Almond milk, oat milk, cashew milk, pea milk, cow milk—market competition for every version of milk, whether dairy or one of its many alternatives, is all sorts of fierce right now. This means that if it wants to survive, the dairy industry needs to find a way to get younger people to drink milk, and fast. In order to secure its future, it looks like traditional milk is looking to the past. Who remembers the Got Milk campaign?
The American dairy industry’s famous campaign stealthily snuck a new milk ad onto the internet this week starring Aubrey Plaza, and in keeping with milk’s current battle against competitors, its tone couldn’t be snarkier. However, if you weren’t paying close attention, you might think this is a genuine ad for a new product. A product called Wood Milk.
What the hell is Wood Milk?
“#DrinkWoodMilk” is not only a satirical ad, but also builds a miniature satirical world around its fictional product. Wood Milk—which, to be clear, does not exist—alleges to be a drink that, much like almond, oat, or cashew milk, is made from plants. The plant, in this case, is the trunk of a hardwood tree.
“We think our artisanal blend of trunks, roots and branches will be the only milk you’ll want to drink for the rest of your life,” reads the website’s “Our Story” page.
“Drinking Wood Milk is an experience unlike any other—you’ll probably feel a little tingling sensation and a small pinch in your mouth,” reads the spoof FAQ section.
Clearly, it’s all a sideways swipe at the plant-based milk category. But unlike many snarky ads out there, it also manages to be funny. Aubrey Plaza’s career is red-hot right now (have you seen White Lotus?), so casting her as the face of Wood Milk makes sense. If anyone can deliver some deadpan humor, it’s certainly her.
“Is Wood Milk real?” Plaza asks at the tail end of the commercial spot. “Absolutely not. Only real milk is real.” This is where the “Got Milk?” tagline is finally revealed.
This message is underlined by the “Why Wood” page of the website, which lists off the nutritional benefits of drinking dairy milk versus wood. But it’s not all jabs. Notably, the About Us section mentions that the campaign will actually be planting 10,000 trees, which isn’t a joke, though it might be a subtly snarky way to highlight that products like almond milk are not always great for the environment. (Let’s be clear: dairy milk isn’t, either.)
Milk and plant-based milk are in a power struggle
With so many choices on the market right now, it seems fairly obvious that dairy has had to go on the defensive; the inherent sarcasm of the Wood Milk campaign seems inevitable. But in milk’s defense, it’s not the only product in the sector that’s talking trash.
Oat milk brand Oatly has launched an irreverent site called fckoatly.com (note that typing “fuckoatly.com” will redirect to the more brand-friendly URL), a compendium of the most common criticisms lobbed at the brand. It reads like a chest-beating attempt to challenge Oatly’s haters, and it cherry-picks past controversies to frame its detractors as oafs.
Oatly even took things one step further by creating a site called fckfckoatly.com that encourages people to “confirm [their] dislike of fckOatly.com” by clicking a big button on the page. As of this writing there are 203,107 clicks recorded, at least according to a counter displayed on the site.
Plant-based brand Silk has also recently taken a direct swipe at the Got Milk? campaign. In order to advertise its oat/coconut blended milk called Nextmilk, Silk unveiled a new campaign in February centered around plant-based milk mustaches that look exactly like the dairy ones we’re all familiar with. Since Silk wants to appeal to “the next generation” of milk drinkers, its spokespeople were specifically chosen because they’re the children of famous people who appeared in Got Milk? print ads back in the day.
So, Silk is being catty, Oatly thinks all press is good press, and Wood Milk, while funny, comes off a bit defensive. Taken together, it all leaves a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth. While the industry battles it out, I’ll stay on the sidelines drinking water. I can’t stand all this controversy.