SACRAMENTO (CBS / AP) — Responding to a wave of criticism, a California milk board on Thursday modified an advertising campaign that targeted men by promoting milk as a way to lessen the effects of premenstrual syndrome.
The California Milk Processor Board decided to alter its two-week-old campaign, which portrayed men as the victims of temperamental women. Instead, it redirected users from its website, http://www.everythingidoiswrong.org , to another that will encourage discussion of the issue.
Ad campaign spokeswoman Tatum Wan said it succeeded in promoting the board’s message that milk can soften the effects of PMS symptoms.
“The new site is to help foster the conversation that came up as a result of the campaign that launched last week,” she said.
Some of that discussion was not entirely favorable toward the milk board, which posted a sampling of the responses on the campaign’s website. A comment from Jezebel, a blog aimed at women, said “Telling men they’re victims of PMS sure is an interesting way to sell milk,” while a Facebook post read, “I’m a comedian and I’m not laughing.”
The campaign’s original website showed pictures of men around features as a color-coded “current global PMS level” and “video apology enhancer.”
Rebecca Cullers, a contributor to AdWeek who wrote an editorial after the “Everything I Do Is Wrong” campaign launched, said she was not surprised that the California Milk Processor Board decided to modify the campaign so quickly.
“The fact is, they’re pretending that women are completely irrational beings during their time of the month and they’re blaming PMS. And PMS has a wide variety of symptoms. It’s having back pains, cramps, irritability,” she said in a telephone interview Thursday evening. “In their mind, it’s something to joke about.”
Cullers said modifying the campaign was probably the best move the board could have made.
“To do nothing would have been appalling. I don’t think they thought that this reaction was going to occur. They probably thought it was really funny,” she said.
The milk board posted an apology on its updated web page and thanked everyone who responded.
“Over the past couple of weeks, regrettably, some people found our campaign about milk and PMS to be outrageous ad misguided – and we apologize for those we offended. Others thought it funny and educational. It has opened up a topic that affects women, of course, but also relationships.”
Wan said the milk board’s executive director, Steve James, was traveling Thursday and unavailable for comment. Last week, he told The Associated Press that the campaign was not intended to be offensive but rather to encourage men and women to have a conversation about a sometimes taboo topic.
The campaign, launched last week and originally scheduled to run through August, included the website, billboards in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and announcements on National Public Radio.
The billboards showed harried-looking men holding cartons of milk accompanied by tag lines such as “I’m sorry I listened to what you said and NOT what you meant,” or “I apologize for not reading between the RIGHT lines.”
Wan says the billboards will be replaced next week with ones directing viewers to the campaign’s new website, http://gotdiscussion.org .
Jessica Coen, the editor in chief of Jezebel, said over the telephone that it was reassuring to see the changes that were made to the campaign so quickly.
“They’re obviously aware and are responding to it. And the changes they made, as to the discussion, that’s such a tired and hackneyed way to approach it,” she said. “You can still talk about the PMS issue, you can still use that discussion, but not the way they did it.”
The Milk Processor Board is overseen by the state Department of Food and Agriculture and is funded by contributions from dairy processors in California, the nation’s top milk provider.
The group based the campaign on studies that have found a link between calcium intake and fewer PMS symptoms. For example, it cited a 2005 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine that found calcium improved PMS symptoms in more than 1,000 women. The study received some funding from GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures calcium supplements.
The board also refers to a 1999 study showing calcium could relieve symptoms such as irritability, depression, anxiety, social withdrawal, headache and cramps. That study was published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, and its author also had financial ties with the drug maker.
While the FDA recommends daily consumption of calcium, Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, chairwoman of the Department of Nutrition at the University of California, Davis, told the AP last week that she was unaware of any studies showing calcium could improve the effects of premenstrual syndrome.
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