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Got Milk? is an advertisement campaign designed to help increase milk sales in the United States. Since the campaign’s launch in 1993, numerous parodies and imitations have been found both online and in the real world using the snowclone Got X?
In 1993, The California Milk Processor Board launched the “Got Milk?” advertisement campaign as a way to encourage public consumption of cow’s milk. Working with the ad agency Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, the first commercial for the campaign aired on October 29th, 1993, featuring a man sitting in a room that appears to be a shrine to the historical duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. In the commercial, the man calls in to a radio station’s trivia contest for a $10,000 prize, but he fails to utter his response with his mouth full of peanut butter sandwhich. Directed by Michael Bay, the commercial went on to win a 1994 Silver Lion award at the Cannes International Advertising Festival, a Gold award at the 1994 CLIO Awards, and was inducted into the CLIOAdvertising Hall of Fame in 2009.
Following the campaign’s successful reception, the National Milk Processor Board licensed the slogan for their print ads, pairing the phrase with celebrity portraits of actors, musicians, athletes and fictional characters with a milk mustache. Since its launch in 1995, hundreds of these ads have been published; a collection of 300 “Got Milk?” posters is currently hosted at Creative Criminals. As of May 2012, the campaign continues to remain active on Facebook and Twitter, both under the tagline “Got Milk?” and “Milk Mustache Campaign.”
According to Fortune Magazine’s article “Got Milk? Got Books? Got a Clue?”, copycat campaigns based on the snowclone began appearing as early as 1998, such as “Got Death?” ads for Combat insecticide products and “Got porn?” display sign at an adult bookstore. The article also noted that the California Milk Processor Board saw the parodies as free advertisement for their campaign, despite the unauthorized nature of its usage.
Also in the late 1990s, “Got Rice?” began appearing as a humorous slogan for Asian-American pride. A parody song using several variations including “Got Rice?” was first shared on Newgrounds in September 2000. In response to the abundance of online parodies, the California Milk Processor Board eventually began selling a poster (below) with 100 “Got Milk?” parody phrases in July 2005. Two years later, The Snowclones Database  added “Got X?” to the site. The single topic blog Milking Got Milk was created in November 2009 to aggregate photos of “Got X?” found in real life, with hundreds of instances shared as of May 2012.
Controversy: PETA Parody Ad
The California Milk Processor Board has threatened to take legal action twice against the nonprofit group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for negatively parodying their slogan. In August 2000, PETA put up “Got Prostate Cancer?” billboards featuring former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani in Wisconsin while he was being treated for the disease, associating it with milk consumption.PETA issued an apology the following month and removed the images.
Two years later, PETA launched another campaign titled “Got Pus?”, arguing that milk may contain blood and pus from the infected udders of overworked dairy cows. The campaign ran relatively unnoticed until December 2007, when lawyers for the California Milk Processing Board sent a cease and desist letter, stating that the campaign was infringing the “Got Milk?” trademark. While the story was reported by MSNBC, USA Today and the New York Times, it is unclear whether or not PETA was actually sued, as their store still carries Got Pus? items.
Though the original slogan “Got Milk” is not as popular as it once was, it is still considered once of the best and most parodied advertisement campaigns of all time.
On Monday February 24th, 2014 the National Milk Industry announced that the iconic ad campaign “Got Milk?” was officially retired. The company then announced the launch of it’s new campaign “Milk Life” focusing on milk’s 8 grams of protein per serving. “We want to show how milk can help you power through everyday moments and everyday achievements,” Sal Taibi told CNN. Taibi is president of Lowe Campbell Ewald, the agency involved in both the “Got Milk” and “Milk Life” campaigns.
Here’s an example of one of the new ads.