California milk producers are hoping that the endorsement of a weeping apparition who murdered her children will be enough to convince local consumers to buy milk.

“Are we taking a chance? Absolutely,” said Jeff Manning, spokesman for the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB) told the Los Angeles Times. “I hope it’s an intelligent risk.”

The ghost, whose name La Llorona is Spanish for weeping woman, is a powerful symbol in Latin American culture. The legend goes that a young woman bore her husband two children before he lost interest in her – leaving her highly distressed. She drowns the children in a moment of madness and then, realising her action, she kills herself.

Now she appears as a ghost stalking the Earth looking for her children – and parents often warn naughty children to behave – or else La Llorona will come for them.

The US$2m adverts will air today [Monday] for the first time and CMAB, the organisation famous for its “Got Milk?” campaign, hopes that the advert will appeal directly to teenagers. This social group is drinking less and less milk, according to statistics that show consumption is “trending down”. The advert was therefore designed by four Latino students at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, in the hope that they could more effectively pitch a message to their peers.

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The advert, in which La Llorona weeps after finding the milk carton in the refrigerator is empty, will only use one word – leche –  making it one of only a few occasions Spanish has been used to sell goods through English-language TV. On the cultural differences, Manning accepted that “without question, many people who are Anglo will not understand the myth of La Llorona,” but he insisted that the ad has an advantage because it is so radically different.

Some observers in the Latin American community have questioned whether the advert will really work, however. Gabriela Lemus, director of policy for the League of United Latin American Citizens in Washington, told the Los Angeles Times: “My grandmother used to say, ‘La Llorona is coming to get you’ – I don’t know if I’d buy milk from someone who was trying to kill me.”

At first, the commercial will only run in California, but it is being offered to other regions.