Milking an idea for all it's worth

October 04, 1998|By Judith Forman and Tamara Ikenberg

It's called "a behind-the-scenes look at America's favorite advertising campaign," but the Taco Bell Chihuahua is nowhere in sight. Instead it's "The Milk Mustache Book" (Ballantine, $18), a self-congratulatory exercise in calcium-enriched commercialism.

You know the milk mustache ads. Launched in 1994, the successful campaign has featured numerous celebrities sporting foamy white milk mustaches. The ads have become a pop-culture staple, collected by fans and endlessly spoofed.

So what more is there to say? A great deal, at least according to Jay Schulberg, the campaign's creator and vice chairman and chief creative officer at ad agency Bozell Worldwide, who finds the story "captivating."

Just how captivating? Here are a few highlights:

* Terminology: The nutritional facts the Schulberg team turned up while researching the ads were officially termed "surprising nuggets of new information about milk."

* Insight: "People are more likely to accept what you say if you present it in an engaging fashion rather than if you lecture them."

* Creative tension: Schulberg as copy writer: "Give me my head and let me run with it!" Schulberg as creative director: "Democracy is over. This is what we are going to do!"

* Tough choices: Other ideas for the milk campaign included an upside-down cow and the word MILK embossed sideways on a page.

* Science: The mustaches are a combination of milk and other dairy products, including vanilla ice cream. Each looks different for many reasons: "It is almost as individual as their fingerprints."

* True confession: Schulberg "wasn't too keen at first on the use of celebrities. I always thought it was the last refuge of tired brains."

Speaking of celebrities, did you know that: Whoopi Goldberg is lactose-intolerant; Elvis Presley Enterprises wanted no overweight Elvis impersonators used; in Dennis Rodman's ads, his mustache was white, but his hair ran in three different shades; Martha Stewart brought "the most perfect bundt cake" to her shoot; not one woman present for "Home Improvement" hunk Jonathan Taylor Thomas' photo session "didn't think he looked cute."

It's safe to say that "The Milk Mustache Book," in stores this month, has milked this captivating story dry. At least the royalties are going to charity.

Pub Date: 10/04/98

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