BBH Won’t Defend Levi’s Americas Biz

NEW YORK Bartle Bogle Hegarty late Wednesday said it has declined an invitation to participate in Levi’s review of its Americas creative assignment, which the Publicis Groupe-backed agency has held since 2001.

Emma Cookson, CEO of BBH in New York, issued this statement: “Levi Strauss & Co. yesterday announced its decision to initiate a review of the advertising account for the Levi’s brand in the Americas region. BBH N.Y., the incumbent U.S. agency of record on the brand, was invited to re-pitch, but has declined that opportunity. BBH remains the Levi’s brand agency of record in Europe and Asia — a partnership which dates back to 1982.”

Levi’s spends about $70 million annually on ads, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

The San Francisco-based client in a brief statement yesterday said: “A small selection of U.S. agencies has been identified and will be invited to pitch the business. A decision is expected by mid-December.”

Consultancy Jones Lundin Beals in Chicago is assisting Levi’s with the search.

Levi’s launched a separate media review in late August. Interpublic Group’s Initiative handles all buying. Planning is split between IPG’s DraftFCB (Dockers) and BBH (Levi’s).

At the time the media pitch began, a client rep declined to comment on whether the incumbents were defending and characterized the review as “standard operating procedure. It’s something we do with all of our vendor relationships from time to time.” A decision on media chores is expected later in the fall.

On the creative front, several Levi’s efforts this year have captured attention. One such spot was called “Change,” by BBH, which featured alternate endings — one showing a man walking off with a woman, another showing him walking off with a man.

The client also made headlines with a viral video developed by project shop Cutwater. Called “Jumpin’ In,” the clip featured agile youths who appeared to back-flip into jeans held aloft by their buddies. The video garnered 3.5 million hits in 10 days. Cutwater also produced a cinematic 90-second spot, “Onion Peel,” that showed the reverse transformation of a glamorous supermodel into an average woman wearing Levi’s jeans.

Omnicom Group’s Cutwater was launched in early 2007 by former executives of Omnicom’s TBWA\Chiat\Day in San Francisco, which handled Levi’s domestic creative business from 1998-2001, prior to BBH winning the assignment.

A few weeks ago, a somewhat raunchy Levi’s Web push by EVB garnered news items in mainstream media and mentions on late-night talk shows for its “crotch humor” aimed at young males.

–David Gianatasio contributed to this report

This story updates and expands on an item posted yesterday with the news that BBH is not defending the business.