BBH Recalls Portraits of Past for Levi’s

NEW YORK For its new print effort showcasing Levi’s Type 1 jeans, Bartle Bogle Hegarty took inspiration from 19th century daguerreotypes, giving the campaign’s photographic images a metallic, faded look.

“The executions are similar to the jeans themselves, a modern interpretation of originals,” said Thomas Hayo, group creative director at BBH, which created the campaign.

To update the daguerreotype feel, BBH creatives researched that type of portrait extensively. “We looked into the way they were designed and lit, the posing and props,” said Hayo. “We tried to reference that but give it a modern spin.” (Daguerreotypes were shot on silver or copper plates in the mid-1800s.)

BBH employed fashion photographer Nick Knight to shoot models for the campaign over five days at a New York studio. Traditional poses were used, but the New York agency updated the implements the models held in the ads. “Rather than having old wooden tools, we used modern chrome elements,” Hayo said. “Some were more futuristic.”

In the first ad, breaking this week in Sports Illustrated, a model carries a chrome hubcap, referencing a 2002 TV spot for Type 1 jeans in which a woman steals back a car from a chop shop. In another execution, a model is viewed from the side holding a bag of glittering spears and knives.

The work was shot on large-format Polaroid film, first in black and white and then in color. In post-production, color elements were added to the monochrome images to create a feel of hand colorization, used in many original daguerreotypes.

The only trouble occurred, Hayo said, when an eagle was brought onto the set.

“Its wingspan was incredible—we got one amazing shot,” Hayo said. “Other than that it was a lot of blur and a lot of flapping around and a lot of madness.”

Seven subsequent print executions will break in magazines including Allure, Teen People and Details. Ads target 18-25 year olds and people “who have the pioneering spirit,” Hayo said.

Like “Stampede,” a spot which ran during the Super Bowl and paid homage to the buffalo, two additional TV ads will incorporate Western elements and celebrate Levi’s 150th birthday. They are due this summer.

Levi’s Jeans spent about $50 million on advertising in the first 11 months of 2002, according to CMR.