Home » Public Health Rambles » Got PMS? Drink Milk! (or not)

Got PMS? Drink Milk! (or not)

I’m not sure where I was at the time, but apparently last month the California Milk Processor Board launched a new ad campaign (along with a corresponding website) that has gotten everyone talking. I only learned about it after they took the website down and started responding to the criticsism. Typical.

But on the off-chance that you also don’t know what I’m referring to, let me enlighten you.

Based on a study that found milk can reduce the symptoms of PMS (more on that in a minute), the campaign features some concerned and nervous-looking men with cartons of milk – apparently in a desperate attempt to calm the hormone-crazy, raging women in their lives.

Here are a few of them. What do you think?




These ads went along with a website: EverythingIDoIsWrong.org. That site, which has now been taken down and replaced with gotdiscussion.org, was a guide for poor men all over the world who find themselves victims of PMS. It had “Global PMS Level” readings, an emergency milk locator, and a “mistake verification system” where you could type in what you think you did wrong….and I’m assuming it spit back an extremely witty, yes everything you do is wrong, type of answer.


For more information on the campaign and why it was pulled, try here or here.

Now when you type that address into your browser, it redirects to a new “Got Discussion” site, where the Milk Board pulls in articles that both support and speak out against the campaign. Pretty genius, really. Because even though their campaign apparently wasn’t all that successful, they can now keep the discussion going about it, and keep getting publicity. When you’re trying to sell something, any press is good press, right?

Anyway, before I start babbling on about the campaign myself, I really want to know what you all think! Is the campaign sexist and stupid? …or just stupid? Or do you find it really funny? I know a lot of my readers are female – are you females offended by this? And for any males who might be reading this, what do you think?? (don’t be afraid to speak your mind – I promise there will be no PMS-induced wrath coming from this woman).

Just quickly – before I turn the discussion over to you, the one thing that I do want to touch on is the studies. The campaign references 2 studies – one from 1998 (yes, 13 years ago) that claims that deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D can contribute to the symptoms of PMS (women have lower levels of calcium during their menstrual cycle and taking calcium supplements can help relieve some of the symptoms). The second study is from 2005, and basically claims that calcium can reduce the symptoms of PMS.

I don’t want to bore you with details about how these studies were conducted, etc, but I just want to say – you can find studies to support anything. Really, you can. And if you read these two, you’ll see it’s not just milk that helps (but it’s also obvious why the Milk Board has chosen to focus on milk alone). So just be careful how you interpret things, and don’t believe everything you read. (Yes, I know…this is common sense, but it can’t hurt to have a reminder).

And in case you don’t want to comment but still want to weigh in, here’s a poll!

What do you think?


30 Responses to Got PMS? Drink Milk! (or not)

  1. I’m not offended….but I don’t think it is funny and it annoys me.
    I can’t believe they built a whole website about it. I think most PR folks would realize this would end up with backlash, but like you said they are probably just happy with some sort of publicity.

  2. Being in advertising, I see stuff like this done all the time. Maybe it doesn’t get to the execution level where it is actually produced- but I do see a lot of sexist ideas out there. HOWEVER, I DO believe more ad agencies should take bold risks and stand out from the crowd and I DO believe in bad publicity because it makes you take a step back and say “Who did that?” And I bet more people are talking about MILK now more than ever. Probably almost as much as the Got Milk campaign.

    I think its kinda dumb especially linking to a study that was done so long ago, but I think that they took an idea and ran with it. And the success is based on the fact that it’s being talked about. Whether in a good light or bad.

    • I was actually super interested to hear what my resident advertising expert thought about the campaign!! You make a good point about success being based on whether it’s talked about. It seems like sometimes ads are controversial just for that reason.

      Although… if they wanted to be edgy/controversial with this campaign, I think they could have gone a little further…

  3. I think what bothers me the most about this ad campaign is that PMS is a “disease” that was made up. Yes, I realize that women suffer from cramping and other problems during their menstrual cycle…I definitely do, but the idea of PMS being a mental illness (it is listed in the DSM) was made up; this is a topic I wrote a research paper on in college, and still bothers me to this day. By acting like women are mentally incompetent for one week out of the month, this ad is truly offensive to females, and suggests that we aren’t mentally capable even to deal with with the daily stresses in their lives. Yes, we may be a little hormonal from time to time, but to take it this far is really degrading. I certainly hope no women were involved in the creation of this campaign.

