The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

I Love W+K But …
July 9, 2009, 6:30 am
Filed under: Comment

… I don’t think this new ad for LEVI’s isn’t going to do much for the brand …

… especially as it feels so similar to the sort of stuff BBH did for them way back when.

Yes, yes … I know that ad is about the wild West and the W+K spot is reflecting a more ‘modern’ America – but the ‘Western’ references are there for all to see, hence my belief this spot is not even an evolution for the Levi’s brand, just a modern interpretation of a commercial from 1994.


And to make it worse, in all those 15 years, there’s been quite a few Levi’s ads that could have served as a better foundation than the [admitedly great for the time] BBH ‘Creek’ spot, especially when you take into account the changing times, fashions and attitudes.

Even the new ‘Go Forth’ line doesn’t do anything for me – sounding more like a ‘Just Do It’ castoff rather than something that can unite and ignite the younger generation … the people Levi’s need to ensure they remain relevant and have a future.

Levi’s is a brand that genuinely needs ‘revolution’ and given we all know how brilliant W+K can be, I would assume this spot is proof the American client doesn’t want to let go of what they know – even though it’s not just pulling them back, it’s pulling them down.

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beautifully shot nothingness that will keep american execs happy but not stop the fucking rot until levis sort out their product, stores and fucking brand heart and pissing soul.

youre right campbell, doesnt look or feel like a wk ad so i suspect its another client going to the fucking doctor and diagnosing the problem themselves.

i feel like i did when i saw bbh first ba ad. disafuckingpointed and underfuckingwhelmed.

i hope the print is better, wk do print better than anyone else so fingers fucking crossed the clients not made them do more bbh early 90s castoffs and something that makes people think levis with the force of a 10 ton fucking truck.

Comment by andy@cynic

You’re going to think this is a predicatble response from me but I dont mind it.

True it does look and feel like the old ads but would the target market even of had any exposure/relation to them? The ad is filled with young people, so I’m assuming they’re trying to re-energise the brand through the youth of today and the embattled America in which they belong to… instilling all the old school values from scratch. Andy is right though… it’ll all mean nothing unless it feeds into their product and retail experience as well. Just my two cents.

The web stuff is pretty nice.

Comment by Age

am i the only one who hears gun shots. it s disturbing. for me, the picture painted is one of chaos and destruction. with all due respect to the situation in the job market and the struggle many people have to go through, the u.s. are not a havocked country in africa or somewhere else.
the ad reminds me of some diesel stuff from a while ago…

i agree that it does not much to unite and ignite the younger generation.

the bbh spot is nice 🙂 can t believe that it s already 15 years since it s been aired.

Comment by peggy

It is pretty nice, it’s also pretty predictable, there’s been and continues to be countless ads like this in the US.

I agree with Age that the modern teen won’t have been exposed to BBH’s great, old work but I don’t think the modern teen will particulary resonate with the message just because it has some young guys running about in it.

It feels like it was created by a 35 year old who thinks they know what modern teens feel and want but ended up making something that made him feel young instead.

That might help kick start sales of Levi’s with their 30+ age group, but they should remember what happened last time they followed that strategy. Youth don’t want to be seen in the brands their parents wear.

I think Rob and Andy’s comments are very pertinent but I do like the end line. It is very Nike, but it does seem to capture the Levi’s essence better than anything else I’ve heard for a long time.

All things considered this feels more client led than W+K which is testimony to how good our Portland friends are because I expect to be thrilled and made to think when they produce stuff and this did neither.

Beautifully shot though.

Comment by Pete

age has sexual fantasies about nike.
wk do nike.
so age loves wk.
wk do levis.
age likes levis spot.

predictable as fuck. 🙂

Comment by andy@cynic

Andy I’m actually coming to New York for a week or so start of September. Can I come and give you a hug?

Comment by Age

i know you are but man hugs arent my thing gay boy so bring babes and cash or walk the sreets alone.

Comment by andy@cynic

I don’t want to look a sheep but I’m with the majority on this.

I expect more from WK but to be fair to them, it is Levis we’re talking about, a brand about as rebellious as beige.

Comment by Bazza

I swear I’m being objective here…

But isn’t the USA’s national anthem an old song about war? Very graphically, its all bombs exploding overhead, destruction, smoke, rushing over ramparts, blood being washed away, the silence after the battle… and amongst it all, the flag standing strongly acting as a reminder of what the Yanks are fighting for. That IS the USA.

