Levi Strauss needed a win in early 2002. The venerable jeans maker had been in a years-long decline heading into that year’s Super Bowl. Since 1997 its sales had fallen by roughly 40%, and it had closed 29 U.S. factories. To pull itself out of its slump, the owner of the Levi’s brand bought air time during Super Bowl XXXVI and devised a plan to up its chances that viewers would like its ad: In the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl, Levi’s asked people to vote on which of three executions they would like to see during the game.
It was an escalation of the prior year's gambit, in which Levi's posted a "prequel" for its Super Bowl XXXV ad "Jeans Donor" on Levi.com. And it worked: Nearly 200,000 participated, eventually picking this 30-second spot directed by Spike Jonze ("Being John Malkovich") that featured an actor dancing down the street in Levi’s Flyweight jeans. The campaign gave Levi’s reason to celebrate. Not only did it take the No. 9 spot on USA Today’s Super Bowl Ad Meter in 2002, but Levi’s sales finally began to turn around later that year, increasing year-over-year in the third and fourth fiscal quarters.
But the success was bittersweet for TBWA/Chiat/Day San Francisco, which created the ad for Levi’s as well as the acclaimed "Belly Buton" spot in June 2001. A few weeks before the ad aired, the brand dropped the agency from its roster.
Levi Strauss also brought Levi's sibling brand Dockers to Super Bowl XXXVI with the spot "Little Black Dress."
Brand Levi's would return to the Super Bowl the following year with new shop Bartle Bogle Hegarty and the broody spot "Stampede."
Executive creative director and copywriter: Chuck Mcbride. Art director: Jon Soto. Agency producer: Jennifer Golub. Assistant agency producer: Billy Beckett. Music: Control Machete.Send credit info to [email protected].