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OMG! Oatly Misses the Message

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Bring in the Cows  

Oatly first came to our attention with their OOH buy in the UK, October last year, after receiving the ‘sour milk award’ from the home country Sweden (No Virginia, there is no ‘sour milk award’). It seems Oatly is not considered as wholesome as Swedish Meatballs in Sweden. The Swedish Dairy Association sued Oatly.

We posted about it then, our OOH Today post ⇒ It’s Swedish, It’s Like Milk and It’s OOH!

Oatly poster
UK poster from October 2018

Knowing full well it was only a matter of time the Oat milk-like drink, would make its way to the US, it recently arrived in Chicago and NYC.  Not much has seemed to change. It’s still Swedish, milk-like and uses OOH.  And I am still not trying it. 

EXCEPT, some how, in the trip across the Atlantic, someone forgot the basic rules of OOH. Granted, the Rule of 6 words or less, may be overlooked to some extent on street furniture than more traditional Outdoor, however, too much copy, is, too much copy. This is too much copy.



Finally, the bigger miss, is the message emphasis on the OOH format and not the product.  Thank God I don’t write copy for living, because all I have is; ‘Tastes great. Less Filling’. ‘Field tested’. ‘No cows were abused’. I know weak. But try this next idea.

A perfect spot to bring in the Chick-fil-A cows who were Holstein Friesian milk cows and obviously not chickens. Oatly could muster up some Black Angus beef cows, known for meat.   Imagine the irony.

Is this good creative? A buy is only as good as its creative.

Here is what JCDecaux AE, Adam Lopez, has to say.
has some fun things to say to New York and Chicago…and they are saying it in the most obvious way possible with JCDecaux Street Furniture! If you have not tried it, you’re really missing OAT! Great planning and execution by the team at Outdoor Media Group (OMG)Joo Han and Stephanie DiMaggio”

Check out the multiple creative executions in the 38 second video below⇓



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  1. Todd Turner says

    I love this campaign. First, the brand voice on the website and packaging is honest and sometimes self-deprecating. So in that sense, these ads are spot on. Second, no one likes being advertised to, and our bullshit detectors are getting better and better every day. Their ads don’t look or sound like ads. Their ads are even aware that they’re ads. That makes Oatly seem honest and approachable. Maybe a viewer will give Oatly a try because they weren’t hardselling the product and just used their ad space to just delight viewers.

    Being a daily Chicago transit commuter, Oatly’s ads are a refreshing break from the other 50+ ads I see every day that don’t even try to be interesting. I took a pic of an Oatly ad and posted it on Instagram talking about how I thought its self-awareness was funny. I see tons of ads that straight up ask me to take a pic and share it, but I don’t.

    Oatly didn’t ask anything of me. That’s 2019 Advertising 101. And I’ll be damned, oat milk is delicious.

  2. Bill Board says

    Thank you for the excellent review Todd Turner. Happy to hear you tried it and liked it. Your points are good ones. We obviously are on the other side of that coin on this campaign creative. I believe its nearly a total miss. The sympathetic approach doesn’t do it for me. Give me a reason to buy other than a cute-ish, were are the hip kids. Too trendy for this grizzled Boomer and that may be the rub. What I did not want to say in the post and will now, is I think the message is pandering to Ad Community while indulging themselves with self gratifying pats on the back we are the cool smart guys in the room, where everyone in the room liked it but the only ones who appreciate it. I don’t see it doing anything for the brand, other than a lot of recognition to; 1. the format, which we love as OOHomers, and 2. the act of advertising.

    It says nothing about the product, missing the fundamental mission in advertising so often lost in creative, and that’s to sell the product. One could stretch the point and say it is dishonest because it does not say anything about the product thus lacking transparency. Based on what I have seen them do previously in London, their home turf in Sweden, (check out the commercial (https://youtu.be/_HQU0MB0D5A) where they got a spanking and now in CHI and NYC, they are still trying to figure it out.

    Last time I vigorously criticized creative, it won a Clio and Cannes Lion. But as I said then, as I say about this, if it works, it will continue to live on as creative because it sells product. Just like the award winning McDonald’s gold arch directional campaign, it won an award but did nothing for the drive in windows or cash registers. The Micky D’s franchisees don’t want something they put on their office shelves or home mantles, they want something they can put in their pockets.(cash) Let us know if Oatly is flying off the shelves in Chicago.
    Finally, I am of the same ilk as MLB Hall of Famer, Reginald Martinez Jackson, Mr. October, when it comes to appreciation for the real thing. Referencing synthetic turf, Reggie said, “if a horse won’t eat it, I don’t want to play on it.” For me, if a cow doesn’t make it, I am not drinking it. Milk, its what’s for dinner.

  3. Adam says

    For the amount of comments and feedback I have been getting on this campaign I would say that it is actually a direct hit… Probably the most noticeable campaign in New York and Chicago right now. The antiquated rules of out of home are should be challenged daily…and I applied this advertiser for their bold use of the space. If it were not attention-getting, this article would not have been written 😉

  4. Bill Board says

    thank you for the comments Adam. We are not surprised the attention it receives from media, which is to the point we addressed in the initial post.
    Proof of success should be tied to amount of product which comes off the shelf. We look forward to future reports.

  5. Mike Frank says

    I don’t think they missed the point – they made their point: Oat milk can be delightful!

    There are no rules in advertising, the second you find one is when you should break it. People keep talking about this campaign and I was excited to find a bench ad outside my office.

    Instead of hating on it, made you can learn something from it. Seems the only comments you are getting so far are defending the campaign.

  6. Bill Board says

    Hating is pretty strong Mike Frank. I believe as an OOH expert it is not an effective campaign which will move product off the shelf. If the product does not sell, rules, like it or not, will apply and no purchase, the laws of economy apply and no more product.
    While consensus of most of the comments are defending or ‘like’ the creative, consensus does not mean correctness. I appreciate the comments.

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