For me (and me alone it seems 🙁 ) this commercial really taps into the above notion accurately; an ideal of who authentic Americans are and what authentic American’s rally around when faced with hardship (like they are at the moment). They FIGHT and they CONQUER – perhaps somewhat arrogantly but fuck that’s the American way! People are looking for realness and reassurance at the moment… By aligning this classic American brand with the roots of what Americans believe about their country and themselves, I honestly think Wieden’s have created a true rallying cry for the target to connect with, even with a hard client like Levi’s seems to be (I wouldn’t know about that).


*puts on flame suit*

Andy, it’s a deal!

Comment by Age

I think Age’s exposure point is very relevant, though its not hard for them to be one click from it when they view the new one on You Tube.

I like the way its shot, and its alright. But I agree that it feels client led. Levi has always been best when it throws away convention, every time it struggles it seems to be holding onto it. This is holding on.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

This is the second day I am going against the popular vote, but I like the commercial.

This will no doubt prove Peter correct in his comment and assumptions as well as cement Levi’s irreversible brand decline.

Comment by Lee Hill

You have more faith in the power of advertising than I do Age.

Rallying cry? It’s an ad for a pair of jeans. Old man jeans. Lee jeans. 🙂

Are you looking to work at WK by any chance? Or maybe the guys who did that smiley Pepsi logo?

Just teasing but as Rob is Mr cultural planning man, I would like to hear his view on your thinking. I’m not disagreeing, but if it’s right then Levi’s have got their priorities all wrong.

Comment by Bazza

rob, i have a soft spot for being cynical about wk. i love their staff, but can get a little bored with their output sometimes being more about ‘wk’ than about the brand.

but this is not one of those times. the only thing really linking those two vids is the b&w stock. the new one is actually an amazingly rousing film which certainly goes a whole lot more further at creating some ID for the jeans: freedom, richness, diversity, love – as opposed to christian-girls-go-hot-for-sexy-white-boy same-old-same-old.

i’m with age and lee – i dig it.

BUT, they have to be able to back it up with good quality, well fitting jeans that will actually last the age (which the creek one certainly seemed to refer to). otherwise it’s just more of the same bollocks short film stuff.

Comment by lauren

I don’t want to appear rude, but if I read your comment prior to seeing the ad I’d be left feeling even more underwhelmedd.

Maybe I’m missing something or maybe it’s because there are many ads like this in the US but I just don’t experience the same energy from it as you guys clearly do. But then I see the links between the 2 ads and I mean more than just the b&w stock so maybe Australians and Virgin execs are wired differently from the rest of us. 🙂

Poor Rob, while he’s technologically lost in China we start using his blog properly. LOL

Comment by Bazza

this is all subjective, and i don t want to appear rude either…

the bbh spot was about product, heritage, sex, and a little rebellion

the new spot is about what? the images and the sound are sometimes contradictory (at least confusing or a bit cynical) and sometimes not.

i hear and see words of a poem – equal daughters and sons – houses in a shabby neighbourhood and then a guy who is apparently some rich business man wearing a suit. i see protests in the street, the police, little kids jumping around and old men sitting. love – a girl and a guy kissing and so on… i hear gun shots (yes, i do. and i do not like it). i see fireworks and sparks that don t really look like the ones from 4th july.

then i should go forth. where to. and where am i coming from after this.

Comment by peggy

im too fucking shocked at ages post rationalised bullshit to comment but some people seem to be confusing good film with good advertising.

the endline i could buy if some fucker pointed an ak at my head but the film?

you can see that shit watching an episode of cops.

Comment by andy@cynic

im telling george on you lee.
or you can buy me dinner on saturday.

will you book or me?

Comment by andy@cynic

It’s black and white.

Comment by john

rob, i’m trying to not sound facetious here, but what’s the difference (in tone, feel and intention) between this and something like schweppes burst? really, isn’t it about creating a mood, or shell for an emotional and experiential response?

or, like bazza said, maybe there’s something that i’m not seeing that is blatantly obvious. or i could just be reading into things a little too much. not that i do that at all. nope. never. not me.


Comment by lauren

to be fair to campbell, he didnt claim the schweppes ad was a rally cry for the rebelious soda drinker.

in fact if i remember rightly, the daft fucker was pretty critical about the whole thing because the client just went with an ad but then compared to levis, schweppes have fuck all to worry about.

are you impressed with my loyalty? ill be charging him for that.

Comment by andy@cynic

I agree with Lauren. This is fashion… It’s about giving your audience a reason to be interested or belong. Like a badge of honor. Sure Levis might be pretty cheapo jeans without much street cred in younger audiences, but at least this ad clearly gives the brand something fresh to stand for. No one let alone myself can explain why I might buy one pair or jeans over another (especially pretty plain standard ones like Levis…) it’s the badge of honor that makes the difference. And in fashion it matters more than anything! Better to have something than nothing I say.

