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Lucky Takes to 'Denim Highway'

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NEW YORK Lucky Brand Jeans kicked off its most ambitious marketing effort of the year this week that mostly skips over glossy print ads and other traditional media that are the staple of bigger competitors.

Instead, Vernon, Calif.-based Lucky is going the nontraditional route with a six-month experiential campaign melding events marketing with digital broadcasting. "Denim Highway," created with Night Agency, New York, centers around a tricked-out Lucky bus that will travel across the country to venues like music festivals, offering fans the chance to experience the band through custom jeans fittings, free swag and, of course, tequila shots.

"We see this as hand-to-hand combat," said John Lewis, head of marketing at Lucky, which is owned by Liz Claiborne. "I'd rather have people define the experience with the brand than me defining it for them."

To keep with the experiential theme, Night is filming all the action onboard the bus and at the venues. The videos will live on DenimHighway.com, a tour Web site that includes maps showing the progress of the bus, and a blog about the tour. DenimHighway.com also links to the Lucky e-commerce site.

"Digital in a vacuum didn't feel very Lucky," said Darren Paul, managing director of Night. "It's about the touch and the feel of the brand."

Lucky is supporting the site with a limited online media buy, but it is relying instead on word-of-mouth advocacy generated by the events and public relations.

"We wanted a real grassroots feel to what we're doing," said Lewis.

The bus is a 1949 Flexible, outfitted by Beau Boechmann of Pimp My Ride fame. It is stopping at several summer music festivals, including Lollapalooza, Bang and Austin City Limits. It will also hit hotspots like the Boston Harbor Festival, the Hamptons on New York's Long Island and the Phoenix Grand Prix, as well as store openings in various cities.

In all, Night aims to create 30-40 video vignettes from the road, doing from one to three per event. They will include scenes from the bus and interviews with musicians.

While competitors like Levi's, Gap and Dolce Gabana are fixtures on TV or in magazines with what Lewis termed "greasy models," Lucky hopes the nontraditional approach fits better with its brand image, which he describes as "the guy who shows up to the party kind of late and is a little drunk." While the approach won't reach as many people, it will probably leave a more lasting impression, he added.

"I'd rather spend my money doing that then have them passively flip through a magazine or skipping my ad through TiVo," he said.