The Cookies Didn’t Last a Day

San Francisco bus stops are cookie free today after an advertising campaign that infused the scent of chocolate chip cookies into city bus shelters has been shut down. Hungry commuters will have to sniff elsewhere.

As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, the California Milk Processor Board-sponsored ad campaign (the “Got Milk?” folks) gambled that the cookie scent would inspire a craving for a nice glass of cold milk (Pavlov would be so proud). The fragrance came from strips infused with cookie scent that were affixed to several bus stops in the city.

But the Municipal Transportation Agency, under pressure from activists concerned about those with scent or chemical sensitivities, called a halt to the program almost immediately. Now the transportation board is looking at banning all scented advertisements.

While some are calling it a victory for those with environmental illnesses, others are calling foul. At Slashfood, Nicole Weston points out, “Honestly, if you can’t handle the scent of chocolate chip cookies, how on earth can you handle taking a bus in a big city? Do these activists actually walk around San Francisco? It’s not the cleanest-smelling city in the world.”

This was the first attempt at outdoor scent-based advertising, and the sponsors knew it would likely be controversial. According to the Chronicle, “A spokeswoman for the board went as far as to say last week that if the campaign could fly in San Francisco, it could fly anywhere.” While the scented adverts were removed, the company that planned the promotion was quick to point out that the strips do not contain chemicals.

So it’s back to the smell of car exhaust and garbage at the bus stops; for that fresh-out-of-the-oven scent you’ll have to head to the bakery (I know, how boring). As for the dreamed-of run on milk, that was just never going to happen, cookie scent or no cookie scent.

But at least they earned the press they were looking for. Good job, guys. Want a cookie?

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