Milking a Controversy for All Its Worth


Viewing campaign backlash as an opportunity to drive discussion around its brand and product, the California Milk Processor Board has put its negative press and commentary to work on its own behalf. 

The "Everything I Do Is Wrong" campaign's messaging attempted to humorously depict the ways men reputedly suffer when their wives and girlfriends' are exeriencing premenstrual syndrome. The campaign's home Web site, EverythingIDoIsWrong.org, was seen by many as sexist and downright offensive.

After removing the contents of the campaign from its Web site on Thursday, the milk board has not tried to suppress any negative comments. In fact, its putting them on display and encouraging further discussion.

The EverythingIDoIsWrong.org URL now directs people to the site GotDiscussion.org, where the milk board apologizes. "Over the past couple of weeks, regrettably, some people found our campaign about milk and PMS to be outrageous and misguided‚and we apologize to those we offended," says a statement on the Web site. 

The milk board then aims to harness the backlash as an engagement opportunity to listen and learn from the community. "We have reproduced a representative sampling of the reaction here. Thank you for your comments, pro and con," says the release. 

On the GotDiscussion.org site, when a visitor clicks on the Facebook and Twitter icons, an auto-generated tweet or Facebook post appears with the text: "Find out about how milk can help reduce the symptoms of PMS at http://gotdiscussion.org."

John Deveney, founder of Deveney Communication, suggests that harnessing the discussion plays into the milk board's goal to increase awareness about milk and drive understanding of its benefits. Often, when a brand launches a controversial ad, it'll just pull it and pretend it never happened, says Deveney.

"In this example, the milk board made a better choice," say Deveney. "Since their goal is to create awareness and understanding, they pulled the ads and have leveraged the controversy to create more opportunities for discussion. It's a PR win, and shows that strategic PR thinking can help resolve a problem into an opportunity."


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