Bell Media is cooking with dairy for DFO

Whether it’s a pop-up store where social likes served as currency, unconventional ads spoofing subscription vitamin services, or becoming one of the NHL’s first jersey sponsors, Dairy Farmers of Ontario has demonstrated a willingness to think outside the milk carton when it comes to marketing.

For its latest venture, the organization has partnered with Bell Media on an ambitious new digital reality series called Milk Masters, a competition show pitting Ontario chefs against each other in an effort to create food dishes with milk as a central ingredient. Running on a dedicated hub at, the series consists of three episodes, each ranging in length from 16 to 19 minutes.

Developed in association with Bell Media’s branded entertainment team, DFO’s creative agency Broken Heart Love Affair, and media agency Starcom Canada, Milk Masters is a continuation of the brand’s commitment to reaching new audiences, said marketing director Kimberly Romany.

And while DFO has dabbled in the content space, she described Milk Masters as a first-of-its-kind program for the organization. “We are constantly exploring ways to be innovative to reach our audience and catch their attention in meaningful ways,” she said.

In development for six months, Milk Masters is an attempt to further educate Ontario consumers on the “irreplaceability” of milk and other dairy products when it comes to day-to-day cooking, said Romany.

The show is hosted by Jess Allen from CTV’s daily talk show The Social, and features celebrity chefs Craig Wong, Christine Cushing and Claudio Aprile as judges.

While milk branding is evident throughout the show, whether it’s the Milk logo on the chefs’ whites, or the bottles of milk used in the cooking process, there are also more subtle examples of brand integration.

The recipes that provide the inspiration for the challenges, for example, are taken directly from Ontario dairy farmers, while contestants are judged on criteria that not only include taste and presentation, but also how successfully they are able to integrate dairy into their food.

Contestants and the judges also casually allude to milk and dairy in each episode. “You can’t have comfort food without dairy,” says one contestant in the premiere episode.

As with any branded content program, Bell needed to strike a balance between creating compelling content for audiences, while ensuring that DFO achieved its marketing objectives, said Laird White, director of brand partnerships with Bell Media.

“It’s always great when you have a client that understands what branded entertainment means,” said White. “There’s a big difference between branded entertainment and commercial content. A lot of clients don’t get that, and tend to want a commercial, but DFO really got it.”

White said there is a high degree of collaboration between Bell Media’s various production units, which ensures a degree of continuity between commercial shows like Master Chef,  and branded content like Milk Masters.

“It’s different from a drama or even a reality series like Amazing Race Canada and Master Chef, where we’re in complete control editorially,” he said. “When you’re doing branded entertainment, you have to bring in client objectives and branding so that they’re getting bang for their buck.”

Bell is also using its stable of media assets to promote the show, with commercials appearing in CTV’s morning show CTV Your Morning.

“With these segments, the surrounding promotional tactics and the Milk Masters series itself, we provide audiences in Ontario with a non-intrusive and entertaining way to experience the Dairy Farmers of Ontario message—reminding viewers of the important role milk and dairy plays in delicious food,” said Starcom’s director of planning, Charlene Bickerstaffe.

All three episodes of the show went live on Nov. 6, with the promotional component—which includes digital, social and out-of-home—continuing for four weeks.

Chris Powell