Levis, riots and teenage aspirations


Levi's Go Forth Commercial - The Laughing Heart... par hopelesscolt

This ad, surely one of the most achingly evocative for a jeans company, has become iconic in a way. Just as the turbulence of May 1968 fueled a new mythology and counter-culture, will 2011 be remembered as a turning point in youth movements? I’d say it’s a pretty safe bet.

But typically for our age, this revolution has its corporate sponsor. The tone, the simplicity and the concept of this ad are almost perfect as an exercise in zeitgeist. The cameras are all hand-held. Instead of copywriting, we get the poem “Go Forth” by Charles Bukowski. The images are fleeting, liberating, breathless. The mad aspiration of youth is magically caught in just 60 seconds. It would take a cold heart not to be touched by them.

Could a brand like Levis condone protest?

Released in August 2011, could Levis have known there would be so many riots (referenced several times in the clip) and the importance they would play? I doubt it very much. Could Levis be seen to condone – even implicitly – the Arab Spring, the London riots, the Occupy movement or Madrid’s Indignants? Whatever the merits of these movements, the answer is clearly “no”.

There are limits, as Levis found. The spot, released a week after the London riots, was promptly banned in the UK. The timing, clearly, was off. But was the intention? Do we think this is appropriate?