A Walk on the Wild Side

Low rise meets the low life in the first advertising for Levi’s from Bartle Bogle Hegarty in New York—five print executions that will break in August magazines.

The idea is to inject some sexiness and a feeling of rebellion into the Levi’s brand image. “We’re flirting a little more with the dark side of town,” says Thomas Hayo, executive creative director on the $60 million account.

The sensibility dates back to the original wearers of Levi’s, unconventional folks who chose to adopt the denim pants worn at the time only by workmen.

The ads use seedy-looking, deserted locations—such as a strip mall, an underground garage and a bus stop—to create an air of danger. In each, a line of light aligns with the bare midriff of a model and contains the campaign’s tagline: “Dangerously low. Levi’s Low Rise Jeans.”

The light is a device intended to subtly unify the campaign and highlight the product in an aesthetically pleasing way. It’s meant to look as though the models just happen to be standing there when the light perfectly bisects them.

The concept is designed to work with all of Levi’s consumer communications—from the sales tags on the clothes to the television campaign, scheduled to break at the end of this month.

“We’re trying to create a world that the low-rise product can live in,” says Hayo. “Literally the cut of the jeans is about taking risks.”

To illustrate that attitude, the print campaign evokes a jaunt into the other side of the tracks. As Hayo describes it, “An Upper East Side guy has the best time of his life when he gets lost on the Lower East Side. The whole atmosphere is a little more visceral, sweaty and sensual.”

For the campaign, the BBH team chose fashion photographer Glen Luchford, whose previous work includes the D&AD pencil-winning Prada campaign from 1997, as well as work for Volkswagen, SmartCar, Jaguar and Patek Philippe.

Luchford had taken a couple of years off from advertising to work on other projects, including his directorial debut, Here to Where, a mockumentary about a pushy American director that was released last year.

The photographer’s cinematic sensibilities and ability to create an environment for the models—rather than simply posing them in front of a background—was key in BBH’s decision to hire him for the project. For example, Luchford designed lighting similar to that for a film or commercial set.

The five ads were shot in seedy locations around Manhattan, Coney Island and the Jersey shore during a particularly cold snap in March. One ad had to be shot during a snowstorm.

“It was a very glamorous shoot,” Hayo jokes. “Next time, we’re not going to do ‘Dangerously low.’ Next time we’re going to do ‘Tropically low.’ “