See the Olsen Twins' new ''Got Milk?'' ad. The sisters address the ''teen calcium crisis'' and leave us wondering: Is Ashley a Velvet Underground fan?

By Gary Susman
Updated April 27, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
Ashley Olsen, Mary-Kate Olsen

Is there something going on beneath the surface of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s new ”Got Milk?” ad? The ad, which features the girls adorned with the familiar milk mustaches, appears straightforward enough. The copy at the bottom of the ad (which will debut in next week’s People magazine, timed to coincide with the release of the twins’ movie ”New York Minute”) notes that the 17-year-old sisters are ”all grown up” but still drink milk because ”we know about 15% of your height is added during your teen years and the calcium in milk can help.” A statement by the dairy coalition behind the ads explains that there is a ”teen calcium crisis,” in that nine out of 10 teen girls don’t get enough of the bone-building mineral, in part because they drink too much soda and not enough milk. ”We wanted to appear in this ad because we love the campaign and we want to help make sure our fans are healthy like us,” said Mary-Kate in the statement. ”It is important to drink milk because it keeps you strong and helps you grow tall,” said Mary-Kate, who stands 5’2”. (Ashley is 5’1”.)

Setting aside the question of whether such petite girls are the ideal spokespersons for a campaign to sell milk as a height-booster, what caught our eye was Ashley’s T-shirt, which carries the Andy Warhol-designed image of a banana from the cover of the classic 1967 album ”The Velvet Underground and Nico.” It’s an album that, to this day, remains a signifier of hip, edgy, avant-garde taste — qualities not previously associated with the squeaky clean Olsens. Is Ashley a fan of the album? Does she like such tracks as ”Venus in Furs” (about sadomasochism) or the opiate ode ”Heroin”? Does Mary-Kate also like that early work of singer-songwriter Lou Reed, or does she perhaps prefer his later, mature, ”Songs for Drella”-”Magic and Loss” period? Or was the shirt the choice of a photo-shoot stylist, one who thought that bananas and milk go well together? Or is the presence of the Warhol drawing a sneaky allusion to his dictum about fame lasting 15 minutes?

Dairy coalition publicist Jon Rennels tells that Ashley chose the shirt for the shoot because she thought it was ”cute,” but that she and Mary-Kate are indeed Velvet Underground fans. As for the selection of the pint-size moguls as endorsers, Rennels says: ”Teens look up to the Olsen twins — no matter how tall they are — so they’re perfect role models to encourage teens to drink their milk.” Of course, it strikes us that the Olsens’ famed marketing savvy could now help sell the girls’ maturing audience on art rock as well as on milk. Either way, the Olsens would be doing a service by turning teen girls away from sugary pop.