A healthy way to rock out

Milk carton promotion plays schools

Advertising to kids is a hot topic these days, with plenty of attention being paid to battling childhood obesity. And a new multiplatform program from MilkMedia is placing the spotlight firmly on healthy eating habits for kids — and on music.

The 10-year-old company's Milk Rocks campaign is built on a sturdy foundation: More than 25 million milk cartons are available in 98,000 U.S. school cafeterias on a daily basis, reaching as many as 39 million tween and teen students. MilkMedia "owns" the milk carton side panels — prime real estate for reaching that young demographic. No wonder Milk Rocks has already attracted such acts as Elliott Yamin and Bratz.

The points of entry for Milk Rocks are the milk carton side panels. Extensions to the program include the Internet (milkrocks.com), a tour (Milk Rocks Live, featuring Vanguard Records acts Matt Nathanson and the Alternate Routes), contests (Be a Milk Rock Star) and in-school posters and banners.

"This (program) is a way to present our music directly to kids," Geffen Records marketing director Paul Orescan said. "At the same time, it's a reminder about a healthy product."

Bratz member Janel Parrish, who played Jade in the "Bratz" movie and is signed to Geffen, is prominently featured on the Milk Rocks home page. Orescan said this has paved the way to increased traffic on Parrish's MySpace page, as well as sales bumps of her single "Rainy Day."

"In the truest form, Milk Rocks provides a vehicle to let kids hear new and established artists," Orescan said.

MilkMedia CEO Richard Long said Milk Rocks helps build a "bigger fan base for growing acts" and keeps "established stars in front of their audience day after day. … And what's really exciting is the way artists and labels have gotten behind the whole pro-health message." To illustrate, Long points to video clips and special promotions starring featured Milk Rocks artists.

For his part, "American Idol" graduate and Hickory Records act Yamin is offering winning students concert tickets, signed CDs and posters and meet-and-greets. A grand-prize winner in the Bratz promotion will receive a "school wake-up call" from a Bratz character.

Disney's Hollywood Records also is getting in on the act. Rob Souriall, vp strategic marketing and promotions, said the label is in the process of starting a relationship with Milk Rocks for its many tween-targeted pop acts, including Vanessa Hudgens, Corbin Bleu, the Cheetah Girls, Aly & AJ, the Jonas Brothers and Jordan Pruitt.

"We are giving kids the opportunity to discover artists without going to MySpace," MilkMedia vp business development John Brda said.

Nutrition, of course, is a goal as well. "This program is about encouraging kids to drink milk," Souriall said. "The program rewards kids with the Web site and acts like ours."

Milk Rocks will continue to grow in coming weeks and months, Brda said. In the pipeline is a mobile push, a partnership with AEG for a larger-scale, nonschool auditorium concert trek and an expansion into Europe, Asia and South America.

Souriall said Milk Rocks is a "great way to get into schools and expose our new music and videos to kids. We'll be reaching them where they hang out — in school and online. If Milk Rocks can create a hub, a new distribution channel, then it's where we need to be. It's one more impression for us."

Michael Paoletta is a senior correspondent for Billboard.