Comment by Age

no one is saying this ad won’t appeal to anyone, its not like itll be total fucking success or total fucking failure.

you, lauren and lee like it. good for you. look forward to you buying 5 pairs each this weekend.

some of us think its poor, nothing new and generic as fuck, deal with it.

it will shift some product but not enough for where levis need because for all their distribution and spend, they still are stuck in their brand rut because their product, stores and message arent fucking relevant enough.

you dont have to tell me about the power of belonging age, ive been doing this for longer than youve been wanking but you might need a lesson in what turns messages into active belonging because if you think an ad and a pretty tame ad at that can do it, youll never be president or whatever it is of fucking australia.

Comment by andy@cynic

I’m quite happy at the debate this post has caused …

I must say I am quite shocked that Lauren thinks the only similarity between the ads are the B&W film stock, but I am more amused at the long and detailed post-rationalised commentary Age gives.

Maybe he is right – and if he is, then I would say WK have committed the cardinal sin in cultural planning … they’ve forgotten the brand.

What I mean is that as much as I am happy people are starting to look at culture as a planning input, it still has to find a way to relate to the brand/category or it becomes overly self indulgent – something that will still work, but nowhere near what it could achieve given the realities of how people consume advertising. If this ad is indeed based on Age’s beautifully scribed proposition – then I would say the element of ‘category’ is sorely missing because take away the brand and it could be for a whole host of other companies including those as far removed from jeans/clothing as you can get.

The really annoying thing is that I think with a couple of changes, it could of been amazing. Not just as a piece of film, but as something that drives Levi’s change because as it stands now, it is more like a grown up Pepsi ad than Levi’s … more about anger and/or [contrived] justice than rebellion.

But regardless of all this, the real problem for me – and taking away the most important and real issue of product and distribution – it doesn’t go far enough, doesn’t really make a stand for what it believes or what it wants, doesn’t encapsulate the real heart of the brand and just comes across as yet another american corporate trying to be edgy when everything else about them screams otherwise.

Will it work? Yep.

Will it work as well as they want? Possibly – but I totally doubt it.

But you know, Harvey Norman and The Sun are popular too … it doesn’t mean it couldn’t be done better. In essence my issue with the WK component of this campaign [acknowledging the real blame can be placed at the feet of Levi’s] is their standards.

As we all know WK standards are some of the very highest and whilst it’s beautifully shot, to me it fails interms of the evolution, imagery, energy and hunger it needs to really create change for Levi’s and given these are attributes WK have squeezed out of NIKE for years, they should be able to do better than anyone else.

Levi’s need relevance – but they are chasing acceptance and that is something the brand should never do.

I know I’m saying lots but meaning little – it’s because I’ve just got back, am tired and yet trying to catch up on all the stuff that happened while I’m away – so give me a couple of days and I’ll try and be more succinct with what I’m trying to say because for someone in the communication industry, I know I’m not doing much communicating, ha!

Comment by Rob

3 words.

Apple Crazy Ones.

Comment by Bazza

Well done Baz – those ‘read with Mother’ books are really making a difference. Next time, see if you can go for 4 …

Comment by Rob

Wow. Ok… well I like it.
PS. I actually agreed with you in my first comment, Andy.

Comment by Age

And to think Andy really likes and rates Age …

Imagine what George goes through each and every day. 🙂

Comment by Rob

you can be sure that, when we catch up tomorrow, this ad will be a hot topic between age, ben and i, over espresso. which is shit, because i hate talking about ads.


Comment by lauren

i think my comment has come across like im a fucking bastard. this is why i fucking trust politicians more than technology and i fucking hate politicians so let me say to age no offence was meant even if i think youre talking shite. 🙂

and for fucks sake lauren get a life. talking about ads in social time is fucking sad even more so if its about fake fight the system sponsored by levis who are part of the system ad campaigns.

Comment by andy@cynic

jesus you don’t know when to stop do you!

Comment by lauren

its a talent i learnt from ex #1and #2

Comment by andy@cynic

I love it. You talk about changing culture and here is an ad that addresses the cultural DNA mutations of American. It’s raw. It’s honest and it’s healthy. I wrote about this before I saw your post. There is much social commentary opportunities that come from this ad it’s inspirational.

The words are Walt Whitman which is why I think we could dispense with the commercial copy writing hacks and just use poetry for a while.

Comment by Charles

Also I don’t know how you can compare the two ads. Go Forth has a black man kissing a white woman at the end. Racial segregation was still going on in the 60’s…. Black prison population is huge. The BBH ad shtick is heritage.

