Levi's new viral push UnbuttonYourBeast.com aims to attract 18- to 24-year-old men, with its crass, juvenile humor. Phallic characters like "Sock Nasty," "Paul the Pincher" and "Donkey Ramon" emerge from Levi's 501 button-fly jeans and spout pithy messages. Users can even personalize their own crotch critters with messages recorded through a toll-free number and promptly uploaded to the site. Then, the little critters are sent out into cyberspace.
In other words, my 22-year-old brother is going to love this. But, of course, everyone is clamoring to find out whether the campaign will create controversy. A Los Angeles Times blog chastised Drudge Report for trying "to whip out backlash against Levi's." Apparently it isn't yet, at least not in any significant way. Levi's said it has not received any complaints.
"We realize it's provocative and interesting," said Doug Sweeny, director-Levi's brand marketing. "We're very careful about our target, and who we're talking to. And you tailor the message based on the medium. In the viral space we feel it's important to have some fun."
Still, a handful of bloggers have expressed their displeasure with the campaign, even as they embrace it. A blogger at StyleList.com dismisses the campaign as "shocking" and "tasteless," before admitting he'll likely send it to friends. Likewise, someone commenting at Feministing.com calls the campaign "crude" and "over the top," then admits she sent it around to her friends. And that's exactly the point. Because if a campaign is meant to go "viral," it better be pretty darn entertaining, even controversial.
"We really wanted to do something that was fun and innovative, [and] a little left of center," said Mr. Sweeny. "And somehow working within the button-fly feature was really key."
Added Erica Archambault, a spokeswoman, "We recognize that not every message is going to speak to every consumer, but this is a campaign that we were really excited about, and we're getting a great response from the young guys we're hearing from. And that's exactly what it's supposed to accomplish."
UnbuttonYourBeast.com launched this week and is part of the brand's larger "Levi's 501: Live Unbuttoned" campaign, which debuted this summer. The iconic denim brand has been looking to re-energize the 501, its most well-known and visible style, on a global scale.
The campaign, which was sparsely seeded, according to Mr. Sweeny, also has a promotional element driving users to the main Levi's site. Upon creating a beast message, users receive a 15% off coupon. Already, Levi's reports redemption of the coupons and a "noteworthy" increase in traffic to the brand's main website. Levi's declined to share specifics about the number of beasts that have been sent or the number of visitors to either site, saying only that it has exceeded expectations.
Omnicon Group agency EVB, San Francisco, created the campaign and Laika, Portland, handled the animation.