Goodby, Silverstein & Partners Responds to the Firestorm over Sexist Milk Campaign

Jul 18, 2011 • Advertising, Culture

Everything I Do Is Wrong Goodby, Silverstein & Partners campaign for the California Milk Processor Board

The day before yesterday, I wrote a scathing piece about the California Milk Processor Board’s new milk ad campaign, which features cartoonish men in varying stages of distress, with headlines such as “I’m sorry I listened to what you said and not what you meant,” and “I apologize for letting you misinterpret what I was saying,” and “I apologize for not reading between the right lines,” as well as a website that illustrates women’s premenstrual syndrome-related moodiness in the same way we once color-coded terror threats.

The firm who put this campaign together, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners (hailed for the brilliant “Got Milk” campaign of the 90s), sees their “Everything I Do Is Wrong” campaign as a way to raise the awareness of milk’s helpful effect on the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. It’s not a war on the sexes, they tell the New York Times. It’s a way the sexes can deal with it together.

I don’t buy it, and I wrote about it. Today, I got the following e-mail from an individual claiming to be an employee of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners (the e-mail address pointed to the domain, which does redirect to Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ site, however the e-mail came through a form on this site and not directly into my inbox).

The e-mail is reproduced here, with a few omissions to protect the privacy of the individual*, please note the emphasis is mine:


My name is [Name redacted] and I am reaching out to you from Goodby, Silverstein, & Partners, the ad agency of record for The California Milk Processor Board.

We’ve had a lot of conversation over the last few days regarding next steps for the Everything I Do Is Wrong campaign.

In the last week, we had over 100K visitors to our website, 190 TV news reports, and 1,500+ articles. We started a heated conversation that incited supporters, haters and many folks in-between. Our next step is to start a conversation about relationships & PMS and now we’d like to feature it by aggregating the whole conversation in one place, even those statements of our most adamant haters. Why? Because some really relevant questions were asked like is PMS an acceptable topic for marketing? And do men have a right to talk about PMS? We’ll also do this because we’re are not shy or apologetic about the campaign we put out.

In order to move forward with our campaign we are hoping to obtain the rights for Company Names, Logos and the Articles to appear on our Client’s websites. The links will all go live ASAP.

From BlogHer, we would like to use a quote from you via BlogHer, “They target PMS as something the sexes struggle with together. So why are there no women in any of this, again? It’s not a new campaign… What makes it different, perhaps, is the tone.”

If you’d like to participate, I’d like to send you a release for your consideration and hopefully, your approval. We would like for this website to go live as soon as possible, so your prompt response is greatly appreciated.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Thank you so much for all of your time and I look forward to speaking to you soon.

[Name redacted]
[Title redacted]
Goodby, Silverstein, & Partners

The quote they have selected, stripped of all context, comes from the following paragraphs from my piece:

It’s not a new campaign: in 2005, Goodby, Silverstein created a commercial featuring men in various stages of desperation buying all the milk they could get their hands on, before the screen faded to black and explained that a recent study had shown calcium helped reduce the symptoms of PMS.

What makes it different, perhaps, is the tone. Goodby, Silverstein have taken a clever, if annoying joke, too far. The new print ads are passive aggressive at best — unlike the mustached ads of the 90s, this campaign doesn’t let everyone in on the fun. Women are the irrational ones. The joke about their “condition,” which men alone may be able to cure if they buy enough milk for them and memorize the pre-scripted apologies provided by the accompanying site’s “Pending Apologies” ticker so as to not exacerbate it, is only for men to enjoy. Most egregious, perhaps is the site’s “Current Global PMS Level” that mimics the color-coded threat level system once employed by the Department of Homeland Security — if PMS is something the California Milk Processor Board wants to alleviate, why are they making women out to be on the same level as terrorists?

[… ] Steve James, executive director of the milk board, based in San Clemente, California, told the New York Times that targeting ads about PMS to men is meant to “get attention,” “surprise” consumers and “ignite social media discussion.” James defended the ads saying that they don’t portray so much “a battle of the sexes,” as they target PMS as something “the sexes struggle with together.” So why are there no women in any of this, again? And what’s with the terror rating system?

If this e-mail is truly from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, I can only see their corporate position as dismissive and exploitative at best. Instead of transparency, which is what it looks like at first, they are cherry-picking the content they feature, focusing on everything but the heart of this conversation: that their ads are sexist.

* I am not in the habit of reproducing e-mail from individuals, and have taken every measure to protect the privacy of this person alleging to be an employee of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. However, if this should be a real e-mail, it reflects a corporate position that I do believe is of public interest, hence my decision to reproduce it here.

UPDATE: I have received a response from the same address with the extension This e-mail does in fact appear to be from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

  • Lennie Ross

    Lol now this is just funny, I think it’s great! 

    Lennie Ross