NEW YORK To sell its new line of slim, straight jeans, this new Levi's campaign from Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York, uses a clever play on straight. It features the powerful music of Johnny Cash ("I Walk the Line") and sends its message two ways, gender-wise. (Print and poster work aimed at a gay audience also has some fun with "straight.")
Just as there are separate girl/guy versions of the jeans, there are female and male versions of the commercials. This is new—I can't recall a major brand selling the same product to men and women simultaneously in two different commercials. But what would seem to be an arbitrarily rigid and old-fashioned take on the separation of the sexes instead comes off as incredibly modern. Each spot is so elegantly art directed (more like architected) in terms of lines and angles that in one it's possible for the couple to intersect perfectly, and they do. At the same time, each of the three spots can stand alone.
Beautifully shot (by Tom Carty of Gorgeous Pictures) in black and white in the almost mystical light of downtown Buenos Aires, Argentina, the spots evoke a bit of Crazy Legs here, a bit of Laundromat there. Overall, they're about sex and determination. Each slim-jeaned model does, as the song goes, keep his eyes "wide open all the time," and is shown walking every iteration of the line—trekking zomboid-like through traffic jams, right over office desks and/or park benches if necessary. At one point, the guy climbs a chain link fence and walks through a construction site, leaving impressions of his high tops in the wet cement. He is model/actor Jamie Dornan (Keira Knightly's ex); she is Lily Aldridge, and in their skinny-leggedness, at least, they would seem to out-perfect and out-smolder even Brangelina.
If the point of walkin' is to meet at a destination, these two could create a race of baby long-legs that could rule the world.
The music fits—Johnny Cash famously wrote the song (his first hit) about being true to his new wife June, hence the title of the recent movie. The gender specificity thing is even part of the music: the boy spot features a male singer named Adem; Megan Wyler sings in the female spot, and each brings a quirky style to the cover that makes a powerful song even more resonant for Levi's. (Although it would have worked equally well to mix the boy singer into the girl spot, and vice versa.)
In terms of all just getting along (and why can't we?), the spots are hyper-modular: the individual 30-second ads are supported by a dual-gender 60-second commercial, in which both of the stories meld together, visually and musically. A male/female :30 as well as a single-gender :15 will be rotated throughout. The result keeps us on our toes: with each encounter, we get a slightly different version of the story.
As for the gay audience, posters urge, "Explore your straight side," with humorous diagrams explaining how to tell, for example, a V-8 engine from a blender.
Altogether, the spots are fashion-y, memorable and aspirational. I doubt I'll ever squish into the jeans, but the commercials sure offer a fresh take on the straight and narrow.
Barbara Lippert is an Adweek columnist
Levi's Slim Straight Jeans
Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York
Executive creative director
Head of TV
Director of photography