CMAB promotes California dairy by filming in New Zealand

I posted a quick facebook link the other day, but the more I think about the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) filming in New Zealand for their “Happy Cows” (live in California) campaign, the more mad it makes me.

First off, I haven’t extensively studied the film industry in New Zealand, but if CMAB’s advertising agency is willing to have work done 7000 miles away we can assume that, compared to California standards, they are paying scab rates. In an economy that is doing worse than much of the rest of the country, it’s no wonder that state politicians are getting involved in this instance of redistribution of wealth from California to New Zealand.

CMAB is, after all, funded by a mandatory assessment on each hundredweight of milk that (cow) dairy farmers produce. That is, a government-organized program, providing no opt-out for dairy farmers who may not want to be linked with every other dairy farmer in the state (for whatever reason), must send part of their hard-earned money (at a time when dairy farms are having some of their worst times in recent memory*) 7000 miles across an ocean to people who will likely never consume an ounce of California dairy products.

While that’s annoying, there’s also the issue of potential dishonesty of filming a promotional campaign for a region, in a completely different part of the world. How does CMAB respond to this? With gibberish:

Fact 1: To set the record straight, we are not shooting Happy Cows commercials in New Zealand, we are shooting unhappy cows from all over the world auditioning to become California cows. Any ads that show actual California cows have always been – and will always be – filmed and produced completely in California.

As far as I can tell, what this means is that they are not shipping California cows to other countries to film them. Well, duh. No one said they were. This cutesy statement does not, you will notice, say anything about the how the filming of non-California cows will be used but is just a circular argument about something too cost prohibitive to consider anyway. And do California dairy farmers, who pioneered the concept of confinement dairy** really want to get into a debate with New Zealand about who’s cows are happier?

Here’s the CMAB press release. More to pick on than I can address in this entry. I should also say that I know (and respect) some of the people on the CMAB Board of Directors. CMAB has never done much for us (though I notice that they take credit for some “grocery store” jobs in their claim of dairy being responsible for 3% of California’s work force) and that’s fine, we don’t really have the same promotional needs. But I didn’t really want to pick a fight with them. As a Californian, however, this was too much to ignore.

On the other hand, they also just produced this commercial about the Giacomini family which does get to the heart of a lot of real dairy issues.

*Oh look, CMAB describes it this way: “The California dairy industry is facing its worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The situation has been so bad that 10 percent of dairies in California have been forced to shut down and sell off their cows.” The logical conclusion of these statements is clearly to ship 10% of the budget overseas!

**One of the biggest problems with the mandatory CMAB assessment is that it takes money at the same rate from the 10,000 cow operations and the mom-and-pop ones that may have very different styles of dairy farming. The California “Happy Cows” campaign (which really pisses off Wisconsin folks, btw) makes no distinction about this and never will.

***any backchannel communication by CMAB folks or their publicity people with be considered to be submitted for publication.

3 responses to “CMAB promotes California dairy by filming in New Zealand

  1. I don’t hate many things, but I think I hate the happy cow campaign. Having defected from advertising, I understand how an ego driven creative director would come to the conclusion that we can’t possibly shoot a cow in California and make it seem like New Zealand. Did they really shoot in New Zealand? Also, I take the 5 freeway to LA all the time and even though I do see a lot of happy cows grazing freely, I pass at least one cow concentration camp on the way down. Sad. My question to you, being new to your blog, is what can I do on a daily basis to support true happy cow farming and do I focus on California or the nation?

  2. Wow very well thought out.
    Tim Pedrozo

  3. Wow – Gordon. Thanks for bringing this issue to light.

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