Levi's to back Wide Leg jeans with $40 mil blitz

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Levi Strauss & Co. this fall will put $40 million into an advertising blitz to broaden the market for its Wide Leg jeans.

The world's largest apparel marketer will begin ads around Thanksgiving targeting men ages 18 to 34, pushing a trend that has helped revitalize the denim market.

In its first campaign for the new line, which broke in late summer, Levi's targeted boys aged 9 to 14.

AS WIDE AS 22"

Wide-leg jeans have a uniform width from top to bottom, with openings at the ankle of as much as 22 inches, compared with the traditional 14 inches. Loose jeans, which have cooled as a fashion statement, are tapered at the ankle.

Interest in the wide cut started with young trendsetters such as skateboarders, who bought extra long pants and cut them off at what would normally have been the knee. The resulting extra room at the cuff also appealed to those wearing high-top sneakers, boots or roller blades.

"Wide leg is a huge trend for us," said Steve Goldstein, VP-marketing and research for Levi's Brand USA. Men "are willing to and anxious to have more than one [cut of jeans] in their closet."

In 1995, jeans sales were $9.8 billion at retail, up 4% from the previous year, according to marketing researcher NPD. But in the first half of 1996, jeans sales jumped 11% from the previous-year period to $3.9 billion.

During the back-to-school shopping season, wide-leg jeans--along with a growing trend toward five-pocket jeans-style corduroy pants--helped trigger a resurgence in apparel sales.

"Corduroy is coming back, big time," said Mr. Goldstein. "Jeans can be seen not only as a fabric, but as a cut."

Differentiation in styles has helped retailers, because when fashion remains stagnant, the only competition in stores is on price.

The current Wide Leg campaign, from Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, and tagged "Make room," shows groups of defiant youths moving through urban settings, such as emerging from a New York City subway station labeled "Bronx" and scattering a group of brief-case toting businessmen. "Do you see me. Do you hear me. Do you fear me," copy says.

TONED DOWN SPOTS

After an initial showing, Levi's tempered the spots to avoid concerns they might encourage intimidation of others.

Levi's plans to continue the campaign for youth.

"We will continue with two efforts; they are a priority for us," said Mark Hogan, director of consumer marketing for the Levi's brand.

Although the older-age effort will begin with TV, "all media options" are under consideration, he said.

Copyright September 1996 Crain Communications Inc.

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