Berkeley, CA: While most advertising is regarded as “disposable,” usually lasting a year or less, got milk? has endured for more than a decade since its birth in 1993. It’s been licensed nationally, spawned hundreds of rip-offs and become part of the American vernacular. With the opening of the Copia exhibit later this month, got milk? is elevated beyond the advertising world into the realm of art, reaching a stature never before achieved by an advertising campaign.
“got milk? embodies many of the qualities associated with contemporary art: improvisation, humor and a timelessness that appeals to people of all ages,” says Richard Koshalek, President, Art Center College of Design, and previous Director and former Chief Curator of LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
The exhibition, which spans nearly 12 years, was created from the archives of the California Milk Processor Board and their San Francisco-based ad agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. The exhibit highlights how got milk? was transformed from a regional ad campaign to a national icon through TV commercials, billboards, licensed products and posters. It will also feature got milk? rip-offs and a video montage of its award-winning commercials. A huge part of got milk?’s success has been its close ties to other icons. The Copia exhibition displays many of these partnerships, including Cookie Monster, Snap Crackle & Pop, Barbie and Oreos.
“Showcasing got milk? is an excellent match with Copia’s investigation and celebration of cultures through food,” says Deborah Gangwer, Copia’s Associate Curator of Exhibitions. “The exhibition highlights the success of the got milk? ad campaign, revealing a cultural phenomenon in food advertising that led to the evolution of an American icon.”
“Can you imagine other ads exhibited as art?” says Jeff Manning, CMPB Executive Director and campaign co-creator. “This is a real honor and shows that got milk? is more potent today than ever before.”
The first commercial to kick-off the got milk? campaign in 1993, was “Aaron Burr.” It featured a strange young man, an American history buff, who loses $10,000 because he’s eaten a massive peanut butter sandwich, runs out of milk and can’t answer a simple question: “Who shot Alexander Hamilton in that famous duel?” The spot won virtually every creative award in the country, including a CLIO Best of show.