Controversial Aubrey Plaza Wood Milk ads trigger complaint

Wood Milk ad
(Image credit: Wood Milk)

The battle of the milks is getting vicious. Dairy milk (that is, actual milk) has been feeling increasingly aggrieved by the incursion of plant-based alternatives into its market. And while it lost its battle for the exclusive right to use the word 'milk', it still wants to make its feelings on the subject clear.

In its latest salvo, the US dairy milk campaign Got Milk has turned to comedy. Its latest ads send up plant-based milks with an amusing parody promoting a fictional Wood Milk. But the proponents of plant-based white beverages aren't laughing (see our pick of the best print adverts for more inspiration).

As satire goes, Wood Milk has gone all in, with its own website, social media accounts and even merchandise. Its ads feature the actress Aubrey Plaza espousing the benefits (or lack of) provided by her new "artisanal" wood pulp. Her enterprise started with a simple idea, she says – "I saw a tree, and I asked myself, can I drink this?" 

Wood Milk isn’t born but is “squished into a slime that’s legal to sell." It captures the flavours of oak, maple and mahogany, all of which taste like wood. By this point, viewers should hopefully have realised that the product is not real. If any doubt remained, Plaza confirms that “Only real milk is real", before the spot finishes with the tagline: “Is your milk real?” 

The parody was created by the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), the dairy industry lobby group behind the Got Milk? campaigns. But the targets of its antics aren't happy. An official complaint has been lodged with US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which ultimately provided funding for the campaign, by the animal advocacy group the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). It says the Wood Milk adverts breach a federal law that prohibits USDA-backed promotions from casting any product in a negative light.

For everyone else, it's popcorn time. The ad is cleverly executed and works as an amusing send up not only of plant-based drinks but also the marketing of numerous "artesanal" products and startups in general (it reminds me of CBC's spot for firewood – see below). It's also infinitely funnier than Oatly's increasingly annoying deliberately bad marketing.

The PCRM wants the campaign to be halted, although we'll have to see how the USDA responds because the ad doesn't target any one specific brand. It also seems that the complaint may be counterproductive, drawing more media attention to the ads. Meanwhile, MilkPEP is milking the campaign (sorry) for all its worth on social media.

For more clever advertising inspiration, see our pick of some of the best billboard advertising. And for more clever recent promotional campaigns, don't miss the addictive Minimoog website.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.