Advertising Nestlé’s Milo: Tonic Food to Energy Drink

Created by Thomas Mayne in Australia, Nestlé’s Milo, as a commercial product, was first introduced to the public during the Sydney Royal Easter show in 1934 (Nestlé 2015). This essay will show case the ways that Milo has been advertised during its 81 years. It will examine four advertisements, consisting of one cinema commercial, two television commercial and one print advertisement. It will examine the links between the four commercials and show how the advertising has changed over the decades.

The main competitor for Milo was at first Ovaltine, exported to Australia in 1909 (Twining 2013a), and later Akta-Vite, an Australian made product introduced in 1943 (Akta-Vite n.d.). All three of these products have roughly the identical claims. They are a chocolatey health-drink fortified with minerals and vitamins (Nestlé 2015, Twining 2013b, Akta-Vite n.d.). With two other companies marketing a very similar product Nestlé opted to advertise using the, ‘Reason Why’ method, where a product is advertised by, ‘suggesting the ways [a] product would transform the buyer’s life.’ (Lears 1983, p.18). In all four of the advertisements Milo’s statement is how it makes you feel and how this will improve on your life. Lears calls this ‘Therapeutic Advertising’, which he describes as, ‘a method of social control-a way to arouse consumer demand by associating products with imaginary states of well-being.’ (1983, p.19).

1948 – The Joy of Living – Cinema Commercial

jpy of livingFigure 1: The Joy of Living, (Nestlé 1948a).

This commercial was used in the cinema, (National Film and Sound Archive 2015) and was probably screened before the main feature or during an intermission. The commercial is comedic in nature and most likely ran with films of a similar nature, which in turn would result in an increased cognitive impact (Furnham, Gunter and Walsh 1998, p.555). Opening with a graphic overlay and light hearted music the viewer is positioned to have an emotional response. It suggests that the images being shown equates to being a person of quality. The narrator confirms this stating that, ‘…some folk always start the day right, sparkling with health and energy.’ (The joy of living 2015). The next shot is of an unkempt man getting the milk, and the narrator explains, ‘while others – well the less said about them the better.’ (The joy of living 2015), he represents the other end of the wellbeing spectrum. A montage explains why the man has not started the day right, then it contrasts this against the woman and what she has done to wake up refreshed and ready for the day, nominating these as the ‘golden rules’ (The joy of living 2015). There are two main signifiers, the woman living the good life in an impossibly tidy house and the man living the poor life, shown living in a contrasting squalor. The signified is the woman’s way of life as the one you want to be living and that the man’s way is probably what you are doing. The denotation is that, those who are awake early and active are good people. The connotation is that in order to accomplish this one must follow the rules which, naturally, include a nightly cup of Milo. The target audience is grocery buyers, especially as the viewer is shown the product being purchased. The intent of the campaign is to obtain new users and to get retailers to stock the product, as it directs the viewer to the chemist (see Figure 2) – which again show cases the healthiness of Milo, as Fletcher states, ‘…most advertising campaigns concentrate on end-benefits. Product ingredients and formulations will only be mentioned to back up and justify the end-benefits the product provides.’ (2010 p.11-12). The advertising campaign was likely run alongside an aggressive shop display campaign similar to what is shown in the commercial, possibly even in the cinema foyer. Interestingly this commercial is the only one of the four that does not demonstrate or give explicit instructions on how to make a Milo.

milo chemistFigure 2: The Joy of Living – Chemist, (Nestlé 1948b).

1957 – Snap out of SUMMER SAG – Print Advertisement

1957miloFigure 3: Snap Out of SUMMER SAG (Nestlé 1957).

This print advertisement would have been placed in magazines targeted to women. In the title of the advertisement, ‘SUMMER SAG’ is emphasised in bold which expresses a bloated and sluggish feel, while, ‘Snap out of’ is in thin light letters, to showcase how a person feels after drinking Milo. The signifiers for are the woman whom appears to be bounding with energy, contrasted against herself slumped over the ironing board. The signified is that doing activities such as ironing or general housework can make you tired and drinking an ‘ICED Milo’ can revive you in order to carry on after the housework is done. This advertisement differs from The Joy of Living, as it demonstrates a different way to make a Milo; cold as opposed to hot. Therefore this advertisement was probably run in the summer months when people were steering away from hot chocolate drinks. Another reason for this change may be explained by Lyth as, ‘…a primary function of an advertisement is to create difference between products within an industrial or consumer category, particularly where those products appear very similar.’ (2009, p.2). Nestlé may have identified a gap in the market in that its competitors were seen more as hot drinks only and they sought to exploit this fact. The advertisement is another example of therapeutic advertising as it offers a promise to increase a user’s physical wellbeing, and it contains the threat that if you do not purchase the product your days of feeling overwhelmed will continue (Lears 1983, p.5). The advertisement is still story based, which is similar to The Joy of Living, as it contains quite a bit of text and it also includes a recipe on how to make a Milo. With the addition of text Snap out of SUMMER SNAG carries the appearance of an article instead of a paid advertisement, which again aids to cognitive impact (Furnham, Gunter and Walsh 1998, p.555), especially if it were mixed alongside other recipe style articles. The denotation is completing housework can leave you tired an unable to enjoy the day, and that happy people are full of energy. The connotation is that this can be accomplished with little more than a glass of cold Milo. The target audience are grocery buyers, particularly house wives. The intent of the campaign, is to entice new users to try Milo, to persuade existing users to use Milo in a new way and to convert light users, into heavy users, particularly with the line, ‘Get the regular Iced Milo habit…’ (Nestlé 1957). It accomplishes this through employing values of modern hedonism. It transforms the somewhat mundane activity of enjoying a cold chocolate drink, into one filled with such pleasure and delight the user is catapulted to life (Campbell cited in Storey 1999, p.14). It supplies the user with the image of what to expect (Storey 1999, p.14). A long as Milo doesn’t dramatically disappoint a user will continue to associate the image with the idea.