The W&K ad is about the future of building on decay. It’s a 50 000 word article in itself.

Ghetto kids doing back flips versus Coach and horses? They’re both black and white and that’s where it ends.

Comment by Charles

Glad they remembered to get the logo in at the very end. Otherwise I would have been lost.

Comment by Marcus

For me the new ad is a modern interpretation of the wild west … conflict between opposing groups, love and violence, a new dawn for a young country/generation … and I think that is quite an interesting area but it’s too subtle [which is why maybe most people can’t see it. ha] however whilst this is all well and good, it doesn’t show LEVI’s role in all this social revolution which is why I am disappointed and why I think something like Apple “Crazy One’s” ad is a much better example of a brand trying to unite a group of people and give them a sense of belonging, purpose and alliance.

But hey, the fact we’re talking about this is good news for WK and Levi’s … but if not enough people end up buying any of their jeans, it’s all been an expensive adventure in ad/corporate ego – which is, sadly. what I still think I’ll be saying 12 months from now.

Marcus’ point say’s it all …

Comment by Rob

You’re both talking about it and you’ll never forget this ad no matter how important it really is.

And this isn’t the time to roll out the Gary Glitter reply because nobody is advertising Gary Glitter.

Levis are Jeans Marcus. They were big when they used laundrettes to remind people they are clothes. The music was incidental though….

Comment by Charles

Although to be fair I think it’s where they take this ad that could be interesting. It’s not just about some art on the telly. Though it is art.

Comment by Charles

Let me tell you right now Charles, I’ve already forgotton the ad – I can just about remember the endline and to say it is both [1] important and [2] art … demonstrates how in some areas we couldn’t be further apart in our views of what makes effective brand communication.

There’s nothing wrong with that – infact it’s healthy – but no one has said anything that has changed my view yet so I guess we’ll have to wait 12 months to see what the masses think/did.

And as for culture.

For me, it’s about acknowledging and embracing it rather than trying to change it – however even if there is the opportunity to do that [which is potentially overselling the power of ads somewhat] you need to find a way to involve the brand rather than just put a logo on the end of a piece of film.

And the reason I’m talking about it is because I’m in the industry – I doubt if I was a bloke in a record shop I’d give it more than a passing thought. Of course I don’t know that for sure, but it really didn’t do a thing for me, accepting I’m not who it is supposed to attract in the first place, so maybe in those circumstances, it’s bloody genius.

To be fair though, the web stuff they’ve done is good – with a really interesting idea [edit the declaration of independence] that actively involves LEVI’s – but I worry the only people who’ll visit it is those in adland – but lets not go into that conversation just yet, ha!

Comment by Rob

Talk about missing the point – I don’t know how this ad can possibly be considered groundbreaking or even relevant. It isn’t a new thought, it isn’t showing Levi’s in a different/ relevant light, and it doesn’t seem to be talking to their target audience either (assuming they still want young hipsters) .. I think their original online idea of ‘editing’ the declaration is really powerful – don’t let anyone dictate freedom to you – I think that’s brilliant given the world we live in. And so much more powerful that a ‘pretty’ film (walt whitman’s poetry was the highlight of this one)

Maybe they need to revive the Americana values – the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. and do this in a way that allows people to achieve things, explore new ideas, share thinking or change the world around them. whether it’s thru a levi’s lobby group, education, training or speakeasies – the idea is *SO* much bigger than just advertising.

I think Levi’s needs a good old dose of ‘bravery’ – figure out how to stand for these values in a way that benefits the brand AND the bottomline..

I’d do road trips allowing the youth to rediscover their country, find pride in heritage and build creativity w knowledge. Allen ginsberg and watermelon sugar, anyone?

Comment by Kaj

Honestly Charles, I really don’t understand why this rings your bell in the way it does. I have totally forgotten it.

Comment by Marcus

The only people who really care about ads are people in adland.

Comment by john

You are so right John … especially when they method they use to convey an idea is only limited to the channels where advertising lives.

Comment by Rob

I went out and bought some Levis Jeans today. Did you guys see there recent ad? It’s fab.

Comment by Charles

Oh. And I”ve had W&K’s cock up my ass when they tried to set up an agency in Beijing for Nokia so I think this sentiment comes from the heart.

Comment by Charles

im going to burn a fucking federal building down. levis told me to.

Comment by andy@cynic

Hot air. What brand again?

Comment by Charles


I don’t know how you can write that with a straight face. Given that the semiotic-obvious has flown over your head can you look at it again and point out what it says about America that no other ad has ever done?

I could tell you but that would be too easy.

Comment by Charles

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