

I also assume that the motive for Build A Bear, or an participating brand owner or pop star is, on some level, self promotion. I mean, come on, getting our name/brand onto millions of milk cartons in schools, that’s a big deal, right? (Milk Media itself says it is “the ideal way to reach millions of students K-12 with a core target demographic of tweens and teens (ages 10-18).”

Clearly, this is not new. But what do you think of it? Noble? Creepy? Both?

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

Reader Comments

Isn’t it enough that youth are inundated with marketing everywhere they turn? Now the school cafeteria? Boo.

Written By Braulio on August 27th, 2008 @ 2:35 pm

Is there a noble part to this I’m missing?

I mean, it’s one thing to have Hannah Montana or something on there… that’s distasteful, but this is straight up hard sell advertising with a call to action and everything.

Written By Jesse Thorn on August 27th, 2008 @ 2:47 pm

America’s Radio Sweetheart: Um, noble part would be that, like, uh, kids drink more milk? And stuff?

I try to err on the side of not being all anti-everything, but these two responses suggest I am actually being *too* open-minded.

Any counterpoints?

Written By Rob Walker on August 27th, 2008 @ 5:36 pm

I love the idea to advertise on food packaging for another brand.

We already get free newspaper thanks to ads in the paper.

When will we get free food thanks to ads on the packaging?

Written By Joachim on December 11th, 2008 @ 7:37 am

From a marketing standpoint… what a great idea. Kids cannot escape being marketed to. It is infact everywhere in there lives. Regardless, if these companies are going to market to them, they will find a way to do it. Putting advertisements of the back of school milk cartons is infact a smart idea. Build-A-Bear can now reach it’s target market. Linking the milk cartons to the website is an even better idea. What kid doesnt want a free “virtual milk”. It will create more traffic to the site from this specific niche. As far as the MilkRocks website, I am a bit skeptically. I am left questioning.. Are they trying to legitally encourage kids to drink milk? Or are they trying to promote the artists that appear on there page?

Written By Erin Dorn on December 14th, 2008 @ 12:58 pm

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