  4. I’m not offended. I can see how people would be, I guess? But I think I’m a little more lighthearted than many people and not very easily offended.

    That being said, when I’m PMSy I turn into a total psycho bitch. Emotional, irrational, crazy. I never realize it at the time, then a few days later I’m always like, “Oh hey, THAT’S what that freakout was all about.” I wish that wasn’t the case, but apparently PMS is real. Hehe.

    Eager to see the kind of discussion your post starts! I love hearing (meh, reading) peoples’ thoughts!

    • Totally agree with Ali – I get PMS bad (although I never know that’s what it is at the time) and the poor boy has to deal with each and every one of those issues shown on the ads (and he copes with my rage admirably, I might add). So I actually think they’re really funny. I’m also really easy going about this kind of joke and I love comedy that shows a take on real life (British comedian Michael McIntyre is an absolute genius at it). The fact that it’s to promote milk? If it means more women get their calcium when so many are getting osteoperosis then that can only be a good thing, right?!

  5. I’m not offended and the ads themself are kind of funny, in a silly way. PMS isn’t fun by any stretch of the imagination and I am sure that anyone impacted by the emotional ups and downs would agree so why not make it a little more light hearted for everyone?

    As for how milk plays a role I haven’t done enough research to really comment on the claims themself.

  6. I don’t find it offensive, but I do find it stupid, and as a woman I certainly don’t *appreciate* it. Maybe this is just not my humor? I agree with your point about being able to swing studies any way you want…being in psychology and knowing how to read journal articles definitely has opened my eyes to the reality of results that are “peer reviewed” and “scientific”. Thanks for bringing this up – I can always count on HOTR to make me think! :)

  7. I’m glad I didn’t see this last week, or I probably would’ve punched out the computer, haha. I don’t really know if I’m “offended” per se, as much as I am annoyed. I know I’m a raging psycho during PMS. I don’t need to be reminded by some lame ad, or a dude, for that matter. Not helping. Plus, milk makes me want to vom. So, see ya CMPB

  8. I do think that add is pretty obnoxious. I don’t want to say ‘offended’, because I’m not outraged or anything, but I do think it’s pretty obnoxious. That being said…there ARE a lot of ads that make guys out be stereotypically stupid or not listening to the wife or something like that, so I don’t think us women can get *too* offended by something that makes fun of us. But yeah, I definitely wouldn’t have approved that one if I worked in that ad office;).

    I also wouldn’t buy into the whole ‘drinking milk can help PMS symptoms” thing. One, I don’t really have bad PMS, and two, I don’t really think I’d try and use drinking more milk as a solution, even if I did…

  9. All I can say it WOW. I’m not offended, but I do think it was done in poor taste. It’s like joking about someone’s ADHD or being on the austistic spectrum. Maybe not as extreme, but it’s a disability. I think the Got Milk reached a little TOO far for this one. It needs to go back to the mustaches.

  10. I don’t have bad PMS or PMDD, so it doesn’t really bother me at all. Its cute and witty to me actually, but I don’t ever pay much attention to ads. Of course, I guess I know to look at it “helping PMS” a little skeptically because of what I do (professionally, you could say), so I just look at it as “ooo, clever, I’m sure a bunch of ad guys thought this was hysterical” and move on. The part that bothers me the most is the tag line at the bottom (“milk helps reduce symptoms of PMS”) as it is misleading and it is definitely not a cure. But, its not like a little milk is going to hurt anyone. In fact, for women, its good for bone health! (at least thats what I tell myself when I add it to my cereal and drink it before bed).

    So, in general I think its pretty funny. I know I can be a crazy bitch sometimes, PMS or not, and the ad doesn’t offend my crazy-bitch-ness in the least.

    • Exactly! It’s the same as when they had that whole campaign about how you should drink milk to lose weight. Totally misleading advertising.

  11. I don’t really get PMS but I think it’s a stupid campaign. Not that funny. Especially the website…wonder why it was so short lived ;)

  12. I’m not exactly offended, but I definitely see (a lot of) problems with the campaign and the approach. It’s sexist, I am assuming it’s entirely aimed at heterosexual couples, it’s misleading (it should at least read “Milk MAY help the symptoms of PMS”), and visually it’s really not all that interesting – the formatting isn’t anything particularly new or innovative. Overall, I think it’s kind of lackluster – if the envelope is being pushed, I think it should be really pushed.

