Why in your opinion, was the Levi Strauss 501 campaign so successful?
The Levi Strauss 501 advertising campaign was so successful in 1984-1990 as it attracted the typical American teens selling independence, sexuality and physical good looks, representing the perfect figure and body. It illustrated a complete lifestyle to the teenagers world. Admiring the fantasy of idols James Dean and Marlon Brando, all connecting to the Levi guys (jeans) in the adverts, giving the impression of a sensual, healthy radiant aspect, to the gazed audience. Falling for the act, teens still continued to buy the different types of jeans, whilst new ideas were being designed. People realise now it was just a pretence illusion. Although these shams still occur in adverts today.
In the advert The Launderette’, it begins straight away with music, then a view of a Korean soldier standing outside, indicating the war had just ended. He’s put there as a parallel to the Levi guy, he’s not as laid back! At first the camera doesn’t focus on the Levi guy’s face, giving mystery and intrigue to the viewers. Entering into the steamy launderette, everyone turns and stares. Staring is the usual old, slob-like husband, one hand holds a cigar, whilst in the other sits a beefy, dripping hamburger! Noticing his entry, the Levi guy slyly removes his cool sunglasses, revealing his smiling face. With the dark, slick back hair, a dream to every girl. Dull lighting among the other customers symbolizing their shallow lives, whilst innocently he places his clothes into the machine . Unusually he puts stones into the machine along with his
clothes, thinking nothing of the matter. Glaring at him is the average housewife with her children observing closely.
Sliding his jeans off, there is a close up on his backside- revealing the one and only red Levi tab, showing they are nicely fitted, encouraging the opposite sex. Steam evaporates around him, sexuality diffuses in the area. Red, white and blue colours surround the launderette corresponding to the American flag- the jeans belong to America! All attention on him, he turns round in white boxer shorts, attracting people to buy them and causing his brown, toned body to glisten. Typical, normal girls, giggle
together, as he sits down in the middle of the waiting seats. Above him a bright orange border encloses him. Expressing his delightful, healthy life. Where as the stereotypes around him have dull, grey borders girdling them.
As in every advert, it finishes with the camera shot on 501 jeans, and always gives an appropriate slogan. This particular one reads Now available stonewashed!’ Relating back to when he places the stones in the machine to be washed. Each storyline in the commercials have an unpredictable ending. The adverts kept changing, the colour of the jeans changed from blue to black. They purposely did this to make more money because since World War 11, people had more wealth. The teens had to be in with the latest fashion.
There is plenty of iconography throughout the adverts. The image of a dark, muscled, tanned bloke appears in each advert. This independent, sexy guy is in it, as it will attract more customers to buy the jeans, thinking they will be like him (or the Levi’s girl, who is stunning, free and healthy too). The camera will constantly focus on the jeans, encouraging you to buy them. American styles emerge in every advert. A good example is the sunsets. Usually at the end, a car (or Harley Davidson) will disappear into the sunset leaving with happy thoughts. Or skyscrapers will crop up in the background reminding you it originated in America!
The red label on the jeans means everything so it is repeated frequently, many big close ups are used on them. At the beginning of each advertisement music commences. The song will always relate to that specific advert. The Launderettes’ song is by Marvin Gaye, Hurdle Through the Grapevine’. The lyrics will constantly link to the story. This idea of binding lyrics from the song, to the story in the advert also occurs on many other adverts on television now. I think it helps get the meaning out, and make the viewers think more about the product or display. If the selling product is a car, for example, the music tends to be fast or upbeat, explaining that the car is quick and speedy. The atmosphere of the music gives you a vague idea of how the product is.
The Levi’s guy has his physical characteristics, tanned, perfect teeth, dark hair and always awake. Having all these perfect features, he did not live a debauched lifestyle. He purposely didn’t seem to drink, take drugs or have casual sex, as this was not pure and would give a bad impression to the people who were going to buy the product.
Quite a few medium close ups focus on the surrounding people (the minority characters). They are portrayed as inferior to the Levi’s guy and girl. They are not as fashionable/independent because that’s what the advert is saying you’ll be like if you don’t wear the jeans, typical 50’s style. You will be normal, boring out of fashion, not free and not independent. The teenage lads’ views of the Levi guy, is confused and jealous, wondering how you could be like that, it’s the same with the girls. You never see the idol putting on (or taking off) the jeans as this would make them look clumsy, and take up too much time.
In The Launderette’ it refers to independence by showing that the Levi guy arrives on his own, and takes his jeans off and places them in the machine like it is absolutely normal and he is not at all embarrassed about the situation. Keeping mostly long shots on him to show his fantasy body and white boxers, which had been drawn attention by the audience, as a high sale rate boomed when they were first advertised on T.V buy a famous company.
By the 1950’s there was a dramatic change. The teen idols were seen as the rebel’ by parents, the government and law. So Levi Strauss used this decade to invent Levi jeans. So when the teenager buys the jeans, they are buying into the perfect lifestyle. Also sexuality was thought to enhance, and it was thought that they would find the perfect partner. It was all so false, but a big dream, but influenced the teens brains. No negative factors of America, situated in any of the adverts, violence, drugs, racial tension and poverty, as this would repel many of the customers.
Levi Strauss used the 50’s as they wanted to target the middle age people, (given the name teens), and then by reliving their youth in a positive way. Jeans used to be only associated with the cowboys and the Wild West but then restyled as an ultimate fashion accessory.
Keeping to the theme, practically most of the commercials have inter texual images/imagery. In each one, they include slick back hair, especially in The Deal’, for example. The camera will always concentrate on the backside, showing the brown label (appearing that they’re not false). The jeans are always touched- demonstrating sexuality. Everyones eyes pan in on the jeans. Close ups on the flys or buttons is always zoomed in on. Typical American items are benefited. Like the leather and denim jackets are repeated. Golden, happy endings diffuse into the sunset. Skyscrapers tend to appear in the background. Steam is generated by the large amount of heat and passion in the ads. At the end of all advertisements, a slogan is concluded. For example The Pick ups’ one is separate the man from the boys’. Relating to the story. Also the Levi tab is expressed every time. It is the trademark of the jeans.
The adverts were only shown in the U.K, they were not performed in the U.S.A. The U.K is continually blasted by Americas products and images. The T.V media continues to blitz our minds.
In the adverts, people don’t analyse the visual images with a critical, impartial eye. So they will remain to carry on believing the false acts, and buying the products. Advertisements should not be held back though as then no industry would have a boost in making money from the publicity, so then no company could afford to make quality merchandise.
The Levi campaign was so successful then but not as much now, to what it was. It managed to succeed in making jeans a fashion statement (which they still are).