DOCKERS TAKES A SEXIER APPROACH IN NEW AD PUSH: FOCUS SHIFTS TO PRODUCT ATTRIBUTES

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Levi Strauss & Co.'s Dockers brand, in a sweeping change of its marketing strategy, is dropping the ordinary guy image it has had since its launch, switching to a sexier approach for an estimated $40 million effort.

Two new TV spots, set to break in March, also for the first time focus on product attributes, such as long wear. The commercials from Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, are in marked contrast to early Dockers ad efforts.

The change comes as Dockers' share of the khakis market has been under attack from The Gap, which last year began a campaign featuring swing dancing, and Haggar Clothing Co., which recently broke a spot featuring a '30s character in present-day settings.

In one new Dockers spot, shot in b&w, a man at a carnival with his girlfriend flirts with a woman running a dunk tank. So the girlfriend takes his wallet and uses his money to give other girls the opportunity to dunk him. As he floats sensuously, voice-over declares: "It gets better with every wash."

In a second spot, a man and a number of women dance bump-and-grind style in a nightclub. Prospective partners pull the man away by grabbing his belt loops. When he leaves, voice-over says: "You'll get worn out before they do."

`DOG-BONE' SOCIETY

James Capon, VP-marketing of young adults, said the company no longer views the consumer market as a pyramid, with a small number of wealthy people at the top supported by a large middle class and the poor. Instead, society is changing into a dog bone-shape configuration, he said, where there's a large bubble of rich people at the top and poor at the bottom, with a shrinking middle class.

Marketers positioned in the middle are going to be "squeezed one way or another," said Mr. Capon. So Dockers and other Levi's brands are no longer "going for the average" but are targeting slightly upscale.

SURROUNDED WITH MARKETING

The new strategy for Dockers is to find "critical influencers" -- fashion-forward men and women -- in the brand's core target of ages 25 to 34 and "surround them 360 degrees" with marketing.

While most of the TV is expected to run on sports and male-oriented programming, Mr. Capon indicated some switches would be made among magazine buys to reflect the new corporate strategy.

Print and outdoor ads will support a new line of Dockers ultrapremium pants -- limited-edition 1940s vintage pants made from the same type of twill used for World War II GI clothing.

The new unisex pants, called K-1 khakis, will be numbered and cost in the range of $65 per pair. Ad images include a b&w photo of a blonde in a '40s hairdo

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