By Published on .

The city is MedellĀ”n, Colombia. The distribution network and elaborate laundering scheme have been cultivated by the Leo Burnett office in BogotĀ , lately using-as its principal means of conveyance-a horse. The goods are a potent powder with a power to penetrate the very fabric of society.

The locals call it Ya.

But don't take our word for it. The whole thing is on video.

"What is the horse's name?" asks an interviewer, seen approaching a peddler in a :30 TV spot.

"His name is Moro," says the peddler.

"He's a little discolored. What do you wash him with?"

"With [obscured by bleep] soap," the baffled peddler replies.

"I'm going to propose that you wash your horse with Ya," responds the interviewer, "to see if he ends up whiter."

Wash a horse with Ya? Is there no length to which these people will not go? No, there is not, because the detergent marketplace is as cutthroat in Colombia as it is everywhere else.

Yes, the detergent marketplace. Oh, you didn't thin....? Ya? No, no, no. It's just a powdered, Procter & Gamble Co. laundry soap, with lots of whitener. So there's nothing untoward going on here. Just unusual. Indeed, it is a premise which would be absurd and pointless if it weren't so absurd and wonderful.

Colombian consumers have long since been acquainted with sundry Ya challenges, much like the Daz Doorstep Challenge employed by P&G in the U.K. The guy shows up at the door, camera rolling, introduces himself to the housewife and offers to exchange Ya for her soap. A fortnight later, he returns to see the difference and hear her testimony.

Such campaigns are either extremely credible or extremely suspect, depending upon the viewer's frame of mind. Credible because the testimonial comes from a "real person," not a hired actor. Suspect because the consumer understands no advertising sees the light of day when the real person emerges after two weeks to complain bitterly about fading, dinginess and a funny, unpleasant smell in the laundry.

So how much more effective for the doorstep challengers of the world to contrive a premise that dramatizes the whitening power of the product while simultaneously poking some fun at the fundamental silliness of the genre. Thus the genius of the Ya equine challenge. And thus the charm when the peddler is revisited in two weeks.

"Did you bathe Moro with Ya?" the interviewer asks.

"Yes," he replies. "With Ya."

"And what happened?"

"He's whiter."

"He's pretty?"

"Yes, because they bathed him with Ya."

The next thing we see, the peddler is mounted on his wagon with the reins in his hand, ready to travel. So what does he holler to get Moro moving? Why, of course, he hollers, "Ya!"

Ridiculous, and irresistible. The only more eyecatching thing they could have done was to use Ya to launder actual drug money.

But that would be a horse of a different color.

The rating system uses four stars to represent excellent, three for notable, two for mediocre and one for pathetic.

To submit TV campaigns for review, send 3/4- or 1/2-inch NTSC-format videotapes to Bob Garfield, Ad Age International, 814 National Press Building, Washington, D.C. 20045-1801, USA.

Most Popular
In this article: