Milk's New Video Advertisement

In the crags of Rock Olympus dwell the gods of the power chord. It is difficult to ponder the greatest among them without taking into account the eccentricities of their passions. Jimmy Page was creepily drawn to the occult, and Ozzy Osbourne may or may not have enjoyed a steady diet of bats. Least intuitive of them all, however, is White Gold.

As his nom de shred implies, he loves the white stuff. We're not talking about the Bolivian marching powder enjoyed by some of his cohort. White Gold gets high on milk. Grade A moo-juice. He drinks it, midsolo, right out of his transparent, hollow guitar.

If you've never heard of White Gold, that's probably because he doesn't really exist. But he does star in the new multiplatform advertising campaign from the California Milk Processor Board (the "Got Milk?" people). Think Tenacious D shilling for Big Dairy. It's an obvious bid to hit the ad-cynical teenage demographic where they're most vulnerable: the funny bone. And the campaign is genuinely hilarious. But will that be enough? U.S. consumption of milk slumped 14 percent between 1981 and 2006, according to the Department of Agriculture. In California, which is getting the brunt of the campaign, the price of whole milk has climbed 44 percent since 2003. A gallon of milk costs even more than a gallon of unleaded, with a nationwide average price of $3.87. Sen. Barack Obama reminded voters from the stump in Pennsylvania at the end of March that "you've never paid more for a dozen eggs, a gallon of milk."

As executive director of the California Milk Processor Board, Steve James is all too familiar with those numbers. But he points out that despite the increase in cost, consumption did not slip over the past 12 months. "Our only mission is to increase the consumption of fluid milk," he says. "You don't find too many marketing people saying 'Woo-hoo! It remained flat!' But staying flat in a market where the price increase was 52 percent [over last year] is incredible."

Enter White Gold. The mock rock god has been given the full Spinal Tap treatment courtesy of Goodby, Silverstein & Partners of San Francisco: a MySpace page went up last month, along with an elaborate White Gold Web site good for killing an hour if it doesn't crash your computer. Two full-length videos of White Gold's surprisingly excellent music (and ridiculously silly lyrics) have dribbled onto YouTube in the past month and will soon be available on iTunes. Last week short segments of the videos began appearing on California television along with "Behind the Music"-style documentary footage of the mythical guitar hero espousing the mighty virtues of milk (he once replaced a broken string midconcert with a lock of his protein-strengthened tresses).

If this all sounds a bit risky, the CMPB is not ditching its iconic "Got Milk?" campaign (the rights to which it leases to other dairy boards) anytime soon. But James sees the decidedly weird campaign—starring a teethtacular glam-rock wizard in a white tiger loincloth—as an opportunity to reach out to kids just as they're reaching out for sodas. "They tend to go outside the family and lose the mother gatekeeper making them drink milk with every meal," James tells NEWSWEEK. "That's a demographic that we really felt was important to relate to. This struck us this as the perfect way and the perfect tone: it's 'Zoolander'; it's 'Spinal Tap'—it really resonated for us." (Average board member age: 55-60. "We're a bunch of middle-aged dairy guys," says James. "One guy said, 'I don't get it, and that's probably a good thing'.")

Along the sliding scale of what constitutes a viral hit, James and the creative team at Goodby et al. might take solace from a few Web stats: the, uh, milktastical video for "One Gallon Axe" has netted 380,000 views in three weeks; "Tame the White Tiger," replete with cowbell, a milky jungle waterfall and lasers, has been watched more than 5,000 times in 10 days. White Gold counts Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl as a top MySpace friend, for what that's worth. And the reason the music is so spot-on is the songs are co-written by members of the cult Detroit band Electric Six. Will all this translate into dairy sales? It's funny now, but it may not have the timeless, malleable appeal of the milk-mustache campaign (possibly a moot point: the man has a wicked handlebar all his own). At least for the moment, White Gold is milk magical.