    • Great point. I’m not sure if they were trying to be controversial with it, but it doesn’t seem like they really did their research before launching.

  13. When I hear or read about crazy things like this I often wonder what was going on during the meetings where this was talked about…no one thought this was a bad idea…Joe could people sit and listen to this type of crap. It’s just crazy to me (and to think some peoplemwill believe this,is all about marketing, etc)

  14. And what you didn’t mention is the fact that your brilliant sister was the one who found this in the first place…(still being a month behind, but hey, I was more “in the know” then you were!) That being said, I’m not offended with the campaign, but I do think it’s dumb. This makes it seem like the real victims of PMS are men, and that’s totally not true! Okay, so they might have to deal with a girlfriend/wife who is a little moodier than normal, but they aren’t the ones that feel like their ovaries are being scrapped out with a spoon every month. So who are the real victims? That would be women. However! On the other side, I am going to use the findings of these studies to further feed my ice cream eating habit. Because obviously eating ice cream is helping my attitude and for that my husband should thank me. :-)

    • I know! Sorry!! I actually meant to put it in the post and then forgot. Thank you for setting the record straight for everyone.

      And the studies say low fat dairy/calcium, so it’s definitely not limited to milk. Keep eating that ice cream…it’s the least you can do… :)

  15. I actually laughed out loud at that last ad. I think they’re funny & am not in the least bit offended… but I think perhaps they’re not appropriate for the dairy industry. I don’t know if my reasoning makes any sense, but since dairy is so intrinsically linked to parts of the gov’t (even though I know this is a nonprofit marketing board-thanks Wikipedia), I guess I don’t agree with an ad campaign that could (potentially) isolate & offend half the population. That said, I do think Ben & Jerry’s should buy up the rights to this campaign… though part of me likes to think they would balk at the lack of research behind the claims.

  16. I saw this a few weeks ago and was kinda like, “meh?” It seemed like the milk board was really stretching regarding the findings and their advertising, but clearly they thought they had something great going.

    I’m not super offended, but do think it’s kind of a weird route to take with their advertising. then again, look how much press and attention it got them (good and bad). Definitely did the job!

  17. Maybe I’m PMSing, but I don’t like these ads. Not funny. I love clever, fun marketing and DO NOT find these to be either. I also don’t like the message they are sending that PMSing means above anything else that I’m a bitch. The only way milk would help my PMS is if it came in ice cream form. And in that case it would pretty much make me happier on any given day…

  18. These ads are horrible. Not funny and creative horrible, but poorly planned and researched horrible. Not many things annoy me more than when the media runs away with findings with poorly-conducted studies that have a lot of limitations and says the conclusions are “facts”. No, no, no. Like you said, you can make a study support any conclusion. And this is just pathetic.

    Great topic, Lauren!

  19. Haha, Jen’s comment about milk making her “want to vom” is funny. I love cheese and yogurt, but the thought of drinking a straight up glass of milk doesn’t appeal to me. When I have PMS, I’m more likely to want WINE.

    I’m not particularly offended, but I think the ad agency did a poor job targeting their audience. These ads seem like they would appeal more to men (like, haha, my girl friend has PMS and is acting crazy!), but men don’t get PMS and therefore wouldn’t need the extra milk. Don’t these agencies use focus groups?!?

  20. Lauren, personally, I find this all to be really offensive. Really? Are women that crazy? Those poor men. Just give her some milk, and she’ll be better. It’s so 1950′s housewife like! Ugh!

    Good post!!

  21. I’m a bit late to the party, but I find these ads horribly sexist. It reminds me of the whole “a woman can’t be President because there’d be a war every 28 days” joke. I’m not easily offended, by any means, but I have to wonder what the execs were thinking when they looked at this… did they even screen it with women to see how it would go over?

    In fairness, there are also ads out there sexist against men… the whole “a man is too stupid to do anything” joke. I also think those are ridiculous & completely unfair to men.

    Why not try to market the product in a smart way that credits the audience with some modicum of intelligence instead of berating us? I just don’t get it. Most importantly, this ad campaign does NOTHING to convince me, the target female, to drink milk… which was the point to begin with.

  22. WOW record dohrgut and high heat in Texas leads to higher milk! I hope we have a dohrgut here in Iowa so I can get those kinda milk yields! (ok Sarcasm off now)BTW then why is the new Leprino plant in COlorado short on milk when it is so close to them in Texas?

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