Monday, November 05, 2007

What is in the federal government's dairy advertising report?

USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is required to give a report to Congress each July, explaining the activities and budget of the federal government's fluid milk and dairy checkoff advertising programs, sponsors of the "Got Milk?" slogan, the "Milk Mustache" ads, and the "Real Seal."

Last year's report, which was finally made public in October 2006, emphasized the government advertising program's use of dairy weight loss claims, which are controversial in nutrition science circles and are not consistent with the government's own Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The weight loss claims were especially odd when set against the dairy programs' heavy promotion of high-fat cheese through marketing collaborations with restaurants such as Pizza Hut.

Just a few months later, the Federal Trade Commission contacted USDA to raise questions about this advertising message, and USDA agreed to discontinue the high-calcium weight loss marketing. The campaigns have many other good messages they could use instead, such as the possible role of low-fat dairy in protecting against weak bones, but their marketing research had shown consumers to be especially responsive to weight loss messages.

It will be interesting to read how AMS describes these developments in the July 2007 report. While July is long past, the report is not yet being shared with the public. AMS folks tell me it is "still in Departmental clearances."


Yoni Freedhoff, MD said...

Hi Parke,

Just wondering how you might explain the fact that despite an agreement to stop the weight claims, they continue.

I've blogged about this a few times, most recently in August ( and the pages still touts it as a weight loss aid (their logo is an hourglassed milk glass).

I can't think of anything other than outright lying that explains this ongoing campaign but wonder if I just don't understand the nuance of the original FTC complaint and perhaps it had to do with some specific wording rather than the concept.


usfoodpolicy said...

Interesting. Makes me want to see even more how this marketing approach is described in the USDA report. By the way, I've been greatly enjoying your critical coverage of the "heart check" symbol on the Weighty Matters blog.