The latest Levi’s campaign to re-brand the dying apparel company leaves us frustrated and a little angry. A campaign by Wieden+Kennedy that was supposed to target Generation O seems to have ignored all the participation and multi-culturalism that this Obama-era is supposed to represent. Instead, we find lone white young men and women running through the hills and towards waves reflecting a misplaced interpretation of freedom.
Levi’s and its campaign don’t connect with the great things that are happening in this country, the radiant mix of cultures evolving within it nor the reality of its past.
Probably the most appalling ad in the campaign is the one where a young girl runs through a meadow by the words “This Country Was Not Built By Men In Suits”. Now, some of us here (me) didn’t spend a lot of time studying US history but I know that the people who built this country couldn’t even run freely in the fields. Agency Spy spotted graffiti daubed on the ad in New York’s subway which spells out who a little more clearly: “By Slaves”.
Ex-PSFKer Christine Huang points out her reaction to the graffiti on her blog:
I saw one of these ads in NYC’s Spring Street 6 subway station. The copy read, “This country was not built by men in suits” – which someone added to in matching handwritten scrawl: “IT WAS BUILT BY SLAVES”. Up to that point, I hadn’t been able to put my finger on what it was about the campaign that made me feel so uneasy. But with that bit of graffiti, it all came together. Levis (or rather W+K) is glorifying these centuries old American ideals – Optimism! Egoism! Manifest Destiny! – while making paltry gestures towards the reality of American history and what America is today. Besides the few ethnic actors in the video, their print campaign is disappointingly monochromatic and seems almost apologetically alienating. It would have been really amazing to see Levis pay homage to the symbols of true individuality from our past – the freedom riders, abolitionists, suffragists, veterans.”The Frontier” is sexy and all, but how about some real American heroes?