The downside of working on an account with a fantastic creative
heritage is that you are constantly under pressure to improve on
something great. This is very much the case with Bartle Bogle Hegarty
and Levi's: demanding young denim buyers expect new ideas. In their
latest campaign, BBH and Levi's deliver.
The new campaign will support the Levi's Engineered Jeans sub-brand -
the third, and final, major campaign to do so. It's a sign that Levi's
has discarded the strategy that surrounded 501s, which saw the same
sub-brand enjoy ten years of above-the-line support. Today it's all
Kenny Wilson, Levi's European brand president, explains: "The strategy
we've laid out is continually to show innovation in our products and
advertising. By next year we won't be communicating Levi's Engineered
Jeans on TV even though it's a very successful part of our business,
accounting for about 9 per cent of our sales. By the autumn of this year
you'll see us backing another product."
Alistair Green, a board account planner at BBH, points out that Levi's
120-year history hasn't been characterised by innovation. He adds that
BBH wanted Levi's to move away from backing its 501 brand long before it
eventually did. Now it's catch-up time.
He explains why there's so much pressure to innovate: "Already the more
leading-edge people in Europe are beginning to say, 'I've done Levi's
Engineered Jeans, I like it, but what's next.' We're in a time of fast
fashion. Shops such as Zara and H&M are cranking it out constantly.
People are buying things to wear just a couple of times. The consumer
The new Levi's Engineered Jeans work certainly doesn't content itself
with being the third installment of a series. It is itself a departure
from the previous two ads, not least because of its classical music
soundtrack. Green explains: "With Levi's Engineered Jeans we started
with something very different. We knew nobody would understand what a
twisted side seam was, so we had to show it again and again. Once people
understood that we were able to move on."
"Odyssey", shot by Academy's Jonathan Glazer, is the result. It
communicates the freedom to move in a pair of Engineered Jeans without
having to hammer home an obvious message. A young man and woman are
shown crashing repeatedly through walls, running up giant evergreen
trees and jumping into a vast night sky.
Wilson is proud of the work: "It communicates the freedom of movement of
Levi's Engineered Jeans on an emotional and rational level. It's a great
film that really delivers."
The young people are free to move because of their comfortable jeans and
because the kind of people who wear Engineered Jeans are free. Glazer
says: "I don't know what it's about. For me it's a 60-second love story.
It's very simple in one way but quite spiritual and entertaining in
Glazer, a renowned perfectionist, admits: "It came out pretty well, it
was a hard one but I liked the simplicity of it.
"When I saw the script, I knew this was worth doing, I knew it could be
very good, but I wanted to see whether the creatives would be up for
changing it into what it is now. I had a vision straight away of how it
The use of classical music, Handel's Sarabande, is a big departure for
Levi's and BBH, famous for spotting a future number-one, pounding bass
and drum track. The music was chosen by Glazer as a provisional
soundtrack to work with as the film was being developed. Glazer says: "I
didn't want to depict the pictures too literally with sound. A crash
bang wallop would be too prosaic. I wanted objectivity so I made it
delicate. What you hear doesn't reflect the images, it does the
opposite, it works against the picture and that is much more
However, he adds: "It wasn't my final choice of music. It's what I
originally cut the ad to, but there was one which was more to my taste.
It was Vivaldi, but the client and agency chose Handel in the end. The
music was a reminder of the difference between working in features and
ads. In ads, someone can take your freedom away from you and make a
choice for you."
Wilson, who was bowled over by Glazer ("he over-delivered on my
expectations"), does admit that the music is "not perfectly paced". But
he adds: "It has a raw energy that matches the energy of the spot."
The campaign doesn't break until 21 February. Levi's has released the
film to the press early as it leaked to a trade title in December.
Nevertheless, the early talk of the film will no doubt generate
The campaign was ready before Christmas because Levi's likes to work
well ahead of schedule, in part because it enables the media agency,
Starcom Motive, to see the ads before it books space for them. BBH is
currently briefing the creative for spring 2003's advertising.
"Odyssey", created by perfectionists, took three months to complete.
Wilson thinks it's better than the existing "twist" work and says: "It's
up there with the best Levi's advertising. It has potential to be as
good as 'creek' and 'launderette'."