About the photo essay "milking 'got milk?'"

Milking Got Milk is an evolving compilation of photos that document the interminable, albeit amusing, exploitation of the "got milk?" ad campaign. Submissions welcome!

I am a graphic artist, a mom, an aspiring writer and an amateur photographer. I am fascinated with signs, especially those that are messed up for one reason or another. I get a serious thrill out of catching a nonsensical, misspelled and/or random message posted for the world to see. Wherever I am in the world, while most people are looking at the landscape or the architecture or the people, I am looking at the signs - most of which are advertisements.

Before moving to the sleepy beach town where I currently reside, I lived in San Francisco - the birthplace of the "got milk?" ad campaign. When the campaign was launched, in June 1993, I was working a block away from Goodby, Berlin and Silverstein. GBS was the hot ad agency in town. It was the hip "boutique" shop where everyone wanted to work - me included. Each campaign that came out of the place was more innovative, more clever and more fun than the last. "Got milk?" was one of those campaigns.

The "ad gulch," the 6-8 square blocks off The Embarcadero and home to San Francisco's top design firms and ad agencies, was very incestuous. We all knew each other, we all hung out, we all had dated each other at one time or another. And when one of us had a baby, i.e. "got milk?," we all felt that be had been right there in the delivery room the whole time. We all passed out cigars.

And while I initially loved the "got milk" baby as if it were my own, the novelty and charm of the campaign wore off quickly as the public glommed on, made it it's own and milked it (pun intended) to death. In my mind, within a year, that campaign was over and out - old news.

But not so for others.

Twenty years later its rip-offs are still everywhere. People continue to milk "got milk" for all it's got. It seems that when they use this slogan for their purposes, they think they're being cute, original and clever. I find them to be, well, not so much. Note to people: It's not clever anymore. In fact, it hasn't been clever for about fifteen years. But to me, it's funny. It's funny that people still think it's funny.

My Milking Got Milk project officially began on September 20, 2009 when I took a snapshot of a "Got Jesus?" sticker, I saw on a car. A week later, we discussed clichés in my Journalism class and #1 on the professor's list of "clichés we hate" was "got (your product here)?." Later that day, while picking my kids up at school, I spotted entry number two, "Got Mariachi?" (a personal favorite), a tee worn by one of my daughter's classmates. A little light went off in my head... and suddenly, I was on a mission.

From that point on, with my "got" radar on high alert, it seems that "gots" were more everywhere than ever. With my handy iPhone at my side, I've shot each got I've seen. The majority of the inaugural (31) Milking Got Milk shots were taken right here in my small town (population 93,000) over the course of only three months. I can't help but wonder what other gots are out there in towns and cities of all sizes across the planet.

And so, I invite you to join my mission by fine tuning your "got" radar, shooting some got shots and sending them in. No monetary compensation is involved but you'll get credit and a link. It's all in the name of art. And milk.

Ok then. Let's get out there and get gots.

Got got?

- Kim Haggin Rossi