Levi’s Toys With Its Rivals

Tommy Hilfiger to Lee Clow: ‘I Still Wear Them’
LOS ANGELES–TBWA Chiat/Day chairman and worldwide chief creative officer Lee Clow received an interesting phone call last week as he was driving around town.
On the other end of the line was Tommy Hilfiger, the apparel designer who, along with Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein, takes a playful ribbing at the hands of the agency in its new “Wore Them” ad campaign for Levi’s.
The agency had just covered 17 key U.S. markets with over 20,000 new billboards and outdoor ads coupling slogans such as “Tommy wore them” and “Calvin wore them” with images of Levi’s signature Red Tab. And although he hadn’t been notified of the ads ahead of time, Hilfiger called Clow from his own car phone to say he thought the ads were “very cool.”
“He said if you want to put up a billboard that says, ‘Tommy still wears them,’ go right ahead,” Clow said.
Hilfiger’s was not the only eye the agency caught with its first work on the estimated $90 million jeans business since wresting it from Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, in February. A representative from The Rosie O’Donnell Show called to request “Rosie wore them” T-shirts. And Levi’s Web site, which invited visitors to offer their own headlines, was so swamped that it crashed–but not before receiving such choice lines as “FCB used to wear them” and “Jesus Christ wore them.”
The strategy to play up Levi’s status as an icon was “a natural,” said Clow. “Levi’s was and is the original,” he said, “which means that designer jeans are counterfeit to some extent. Or at least imitations.”
As San Francisco-based Levi’s celebrates its 125th anniversary, Steve Goldstein, its vice president of market research, said the upcoming work will employ different themes across different media, including interactive. “We need to be everywhere that [consumers] are,” he said.
TV spots, breaking in June, also take a minimalist creative approach, said sources. But Clow said TV will no longer be Levi’s centerpiece. “[Levi’s needs] new media and new messages to reconnect with people,” he said.
Peter Angelos, executive creative director of the agency’s San Francisco office, which oversees the account, said future phases of the campaign will target younger jeans buyers. “Levi’s owns authenticity,” he said. “But they need to work on hipness, coolness and attitude.”