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SYDNEY -- Levi Strauss & Co. is pinning its marketing hopes and more than $1 million on a homeless man who stars in the brand's latest attempt to join fashion's in-crowd.

Levi's has launched a national TV campaign -- the first TV work created by Clemenger BBDO Melbourne since winning the Australia account last May -- that promotes the Levi's "pinnacle" brand, Engineered Jeans.

The star of the campaign is a homeless man who wears a pair of Engineered Jeans (worth around $100) and finds himself the toast of the "in-crowd" -- until he takes the jeans off.

Levi Strauss Australia General Manager Peter Murphy says the premium-priced Engineered Jean was one element of a marketing strategy being implemented to turn the tide on declining sales in Australia.

Levi's is also launching its Vintage Levi's Collection. Customers can pay a premium for a pair of jeans made to the specifications of past Levi's designs from different eras of the 20th century.

"We are moving out of the value segment and incorporating Orange Tab into the enduringly successful Red Tab range, creating a two-tier Red Tab range," Mr. Murphy said. Levi's is now concentrating on its premium range to drive sales while simultaneously developing its mid-market offer under the Red Tab brand.

Three years ago Levi's announced a 60% cut in its Australian workforce due to weak demand for its jeans. Levi's has been under pressure from competitive denim brands eating into its traditional market at the same time as consumers have opted for alternatives to denim.

Mr. Murphy said declining sales have now stabilized, and he predicted the company would post modest single digit growth for 2001. -- Andrew Hornery

Copyright April 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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