CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/LEVI'S - Glazer engineers innovative departure in Levi's love story. Levi's changes strategy for its final Engineered Jeans ad

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

about innovation.

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

expects newness."

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

should be."

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'."

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