Ross likes Levi Strauss

Ross looks at the new Levi Strauss campaign, and questions what blocks you might have to overcome to create something of a similar scale and level of creativity.


You may have already seen the new Levi Campaign/Project/Movement, “Ready to Work”.  They’re partnering with Pennsylvania’s poorest town, Braddock, and helping it to fix itself.  If you missed it, take a look at these:

Episode 1

Episode 2


I don’t want to make this into another post about a campaign I like – although I really do.  I love the scale, I love the way it’s produced, and above all I love the insight – it feels like the world has almost universal sympathy for the victims of globalisation and fond memories of the past, and this campaign clearly makes me feel like Levis are on the side of people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard (regardless of your job in life).

What I think’s more interesting is whether, as folks in marketing, we’re set up to deliver projects like this any more.  There’s a couple of blockers that someone inspirational within Levi Strauss will have to have overcome, in my mind, to make this happen:

1. The Scale (and the consequent risk)

Are there many examples of campaigns out there that are willing to put big bucks behind risky projects of such huge ambition like this?  I feel like I encounter a lot of ‘banker’ type campaigns that get large-scale backing but follow a fairly traditional model – the 30′ or 60′ second ad that puts a vaguely new spin on a long-term positioning.  And conversely, I see lots of brave little things happening that people are willing to back with only as much money as they’re willing to lose (I even used this argument recently – “What’s the worst that could happen?  We’ll only put a small % of our budget behind it to minimise the risk”).  The Levis campaign is something completely different – it’s big, it’s long-term, and so it’s risky.  And the consequences of backing out half way through don’t bear thinking about.

2. The Creative Development

Common agency structures – an ATL creative agency, a media agency, maybe a digital agency or another BTL agency – might have struggled to have come up with this unless they were living in each other’s pockets and had inherent trust in one another.  Or one agency is defined as the clear lead and all others follow.  I hear a lot at the moment about creating the right environment around cross-agency teams to succeed – making sure roles and responsibilities are clear, getting more heads around the table than just one discipline.  And I think that has a huge amount of merit.  But without the trust bit, I don’t think you’d come up with a project like this – it needs the perfect marriage of creative (idea), strategic (planning) and numerate (efficiency) to work.

As an aside, I wonder whether if we were still living in the time of Mad Men where media and creative were as one in the agency world, whether a project like this might be more likely…

There might have been lots of other blocks to overcome.  Not least the brief (how you write it, and how you get it through in a large business).  And I suspect this is one of those magic moments where everything wasn’t perfect in planning, but it all came together through an incredibly compelling creative thought.  Regardless, I’m going to work harder to create something I’d feel as proud of as I would if I was the client behind this.


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