CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR: LEVI’S STA-PREST - He’s fluffy, yellow, and his cute antics helped to rejuvenate Levi Strauss. BBH’s creation, Flat Eric, was a hit with both advertising juries and consumers

A head-banging, finger-tapping yellow puppet made a huge mark on popular culture last year, winning the hearts of the UK public as well as Campaign’s coveted campaign of the year.

A head-banging, finger-tapping yellow puppet made a huge mark on

popular culture last year, winning the hearts of the UK public as well

as Campaign’s coveted campaign of the year.



Flat Eric, created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty, revived the fortunes of Levi

Strauss across Europe, making the brand - and the Sta-Prest range -

’cool’ once again. Levi’s succeeded in shedding the ’Jeremy Clarkson’

effect, which had almost confined high-street denim to the backsides of

middle-aged men.



The first ad, broadcast last January, showed Eric and his human pal,

Angel, cruising the streets in their car while bopping to a ’dirty

house’ tune. In the second spot they are pulled over by a policeman and

forced to open their boot, which is packed with perfectly pressed

clothes. He lets them drive off and stares forlornly at his creased

shirt. In the third ad, Eric swats a fly on Angel’s trousers, which

remain uncreased.



Within days of airing the first batch of three commercials, ’ID’, ’fly’

and ’dancing’, Levi’s was inundated with calls and e-mails about the

music and where to buy Flat Eric dolls. Acres of press coverage have

been devoted to deconstructing our fluffy yellow friend, but still the

subculture surrounding Eric defies rational explanation.



A single and a replica toy were rushed into the shops and Flat Beat, the

techno soundtrack, sold 2.5 million copies across Europe. The tune made

number one in the UK, Germany, Norway, Belgium, Austria and Italy.



Flat Eric was one of the first advertising icons to claim an internet

presence. He was originally introduced to 150 ’opinion formers’ through

an unbranded e-mail film and a whole range of Flat Eric e-mails were

doing the rounds last spring. Fans created their own Flat Eric sites and

by May the official site, levi.com, had received 1.1 million hits - more

than in the whole of 1998.



The campaign began as a one-off burst of three ads, but public response

was so overwhelming that Levi’s and BBH brought Eric and Angel back for

a six-week encore in August and September.



In five new commercials, Angel’s Sta-Prest creases remained immaculate

as the duo dodged the police, got squashed by a giant hot dog and took

cover in a mortuary. The second burst took Eric out of the underground

and into the commercial mainstream, with a selection of merchandise on

sale and replica puppets in every shop window. Levi’s promises that Eric

has made his last appearance, cleverly conferring legendary status on

the 20th century hero.



Awards juries liked the Flat Eric work as much as the rest of the

population.



At the Campaign Media Awards, Motive won best use of new media and best

international campaign. At the British Television Advertising Awards, it

won a gold, a silver and two bronze arrows, and in Cannes the television

work picked up two gold lions, while the supporting print campaign

landed five bronze lions.



According to Levi’s, volume sales of Sta-Prest increased dramatically

over a four-month tracking period, growing by 21 times in the UK, 19

times in Italy, six times in Spain and three times in France. BBH had

successfully thrown off the ’boy meets girl’ theme, side-stepped the

embarrassing faux pas of Kevin the dead hamster and discovered a

contemporary classic.



Most people who go into advertising would kill to be associated with a

campaign that had the impact of Flat Eric. Take a bow Quentin Dupieux,

who directed the films through Partizan Midi Minuit, and the creative

team at BBH - John Hegarty, Nick Gill, Kim Papworth and Tony

Davidson.



Eric and Angel were, however, given a run for their money by HHCL &

Partners’ ’wake-up call’ campaign for Iceland. The agency challenged

consumers’ perceptions of Iceland by treating them as children. Richard

Briers’ voiceover on the commercials asked viewers ’which bit don’t you

understand?’ in a withering tone that had enough bite to counter

accusations of patronising customers.



TV, radio, press and public relations were used to persuade the public

that Iceland sells more than just frozen food and to ram home the

message that it had banned all genetically modified ingredients in May

1998.



The Iceland campaign also claims sales success. According to HHCL,

Iceland is the fastest growing national food retailer, with sales up 24

per cent year on year and a share price that peaked at 315p compared

with a low of 77p just three years ago.



Another supermarket, Tesco, was also commended for the enduring

popularity of its advertising. Up against relentless ’rip-off Britain’

media hype and the arrival of Wal-Mart, Lowe Howard-Spink helped Tesco

to retain its market leadership by adapting the ’Dotty’ campaign.

Prunella Scales’ blue-rinsed old biddy successfully conveyed a price

message while holding on to the brand values built up over the previous

ten years.



Campaign also applauds HHCL’s work for Go, the low-cost airline from

British Airways. The ’spots’ design maintained its freshness as the

airline, which launched in May 1998, became an established player.



Sony PlayStation also continued to cause a stir. TBWA GGT Simons Palmer

maintained the brand’s sinister tone, notably with the impressive and

much talked-about Fifi, the cyber-pixie who told us to ’land on your own

moon’.



Recent winners: Volkswagen Polo (1998); Volkswagen ’affordability’

(1997); Conservative Party (1996); Miller Pilsner (1995); Wonderbra

(1994).



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