1982 – Energy to Burn – Television Commercial

The television commercial Energy to Burn, is a complete depart form The Joy of Living and Snap out of SUMMER SAG. No longer is the advertisement concerned with how you may feel, but rather it thrives on the necessity to have an increase in energy to keep doing the activities you enjoy. Opening with the narrator emphasising every word, ‘Energy is all it takes and that’s the difference Milo makes; give ‘em Milo!’ (Milo Commercial [1982] 2009). Energy to Burn, is loud and fast paced, the music is punchy and the away shots are snapped together tightly; sport action followed by shots of Milo displayed in sequence, demonstrating how to make a Milo. Every shot of Milo being made, or enjoyed, coincides with the repetitious jingle as, ‘[adjective] Milo!’ or ‘Give ‘em Milo!’ (Milo Commercial [1982] 2009). The target audience is families and grocery buyers. The signifier is sport action shots and the signified is that this is what Milo creates, a child who never runs out of energy. The commercial was probably screened during children’s programming, and sports programs, in order to drive the signified message – as a child sitting down and watching television has obviously run out of energy. This in turn leads the parent to potentially question their parenting methods as the denotation is that children enjoy sports and drinking Milo. The repeated slogan, ‘Give ‘em Milo’, (Milo Commercial [1982] 2009), being used more like a command rather than a suggestion, is ‘…used to prime brand association’ (Kohli, C, Thomas, S, and Suri, R 2013, p.33). It repeats several times so the consumer remembers and provides a connection that when children appear to be out of energy they need a cup of Milo to get them outside and playing again, which is the connotation for the commercial. The intent of the campaign is make people aware of the intention of Milo, it is an energy drink, its purpose is to get people, and children in particular active and to enjoy life. The text overlay ‘IT’S MARVELLOUS WHAT A DIFFERENCE MIL MAKES’ (Milo Commercial [1982] 2009) at the end of Energy to Burn, is a throwback to an older slogan and creates an association between the two advertising campaigns (Milo (Australian ad) 1960’s 2012).

marvFigure 4: Energy to Burn (Nestlé 1982).

2013 – The Official Drink of Play – Television & Internet Commercial

The Official Drink of Play is short enough that it fits in as a television commercial, but the use of the rhetorical question, ‘But, are your kids getting enough Calcium?’ (MILO, The Official Drink of Play 2013) at the eight second mark, used as a hook so the viewer doesn’t skip past, and the inclusion of a website address, demonstrate that it may also have been used in internet campaigns. The most striking mise-en-scene is in the opening sequence where the family are dressed in Milo colours, mostly green and silver, as if they are the ultimate Milo family, happy and full of energy. The commercial is returning to the therapeutic formula that was apparent in The Joy of Life. It suggests that the viewer may not be getting their total calcium requirement, or other words lacking in health, and in order to feel better and be able to live a full and complete life Milo is needed. The commercial makes use of celebrity endorsement under the playful path, described by Zuckerman (cited in Hung 2014, p.158) as, ‘the desire to relax’. An endorsement used in this manner appeals to all consumers even if they are not a fan of the celebrity involved (Hung 2014, p.164). The signifiers are the family and Shelly Craft. The signified is that the viewer should want to have a family like the one displayed, they are all happy and playing together, Shelly Craft acts as a mediator, she is the image of the person who would be friends with the family. The denotation is happy families enjoy Milo, and the connotation is that in order to be healthy enough to be a happy family one needs to drink Milo. The target audience for this commercial is families, and was probably screened in the lead up to Summer. The intent for this campaign was to make people aware of the health benefits of Milo. This is most likely indicative of the changing attitudes toward food as:

Advertisements do not run counter to majority attitudes and it is not their role or purpose to change society, but nonetheless while it is busy selling products and services the advertisement is also a window on to the landscape of our social culture. (Lyth 2009, p.2)

The difference between the use of health benefits, between The Joy of Life, Snap out of SUMMER SAG and The Official Drink of Play, is that its claims are backed up with facts from an independent statutory agency, namely NUTTAB 2010 provided by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (2015).

milo2013Figure 5: The Official Drink of Play (Nestlé 2013).

Nestlé’s Milo has positioned itself as a health food from its concept to present day. All of the advertisements analysed used the therapeutic technique, it is a strategy that works well because, as Lears suggests, ‘People have always been preoccupied by their own emotional and physical well-being…’ (1983, p.4) and presumably they always will be. The advertisements while looking different are all essentially the same, the only thing that has really changed is the style, or, ‘As older values become less fashionable, they are widely discarded but persist in residual forms’ (Lears 1983, p.19). Then again why alter a winning formula. If Nestlé had not been successful at marketing Milo, it is unlikely that the shiny green tins would still be populating the supermarket shelves.


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Gallery 1 Milo