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Sometimes an ad is memorable for its artistry; sometimes it's snot

Advertising agencies write the darnedest things. Take the humdinger on a billboard along Columbia Road near Dorchester's Upham's Corner, "Wherever Snot Freezes, We'll Be There."

The ad, for Columbia Sportswear, was written by Borders, Perrin & Norrander, the outfit in Portland, Ore., that has handled the Columbia Sportswear account for almost 20 years. Last year, they ran one that read, "They say hoods are the rage in Paris, but who gives a crap?"

"We try to ride a line," says Daniel Baxter, the firm's account planning director. "Sometimes we go over it."

The arresting billboard breaks new ground in these parts. You just don't hear "snot" much in the Boston pre-Christmas season. "Joy," "Peace," and "Cashmere" sure -- but not "snot."

Baxter concedes the ad has generated some negative reaction, as well as hoots from the doughty supporters of fifth-grade bathroom humor. "The ones who don't like it say `snot' is a nasty word," he says. "So what word would be better -- `boogers?' " Good point, Dan.

"Everyone can relate to it. It's a very playful line," adds Columbia account supervisor Bill Mattis, helpfully.

Playful is key with Columbia, says Emily Petterson, head of PR for the company. "Humor is always the basis of our ad campaigns," she explains.

The "snot freezes" line was written for Columbia's ice field parka, a garment built for the gnarliest conditions. Petterson didn't get graphic, but it stands to reason that if you've got a cold while traversing an ice field, pretty much everything's going to freeze. (So what about "Wherever Nose Hairs Freeze . . ."?)

The ads went up last month in 40 cities in the northern climes. They're coming down soon, so catch this while you can. The billboard on Columbia Road is a breathtaking vision.

"That's our goal," Mattis says.

Yes, but where does all this lead?

Sam Allis can be reached at allis@globe.com.

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