Jeans' allure hangs on elevator fastasy

By Published on .

Advertiser: Levi Strauss & Co.
Agency: Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco
Ad Review rating: 3 1/2 stars

Ok, fine, so the young woman in the new Levi's commercial happens to be, in a certain superficial way, "sexy." But really, she's just a video pinup girl, a Lolita in wide-leg jeans, a bare midriff and barely more.

What about her depth of character? She could possibly have bad values, a narrow world view and abrasive personality. She may even like the "Jerry Springer Show."

In fact, she is so nakedly a sex object that the lingering shot of her navel will probably inflame the loins of only about, oh, 130 million people, including Jimmy Carter, Alan Alda and respected members of the clergy.

And us. (Not that we harbor any actual plan to violate the laws of God and man, but definitely a dull ache and a wistful notion. Because we are, in addition to being tireless crusaders against mindless objectification, more or less human.)

That's the point. For as the viewer meets this idealized young thing, in a wonderful spot from Foote, Cone & Belding, San Francisco, for Levi Strauss & Co., she is sharing an elevator with an equally fetching young man, who upon glancing at her bare belly assumes an expression of pained disbelief--an arguably sexist but altogether normal response to superficial perfection.

In a moment the guy's imagination will run away with him. And hers with her. And then the bland, elevator-music rendition of "You're Just Too Good to Be True" will give way, hilariously, to the Partridge Family ("Hey I think I love you. So what am I so afraid of? I'm afraid that I'm not sure of a love there is no cure for . . .") and in their separate mind's eyes, these two fantasy riders will run away with each other.

In a frantic and delightfully tongue-in-cheek sequence of romantic progression--beginning with a slo-mo run through the rain and ending with their newborn baby being smacked in the rear--the beautiful young people descend 70 floors imagining the possibilities kindled by a single bashful glance. Those possibilities, as the voice-over eventually observes, are "wiiiiide open."

Then the riders reach the lobby and, without having exchanged so much as a word . . . veer in different directions, parting forever.

Of course they do, for the genius of this spot is not its comic hypersexuality but its simple humanity. Life is full of such moments, silent interludes pregnant with possibilities but quashed by bad timing, good manners or just plain fear. In romance and every other sphere of human interaction, there are whole worlds left unexplored by averted eyes and things not said.

Or noticed.

First this commercial gets us to notice the unfamiliar cut of a sex object's Levi's Wide Leg jeans. Then, memorably, it gets us to notice a familiar part of ourselves. Advertising is at its best when information and emotion converge, and maybe best of all when the convergence yields a slice--wide or slender, serious or comic--of human truth.


A few weeks ago, saddened by a string of dismal Energizer parodies, we fretted about the bludgeoning death of a big idea. Happily, we were premature. From TBWA Chiat/Day, New York, comes yet another masterful iteration of the "keeps on going" campaign. This one, a take-off on "Twister"-like tornado chasers, documents the efforts of obsessive pink-bunny trackers. The ad delights; the big idea lives.

Copyright November 1996, Crain Communications Inc.

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