Angela Natividad's Live & Uncensored!

25 November 2009

Levi's: Love, Lust and Storytelling

In April I got to see an ad:tech talk given by Senior Director Michael Perman of Levi's. It was called "The Art of Storytelling," something at which the company particularly excels.

Anyway, I was doing my usual trawl of exceptional William Shatner videos* the other day when I came across treasure: the two ads that got me stuck on advertising in the first place.

Both were directed by Michael Bay for TBWA\Chiat\Day on behalf of Levi's. I must've been around 14 or 15 when they came out. They ring super-dated now -- but while "Elevator Fantasy" is almost completely devoid of the magic it once had, "Lola" still tugs something deep inside.


"Elevator Fantasy":

Both are tributes to the power a skillful advertiser has in spinning a tale -- an entire universe, even -- in the space of :30-:60. A lot of it has to do with the sparing choice of imagery: each frame works hard to drive the narrative, which must be strung together by the power of suggestion.

Song selection is a big factor too. Classic pieces, like Whatever Lola Wants, already have strong cultural markers attached to them, which makes it easier to construct a universe around the protagonist of "Lola."

Naturally, it helps that Levi's has a penchant for picking experienced film directors to interpret its jeans.

As for why "Elevator Fantasy" now kinda sucks -- it struck me as powerful at the time, but the effectiveness of the gimmick's been eroded by how often it's been used in pop culture. For example, Jay-Z used the same idea -- imagining a happily-ever-after with a girl he meets in an elevator -- in his Excuse Me Miss music video (2003).

Only difference is, the couple decides to change course after walking in opposite directions:

Lovelustlovelust: the blurry line that never quite ages. It has to mean something that after 10 years these ads still ripple across my subconscious. Have they sold me any jeans? Truthfully no, but not for want of trying. (I go into Levi's maybe once a year to try converting on my emotional attachment, but I can never find anything that lifts ass right.)


*This one is actually courtesy of mtlb.

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