So when they agreed to team up and fund generic ads to boost flagging milk consumption, the White Stuff' was heralded as a shining example of supply chain partners burying respective hatchets and working together for mutual benefit. Eighteen months on, however, processors have withdrawn their financial support for the campaign and the hatchets are out again. Farmers insist it has been a roaring success; the Dairy Council claims it has singlehandedly boosted the milk market by 82 million litres, and public awareness of the ads is said to run at a staggering 90%. So why is the Dairy Industry Federation turning its back on the White Stuff? The simple answer is that members can't afford to fund it in a climate of ever decreasing margins and congenital overcapacity. This has cut little ice with farmers and indeed some of the federation's own ranks. Supporters of the campaign point out that no one in the milk industry has spare cash to throw around. The question is whether anyone can afford not to invest in developing the market in the long term. Robert Wiseman Dairies and Express Dairies say they want to contribute, but will not spend money boosting the overall market if competitors will not put their hands in their pockets as well. Wiseman's sales and marketing director Sandy Wilkie concedes that given 100% of Wiseman's business is in liquid milk, technically it has more to gain from generic advertising than competitors with a more broadly based business. But pulling out now is dangerously short-sighted, he insists: "Saying we don't need the White Stuff anymore is like saying Coke should stop advertising because everyone is familiar with the brand. "We must invest in the long term integrity of the product and keep on reminding people of the nutritional benefits of drinking milk." Safeway director of communications Kevin Hawkins admits to a certain level of scepticism about the success of the campaign, or at least how to measure it. But giving up on it now is a definite mistake, he says: "It's damn silly to pull out now. If you have a badly funded campaign for a few months and then it stops, you might as well put the money in an envelope and throw it off Beachy Head." Dairy farmer co-op Milk Link said members were bitterly disappointed that processors felt unable to match farmers' contributions given the success of the campaign to date. "There is a feeling of disappointment across the board," said a spokesman. "Members wanted it returned or replaced with something else to promote the milk category." So what will become of the White Stuff? NFU milk and dairy produce committee chairman Terrig Morgan is busy setting up meetings with retailers, schools and trade bodies to look at other ways to boost milk consumption after the "bitter blow" the federation has dealt to the generic campaign. Dairy Council marketing director Andrew Ovens insists this is not the end of the White Stuff as a brand, however: "There are a number of options still open. The White Stuff is not just about expensive TV advertising. Certainly from the producers' point of view the DIF's decision is disappointing, but a number of dairies have initiatives to keep up the momentum of the campaign." Wiseman says it will keep the White Stuff logo on tankers and packaging for its branded milk. Discussions are now progressing with producers as to how to keep the brand alive without the backing of a big media budget. The White Stuff is so well established as a brand that seeing it go down the drain would be a criminal waste of time and money, Morgan believes. He says: "The sad thing is that this was the one example of the dairy supply chain working together." He adds that, at the first sign of strain, people have broken ranks and gone back to doing their own thing. "Inevitably, the overall effect will be diluted, and everyone will suffer." {{NEWS }}