OPINION: Mills on ... Levi's

What would you feel if you got the chance to do the next Levi's ad? Fear at the weight of expectation, at the prospect of being measured against a string of glittering predecessors? Or exhilaration at the thought of being given your head, at the chance to cut loose from the constraints that dog most commercials? Or a bit of both?

On a smaller scale, how would you feel about being asked to review, as in this column, a Levi's ad? Would you be exhilarated at the thought of discussing cutting-edge, landmark advertising and the prospect of using cutting-edge metaphors to deconstruct and dissect an iconic film? Or would you be fearful of not understanding it, thus revealing that you are, at heart, Jeremy Clarkson? And what about the music, which is sometimes so avant-garde it's intimidating?

Well, there's always the route taken by Danny Brooke-Taylor of BDH/TBWA, who reviewed the ad in Private View two weeks ago.

He started by not understanding it - which meant he hated it - but after a few viewings found himself loving it. A bit like watching Ozzy in The Osbournes, really.

The plot, such as it is, is unpromising. A gang of mutant mice-humans (somehow rather tall, thin and sexy though, which means, obviously, that neither Jack nor Kelly is in the ad) cruise the streets of Los Angeles. They look like the kind of kids who, if they were humans, would be labelled "mall rats". They kidnap a cat, thus putting one over on their natural enemy. A few phone-calls later, a rendezvous in an underground car park, and the cat is reunited with its loving owner in return for bundles of cash. Oh, and there's an absolutely fizzing soundtrack by the Dysfunctionals, which seems to be the latest nom de plume for the ex-Massive Attack star Nellee Hooper. Michel Gondry directs in his inimitable edgy style.

Of course, it's preposterous on one level, but when weren't Levi's ads?

It's formulaic too in the way the story is constructed and the elements assembled: cool role models doing something weird plus a "now" piece of music. But what a formula and, anyway, doesn't Gordon Ramsay cook to a formula?

However, the thing about Levi's ads - and it is a thing not often appreciated - is that they work best when there's a strong product message to tell and sell. Think back over the most recent ads: Flat Eric, the stretchers and twisters who stopped at the roadside diner, "odyssey" and the one last year featuring some heavy frottage. In each case the ads introduced a new style or look, whether Sta-Prest, twisted engineering or the pre-washed look. Classics, each and every one. But when there's no product message, the ads lack lustre. Just remember Kevin the Hamster.

And that, in a nutshell, is why this ad shines. There's a genuine product to sell, in this case Type One jeans, to which Levi's has attached the tagline: "A bold new breed." (Hence the mice-humans - geddit?) And sell it hard it does, right from the opening shot that picks up on yellow road markings that resemble the yellow stitching in the jeans. Later on our mutant friends strut their stuff in their deep indigo denim jeans with exaggerated buttons, rivets, stitching, arcuate and patch icons (I'm reading off the press release here), and the camera doesn't pass up on a single opportunity to linger on some shapely denim-clad torsos. Watch out too for the shot in which a girl mutant digs a coin out of the special coin pocket in order to make the vital ransom phone call, thus demonstrating another product benefit. That's high drama married to, er, high commerce which, when you think about it, is Levi's for you.

Dead cert for a Pencil? You got it.

File under ... W for weird and wonderful.

What would the chairman's wife say? "Were any animals harmed during the

making of this commercial?"