Ajax White Knight - Clad in silver armor and
mounted on a white steed, the Ajax White Knight galloped valiantly down
neighborhood streets zapping dirty laundry with his magic white lance (a potent
Medieval phallic symbol) to the tune of "Stronger than Dirt." First featured in
a 1963 TV spot for the Colgate-Palmolive Company, the "White Knight" (called by
the industry the worst campaign of that year) went on to become one of
television's most successful. The Norman, Craig & Kummel Agency who devised the
Ajax White Knight campaign had a similar success with their "White Tornado"
concept in 1962.
The inspiration for the White Knight campaign originated in a dream that the ad
creator, Joe Sacco had one night. He saw a nightmarish world of housewives
trapped in dungeons filled with dirty laundry, unable to escape the drudgery of
daily routine. This dream gave him the idea for creating a savior who would
steal them away from that realm of soiled clothing, a liberator who would
unleash them from those tedious household chores.
At first a figure of Sir Galahad was considered, but later a nameless White
Knight character was chosen to reflect the cleaning potential of the detergent.
There was a follow up "Name that White Knight" contest but it was a dismal
failure. The White Knight campaign ran successfully for five years.
TRIVIA NOTE: Earlier in his career, the now
successful novelist Clive Cussler was a Hollywood adman. He was one of the
copywriters responsible for the Ajax White Knight commercial slogan, "It's
stronger than dirt."
The rock group Soul, Inc.'s used the white knight slogan in their single
"Stronger Than Dirt." The parody lyrics ("He rides a white horse, look out he'
coming your way, you better run, you better get out of his way...the cat is
cool") did quite well on the Louisville charts, reaching number one in the
summer of 1967.
In September 1968, The National Organization for Women (NOW) called its first
boycott of Colgate-Palmolive products and demonstrated for five days in front of
the company's New York City headquarters on Park Avenue. Anselma Dell'Olio and
Barbara Love of New York NOW led the action with picket signs that read "Down
the Drain With Ajax," "The White Knight Is A Dirty Old Man" and "Cold Power
Versus Woman Power."
In 1995, Roger Ebert's movie review of the film Stuart Saves His Family revealed
"The movie uses flashbacks to establish the various family diseases. When little
Stuart entered the TV contest to name the Ajax white knight, for example, he
liked his entry (Sir Clean-a-Lot), until father started calling him Sir
Eat-a-Lot." See also - The