The ads would typically feature people in various situations involving dry or sticky foods and treats such as cookies and peanut butter. The person then finds himself in an uncomfortable situation due to a full mouth and no milk to wash it down. At the end of the commercial the character would look sadly to the camera and boldly displayed would be the words, "Got Milk?".
The first Got Milk advert ran in October 1993, and featured a hapless history buff (played by Sean Whalen) receiving a call to answer a radio station's $10,000 trivia question (voiced by Rob Paulsen), "Who shot Alexander Hamilton in that famous duel?" The man's apartment is shown to be a private museum to the duel, packed with artifacts. He answers the question correctly, but because his mouth is full of peanut butter and he had no milk to wash it down, his answer was unintelligible. The ad, directed by Hollywood director Michael Bay, was at the top of the advertising industry's award circuit in 1994.
From 1994-1995, fluid milk sales in the 12 regions totaled 23.3 billion pounds, and increased advertising expenditures amounted to $37.9 million. In 2002, the ad was named one of the ten best commercials of all time by a USA Today poll, and was run again nationwide that same year. It has since been featured in numerous books on advertising and is being used in case studies at top-flight programs around the country.
The slogan "got milk?" was licensed to the National Milk Processor Board (MilkPEP) in 1998 to use on their celebrity print ads, which since 1995, included celebrities from the fields of sports, media and entertainment, as well as fictional characters from TV and film such as The Simpsons and Batman, posing in print advertisements sporting a "milk mustache", employing the slogan, "Where's your mustache?"
In 2006, the campaign went after a new demographic with a series of Spanish-language “Toma Leche?” or “Do you take and drink milk?” ads in which milk is touted as a "wonder tonic" with muscle and hair building qualities.
According to the Got Milk website, the campaign has over 90% awareness in the US and the tag line has been licensed to dairy boards across the US since 1995. Got Milk is a powerful property and has been licensed on a range of consumer goods including Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels, baby and teen apparel, and kitchenware. The trademarked line has been widely parodied by groups championing a variety of causes. Many of these parodies use a lookalike rather than the actual persons used in the original Got Milk adverts.
In 2008, the campaign capitalized on the poor economic condition of Americans and used financial adviser and talk show host, Suze Orman, in an effort to advertise milk as a smart and nutritious commodity to purchase.