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Digital leads new Levi’s effort

Levi Strauss & Co. is taking a new, unbuttoned approach to marketing its jeans.

Last week, the jeans brand debuted its “Live unbuttoned” campaign, the first integrated global campaign marketing effort in its history, which targets youth in 110 countries worldwide.

The campaign focuses on Levi’s signature jeans line — aiming to introduce the 18-24 year old male market to the more than 150-year old button fly model of 501 jeans. To reach this audience, the cam­paign is being launched through digital channels before it reaches more traditional channels, which is a new marketing approach for the brand.

“We don’t want to put the cre­ative out there and just expect people to find it. Instead, we are putting our messages in the places where this generation is already going,” said Robert Cameron, VP of marketing for Levi’s USA.

The budget for the campaign was not disclosed. Later this sum­mer, Levi’s will kick off a digital content-driven campaign featuring a full-page takeover that invites consumers to literally “unbut­ton,” as well as banner ads fea­turing buttoned-up jeans, which offer brand interaction and the opportunity to view one of several celebrity spokespeople.

R&B artist Estelle and athlete Jamie Bestwick will share their own personal experiences around “living unbuttoned.”

“The slogan reflects the emo­tional truth around the Levi’s brand, which is authenticity, so all of the creative is all about being authentic,” Cameron explained. “‘Live unbuttoned’ is the perfect slogan to reach this young gen­eration who put it all out there and post all of their secrets on Facebook and MySpace.”

Rather than driving to one major destina­tion site for the campaign, Levi’s will have a number of smaller microsites for featured celebrities and interest groups. “The cre­ative is more about inserting itself on sites where consumers are rather than getting them to come back to a major destination,” said Cameron.

Levi’s will track impressions, click­throughs and downloads of content, along with interaction time on both rich media units and on landing pages. Ads will run on music and sports blogs.

Planning for the campaign began in December 2007. Since then, the com­pany, like many other US retailers, has experienced lagging sales. The iconic jean company recently reported dismal second quarter figures: Revenue for the period ending May 2008 declined 8% in comparison to Q2 2007. The company’s net income was $1 million dollars, a 98% decrease from the $46 million it had at the same time last year. Declining US revenue was the reason for most of the weak results. Net revenue for that region fell 19%, while Europe and Asia Pacific saw increases of 10% and 6%, respectively.

In a statement announcing the company’s second quarter health, Levi’s CEO and president John Anderson said the company relied on its strong branding throughout the world. The company reported that sales of its signature brands outperformed its Dockers brand.

In May, Levi’s began seeding for the official campaign launch with unbranded YouTube videos starring 501s. Last Thurs­day, Levis posted the third in a series of 10 called “Moon Walker.” The video, which has a homemade feel to make it seem less like a commercial, features a man who fills up his pants with helium and floats in the sky — unbuttoning his 501s to descend.

The videos, which were created by San Francisco-based digital agency Cutwater, feature young men interacting with the jeans. For example, in “Jeans Jump”, men test their ability to acrobatically put on a pair of jeans.

The first three viral videos have gener­ated more than five million views online. The additional videos will be launched throughout the summer.

The campaign was conceptualized by Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH), Levi’s agency of record in the US since 2001. Levi’s has worked with BBH on a global level out­ side of the US for 26 years. While BBH led the campaign development, as well as the TV and print elements, additional components were developed by a variety of agency partners including videos by Cutwater, digital components by EVB and Avenue A/Razorfish and outdoor by Ave A/Razorfish.

Print ads will break in August, in issues of Maxim, Details, Rolling Stone, Paper and Sports Illustrated. These ads will include URLs for the microsites of these celebrity pages. A series of TV ads will begin in August as well, on networks including MTV2 and the Cartoon Network.

Outdoor components will also begin in August. 501-focused billboards touting the “Live unbuttoned” campaign will be installed in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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