Dairy Farmers of Canada turn to a tall glass of milk to connect with younger consumers

Who: Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC) and John St., with media from Initiative.

What: A new national campaign, “Milk. It’s in the stuff you love.” It’s the organization’s third major campaign this year, following February’s “Honest. Canadian. Dairy” and a July effort entitled “Dairy farming forward.”

Each campaign has featured a distinct stylistic tone, with the latest embracing a decidedly oddball humour—embodied by a talking six-foot tall glass of milk, complete with googly eyes.

When & Where: The integrated campaign launched on Oct. 22 and runs through Dec. 1. The media buy from Initiative includes TV, cinema, online video, digital display, social media, web, in-store activations and out-of-home.

Why: It’s part of an ongoing effort by DFC to increase consumption of dairy products among millennial and Gen Z consumers. The specific goal here is to inform younger consumers that Canadian dairy products are key ingredients in foods they love, like pizza and smoothies.

“We wanted to reframe dairy products with foods the millennial target already loves,” says Pamela Nalewajek, who joined DFC as vice-president of marketing in May after spending two decades with Saputo.

“They embrace products like cheese, yogurt, ice cream and cream…and basically a lot of these products are ingredients in a lot of the stuff they love. We wanted to connect our target’s love of [these] foods back to milk and dairy overall.”

Why three different campaigns? “The first campaign was a campaign kick-off where we started talking about some of the…misconceptions within the dairy industry and answering those questions,” explains Nalewajek.

“‘Dairy farming forward’ positioned the organization as forward-thinking, constantly striving for progress and caring about what millennials care about which is… milk being hormone-free, sustainability [and] animal welfare. It’s about shared values and its done with dynamism and innovation.

“This campaign is doing a slightly different job, and that is shifting perception,” says Nalewajek. “It requires a different campaign idea.

How: Less emphasis on fluid milk consumption, and more emphasis on milk as a key component in the foods younger people love. “We want to remind millennials that dairy is one of the products that Canadians love because it’s in what they love,” says Nalewajek. “It’s hard to replicate great taste.”

The campaign’s centrepiece is an anthropomorphic glass of milk, which appears unexpectedly in ads spoofing film and TV genres ranging from suspense and romantic comedies to cooking and exercise shows.

The 30-second spot announcing the launch of the campaign nods to slasher movies like Scream, opening on a young woman heating up butter to put on her popcorn when the phone rings. “You’re not alone,” says a sinister-sounding voice on the other end, followed by a quick-cut to the glass of milk standing outside the sliding door.

Another spot mimics a cooking show, with a woman musing on why she became a chef and why everything she makes is made with care, intent and joy—only for the glass of milk to interrupt, saying “And me.”

“It’s a little weird and awkward, but it’s still endearing,” says Nalewajek of the glass. “His single-minded focus is to remind people that he’s in the dairy foods they love.”

But why a giant glass of milk? “In order to be relevant, your campaign also has to be relevant. This is truly about providing content in that manner,” says Nalewajek. “You have to adapt it to the target audience to which you’re speaking.”

Is there something that connects the three different campaigns? “The blue cow brand logo that is synonymous with absolutely every single campaign that continues to [deliver] meaning about what it stands for,” says Nalewajek.

Why John St. rather than longtime agency DDB? DFC has not changed agencies, Nalewajek stresses. “We wanted to have a different perspective [for] this kind of campaign, and because it’s a campaign idea [that is] very different from the others, we decided to work with John St.”

So it’s a project-based assignment? “It is a project,” says Nalewajek. “It doesn’t mean that the project will not continue into 2020.”

DFC is pleased with the continuity it has achieved with this campaign, she adds, noting positive feedback from both consumers and key stakeholders. “It’s having a positive impact in the market and we’re very pleased to hear those results.”

Chris Powell