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Aubrey Plaza is facing backlash for ‘Wood Milk’ dairy industry ad

The comedic campaign has drawn criticism for taking aim at plant-based milk alternatives.
Aubrey Plaza in "Wood Milk" ad.
Aubrey Plaza in MilkPEP's "Wood Milk" ad.Courtesy MilkPEP

A “White Lotus” star is facing backlash over a different kind of plant entirely.

On April 20, a video by the dairy industry marketing firm Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) starring Aubrey Plaza was posted on YouTube, social media and Plaza’s own Instagram. In the ad, which has been viewed over 3.4 million times on the platform, the upcoming “Agatha: Coven of Chaos” actor attempts to sell her audience on a product called “Wood Milk.”

“Have you ever looked at a tree and thought, ‘Can I drink this?’” Plaza says at the start of the video. She stares at a tree in an orchard pensively as upbeat music plucks away. “I did.”

Plaza then introduces herself as the co-founder of Wood Milk, “the world’s first and only milk made from wood.” As she speaks, the actor can be seen posing serenely with logs, sprinkling herself with wood shavings and photographing trees up close in that “she’s doing something odd but in a captivating fashion” Plaza is known for.

Aubrey Plaza in "Wood Milk" ad.
Aubrey Plaza in MilkPEP's "Wood Milk" ad.Courtesy MilkPEP

“Our Wood Milk is bottled right here in the forest where the trees hit the dirt, which locks in the flavors like cherry, maple and of course mahogany,” Plaza says as asterisks appear on screen, reiterating the flavors as indeed wooden ones.

The ad is revealed by the end to be a parody concocted by MilkPEP, the same firm that came up with the “Got Milk?” campaign. This becomes a little more apparent after Plaza takes a swig of Wood Milk, leaving behind the trademark milk mustache — except it's a little chunkier, with bits of wood pulp in it.

“Is wood milk real? Absolutely not. Only real milk is real.” Plaza says in closing. “Then what did I invest in?!”

Although Plaza has been a frequent source of the internet’s love and affection, enjoying a growing status as both a millenial and Gen-Z icon and frequent fancam subject, much of the response to the ad on social media was less than glowing.

The prevailing sentiment from those in comments sections is disappointment in the actor for hitching herself to Big Dairy's wooden wagon, so to speak.

“The fact that this is actually a weirdly covert ad for the dairy industry is bonkers, aubrey plaza dairy propagandist,” tweeted one person.

“I’m so heartbroken y’all. Aubrey Plaza out here doing ads for the dairy industry trying to make fun of plant milks by shilling “wood milk”. The desperation,” another person tweeted, adding a sobbing emoji. “Aubrey how could you!”

“This Aubrey Plaza wood milk thing has made me so mad. It’s a marketing campaign for dairy milk paid for by got milk? who are a dairy industry marketing lobby,” wrote another Twitter user.  

“Aubrey plaza working on an ad paid for by the dairy industry to make fun of plant based milks since more people have realized the impact large scale dairy farming has on the planet and arent buying their products is… f---ed up tbh,” someone else tweeted.

Representatives for Plaza did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“In a world where dairy milk is one of many choices, our fictitious Wood Milk brand is designed to encourage consumers to educate themselves on their beverage options and the differences in the nutritional profiles within,” Yin Woon Rani, MilkPEP’s CEO, tells TODAY.com. “While you may be able to make milk out of anything these days, not everything is created equal. We welcome the conversation and response.”

The critique has reached such a fever pitch that, because Plaza turned off the comments on her Instagram post of the ad, people are commenting on Plaza’s other, non-milk-related posts to express their dismay.

“Really disappointed that you’re not only endorsing dairy milk but also participating in an ad that mocks plant milks,” commented one user on Plaza’s Instagram on a post unrelated to the campaign. “Unfollowing.”

“‘Real’ milk has real victims,” one person commented on one of her unrelated Instagram posts. “Seems kinda cowardly to poke fun at non dairy alternatives and then turn off the comments.”

Still, there are those who have applauded the campaign, taking to social media to defend Plaza or share their positive feelings about the ad.

“I will drink any milk you tell me to, Aubrey plaza,” wrote a commenter on the TikTok of the ad, where several commenters are also calling Plaza “mommy.”

“She had me considering it for a second there......” someone tweeted.

“my new favorite national holiday,” wrote another Twitter user, who also made a fancam of Plaza using the ad, using the hashtag #woodmilknation, which has sprung up from fans in response to the ad.

As for who is leading the #woodmilknation charge, our best guess is Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman's "Parks and Recreation" character), who would most definitely be applauding Plaza (April Ludgate) on her campaign.