Oatly: need help talking to consumers about your products? Vegan brand attracts controversy

Data does not equal insight, as these new ads for cow’s milk replacement Oatly show only too well. Created in-house, they use the information that 44-75 year-old men are the least interested in anything vegan, and they run with it, treating cow’s milk as a terrible addiction among dads. The campaign’s endline is “Need help talking to Dad about milk?”

Viewers have complained that the campaign, which first aired during “The Voice” on Saturday night, ridicules alcoholics. One ad shows a dad struggling to say “no” to milk in his tea, another despairs, “I hate my life”, while another is sneaking around late at night to get his fix of milk. In a fourth ad, two teenagers shake their heads and describe 55 as “a difficult age”.

They are quite nicely done, but clearly misdirected. Oatly, which has become a ubiquitous brand this “Veganuary”, has been forced to defend itself, saying: “Our aim is to show a familiar situation that anyone who’s been a teenager can relate to but with the roles reversed. After all, when it comes to the climate and our diet’s relation to it, it’s often teenagers that are the grownups in the conversation. We don’t believe that by using these father-teenager situations we are undermining the importance of such a serious issue like alcoholism.”

Many Twitter users and Oatly drinkers are also taking issue and with the brand’s environmental claims, which state that the dairy and meat industries emit more CO2 than all the world’s planes, trains, cars, boats etc combined.

Controversy is in many ways better than the worthiness that is so often associated with vegan products, but dairy replacement is a competitive market now, and Oatly might wish they had employed an ad agency for the task.

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About Emma Hall

Emma Hall
Emma Hall is a journalist and editorial consultant and is the former Europe Editor of Ad Age, where she covered European marketing advertising, digital and media stories. She has written for newspapers including the Financial Times, The Guardian, The Times and the Telegraph, and was previously a section editor at Campaign. Emma started her career in New York as a researcher for a biography of Keith Richards.

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