Slates Speaks Directly to Men: FCB Custom-Tailors $10 Mil. Fall TV Campaign for Levi’s Pants

One year after the launch of Slates dress pants, Levi Strauss & Co. is breaking a $10 million fall campaign for the line, continuing the ad themes of creative problem solving and thumbing one’s nose at the rules.
A new spot, “Airplane,” from Levi’s agency Foote, Cone & Belding in San Francisco, will rotate with two existing Slates TV ads and broke on ABC’s Monday Night Football in 17 markets. Other buys include national cable for Sunday night football on TNT and late news in local markets.
“Our target doesn’t watch much TV, but when he does, it’s ‘appointment TV,’ ” said Nancy Friedman, director of marketing and research for Slates.
“Airplane” centers around a passenger who’s not satisfied with the standard airline culinary fare. He walks into the in-flight movie, a James Bond-inspired action adventure, and duels the bad guys to get what he’s after: a plate of succulent lobster. Julie Newmar, Catwoman from the ’60s pop TV show Batman, makes a cameo as a sexy villain.
The spots are meant to speak directly to men, who, unlike males in other clothing categories, tend to purchase their own dress pants. The ad’s protagonist conveys qualities Levi’s associates with the Slates customer, Friedman said: confidence, risk taking, stylishness and control.
Television will be supplemented with outdoor advertising in mid-September in 17 markets. Although not specifically linked to the TV creative effort, these executions will pick up the irreverent tone associated with it. Each contains a “Thou shalt”-type rule for appropriate dress pants behavior, while images spoof that commandment. In one, “Dress pants shall be reserved for important meetings” runs under a shot of a Slates wearer dancing with a woman in a sexy skirt.
After Slates launched last August, sales reports were good. In the past quarter, however, the brand has been quiet, leading to speculation that sales could be slowing. Levi’s marketing specialist Linda M. Smith, however, said that retail tracking by NPD Group shows that Slates is leading the department store dress pants category.