The 4 states of Levi’s, courtesy BBH

Levi’s is going through a rough patch now because of the pandemic.

But it has a legendary brand created and nurtured in the past. One agency was behind many of these ads that created this legend – BBH (many of these were written by John Hegarty and Barbara Noakes).

There are several ads that are hugely entertaining and set the brand’s famous jeans in a perspective where you’d crave for it.

Here are my favorite 4.

1. Intact

My absolute favorite is the one called ‘Creek’, featuring an original song, ‘Inside’, by the Scottish rock band Stiltskin. This was Levi’s ad in 1994.

The set-up is late 1800s America. An Amish family is out on a picnic and the two daughters move towards the creek. One of them sees a man bathing in there while the other finds a pair of jeans drying on the rock nearby. As the man gradually gets out of the water, the two daughters hold on to the pair of jeans in what can only be explained as a combination of embarrassment and expectation.

What happens next is to be seen and enjoyed 🙂

2. Still intact, but out for a spin!

If the pair of Levi’s were intact in the ‘Creek’ where they got washed once, they are still intact in the ‘Swimmer’ (1992) but get into multiple washes!

It was director Tarsem Singh’s first ad film, fresh from his success of the music video of REM’s Losing My Religion.

Unlike ‘Creek’, this one doesn’t have a ‘story’ of sorts. It just repeats the same act multiple times and ends with a perfect caption to tie it all together! Till you see the last line, you’d be wondering ‘why?’. And, for a product that is well-known for being worn without washing (or not washing at all/frequently), they turn the tables in a cheeky twist 🙂

3. They are out and still in a spin!

If the jeans were not removed in the ‘Creek’ and ‘Swimmer’, they sure were, in the ‘Laundry’ (1985).

I was reading about the background of this ad.

“the ad campaign was designed to try and save Levi’s flagging fortunes; the company was under attack from all sorts of other fashionable brands. In short, Levi’s (which had been going since the 1850s) were becoming the sort of jeans worn by people’s dads. And not even trendy dads – it was middle-aged “fuddy-duddies” wearing “polyester Levi’s Action Slacks”. Research showed that the intended target audience for Levi’s 501 (15 to 19-year-olds) saw the United States of the fifties and sixties as cool time and place in history: James Dean, Elvis Presley and Sam Cooke all belonged to this mythical, wondrous world. Unless the ad agencies came up with something new, the alternative was going with the American campaign for 501, which was all about how well the jeans fitted in the United States of Ronald Reagan. The image seemed the opposite of MTV and European chic.”

Source

British model and musician Nick Kamen walks into a laundrette and does the unthinkable – strips down to his boxer shorts, puts his white t-shirt and Levi’s into the washing machine, and sits down to wait for them to be washed even as flustered men and keenly eyeing women gape at him!

Result?

“Consumers wrote in to Levi’s in their thousands asking for a picture of Kamen. Meanwhile, sales of 501 shot up by an incredible 800% in the wake of the ad, which eventually had to be taken off the air because the Company couldn’t produce enough jeans to meet the new demand… By 1987 sales of Levi’s jeans were reported to be 20 times what they had been just three years earlier. The commercial also boosted sales of boxer shorts to a record high, though the ad agency only put Kamen in a pair of boxers because they weren’t allowed to show their hero in a pair of jockeys”

Source

4. Lost!

If the Levi’s were in a state of being intact and being washed in the earlier ads, they get lost, in dramatic style, in the ‘Night and Day’ (1992).

This too was directed by Tarsem Singh and flips the Cinderella story to hilarious effect after teasing you in the wrong direction. The gender roles are swapped – prince to a princess, and the princess is in search of a factory worker to get him off the drudgery using nothing but a pair of jeans. The caption at the end explains the point of the search and the film perfectly 🙂


Bonus – a fifth, again by BBH, from 1989, called ‘Pick up’. Largely predictable, great fun as usual – but killer caption in the end 🙂

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