Attempted moustache

Milk is in deep water. Butt of cholesterol scares and victim of fashion, it long ago lost its imprimatur as pure health in a bottle. What to do? David Rabinovitch reports

When the milk bottlers and packagers of America - call them the National Fluid Milk Processor Promotion Board - got the feeling that they were being engulfed by soft drinks and health drinks and Snapple and such, they knew that something had to be done. So they grasped the bull by the horns, as you might say, and enlisted the services of the most glamorous women on earth.

What went through their minds before they settled on this strategy? Who can say? If they had a vision of dancing milk bottles following the milkman down suburban streets to doorsteps and coming back empty, they clearly expunged it. Milkmen may be under pressure to give up here, or to start pretending to be policemen, but in America they are history.

If some creative genius said "Hey guys, how about something like 'Watch out, there's a Humphrey about...' whad'yasay?" they showed him the door. As for Ian Rush and Accrington Stanley; who are they? And though we British may be moved by Wildean lines like a 'A lotta bottle', the Americans opted for a lotta Isabella Rossellini.

Sexploitation? Don't even think about it. What we are talking here is public education. The mission: to explain and to reconvince America that, despite all the fads, scares, canards and canned drinks, milk is still the health giver they need - low-fat milk anyway. "With the same nutrients as whole milk," Naomi Campbell says here, "it's just what my body needs."

"Not only is it a better source of potassium than the leading sports drink," says the Gabriela Sabatini copy, "but it also has more minerals and vitamins per ounce." You said it Gabriela!

The pictures are by Annie Leibovitz, the Ms Big of American celebrity photography, whose very presence guarantees compliance. And some of the women, the majority of whom don't get out of bed for less than many thousands of dollars, came considerably cheaper in the cause of public health. What is more, since the advertisements appear in Time, Newsweek, People, the New York Times Magazine and the most desirable glossies, many others are now queueing up to offer their services in the cause of public education about themselves.

The campaign started in January and surveys of public attitudes in May suggested that the ads were having the desired effect - people were feeling better about milk.

Sal Taibi from the Milk Industry Foundation of America told me that the campaign was aimed at women. Hell, the men who are forced to look at these pictures must be bored stiff

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