Reality TV, Levi’s Style

NEW YORK In Bartle Bogle Hegarty’s latest television work for Levi’s, news coverage of police officers chasing a criminal suspect intersects with the life of a twentysomething guy who watches the story unfold on TV.

Directed by Gorgeous’ Frank Budgen, the spot begins with a guy and his girlfriend lounging in their underwear in front of the tube on what appears to be a lazy Sunday night. Both seem bored and happy to “veg out.” But he springs to his feet once he recognizes a scene on the screen: the clothesline outside his apartment on which a pair of his Levi’s 501s are drying. In an attempt to throw off his chasers, the suspect doffs his clothes and puts on the 501s. Within seconds, the owner bolts outside, tackles the suspect and reclaims his jeans. Police then capture the suspect, who’s down to his boxers and a tank-top undershirt.

The New York agency shot the ad outside Buenos Aires, Argentina, mainly because it would be easier logistically, said Thomas Hayo, group creative director on Levi’s. After all, BBH and Budgen wanted to create an “any town” U.S.A. feel for the televised chase, Hayo said.

The concept was relatively simple, but the shoot was complicated because the “chase” involved a helicopter and Budgen shot the grainy TV video footage as well. That required the closing of streets at night.

Also, to minimize the number of helicopter flights, Budgen shot several suspects at once, each dressed in the same clothes. (The crew realized it had achieved realism after local residents called police to report suspects running in the neighborhood.)

Budgen, whose reel includes Cannes showstoppers such as “Tag” and “Streaker” for Nike and “Mountain” for Sony PlayStation, helped simplify the execution by using “as few shots as possible,” said Hayo. For example, a foot chase of the suspect by the jeans owner was reduced to a quick tackle. “He really wanted to reduce it to its simplest form,” Hayo explained.

“News Story,” which broke last weekend, was cut in 30- and 60-second versions with Amee Shah as art director, Matt Ian as copywriter and Julian Katz as senior producer. Kevin Roddy is executive creative director of BBH in New York.

The execution is the first of two new Levi’s spots from BBH. The other, “Straight,” features a man and woman who literally follow a straight line, without fail. Gorgeous’ Tom Carty directed the spot, which also was produced in 30- and 60-second versions and breaks in a few weeks. It features straight-cut 514 jeans.

A budget for Levi’s broadcast effort was not disclosed. Last year, the San Francisco-based client spent about $75 million on TV media and about $120 million overall, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.