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My Favourite BBH Levi’s Classics

Bartle Bogle Hegarty, London’s 28-year association with Levi Strauss & Co, resulted in an extraordinary agency and client partnership of unrivaled creative excellence.

BBH’s provocatively liberal advertising constantly challenged the status quo of conservative social mores of the time to successfully establish Levi’s 501 as the coolest brand on the planet for three decades.

Their creative daring sometimes resulted in commercials being banned for being ‘too sexy’, but any authoritarian sanctioned censorship only served to add to the 501’s anti-establishment brand appeal.

Resonant Soundtracks

One of the key successes of BBH’s iconic, multi-award winning Levi’s 501 campaigns was their meticulous attention to accompanying commercial soundtracks.

From the start they insightfully realised what an important communication role resonating music and emotive songs would play in endeavoring to achieve sustainable target audience brand appeal.

1. Levi’s 501, Launderette 1985

Advertsing Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty), London

Directed by Roger Lyons, the commercial stared teen idol Nick Kamen and featured Marvin Gaye’s ‘I Heard It Through The Grapevine’ as the soundtrack.

The commercial’s sex appeal and nostalgic image of America in the 50’s, proved to be a breakthrough for Levi’s. After years of declining sales, Levi Strauss & Co experienced an 800% boost in sales within a year.

The ‘Launderette’ campaign spearheaded Levi’s 501’s rapid rise to a global brand of coveted American originality.

2. Levi’s 501, Refrigerator 1988

Advertising Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty), London

Starring Bruce Hulse and Tatjana Papitz, the commercial features a great soundtrack of ‘Mannish Boy’ by Muddy Waters.

The opening and closing scenes are engagingly reminiscent of ‘Easy Rider’, the cult movie of the seventies about bikers on a road trip across America that was written, directed and produced by Peter Fonda.

3. Levi’s 501, Camera 1991

Advertising Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty), London

Directed by Chris Hartwill the commercial introduces a young Brad Pitt and features the song ‘20 th Century Boy’ by Marc Boland and T-Rex as the soundtrack.

Movie Producer and Director Ridley Scott spotted the young actor’s star potential in the commercial and offered him a part in his new feature film venture about two women on an adventurous road trip.

Ridley’s movie ‘Thelma and Louise’ was a huge success and won three Academy Awards. Although Brad Pitt played a minor role in the movie, his brief screen presence for many viewers was a sensational highlight, and it wasn’t long before Hollywood came knocking on his door.

4. Levi’s 501, Swimmer 1992

Advertising Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty), London

Directed by Tarsem Singh, the Cannes Silver Lion Award winning commercial features a soundtrack of Sir Noel Coward’s words and music ‘Mad About The Boy’ sung by Dinah Washington.

5. Levi’s 501, Campfire 1993

Advertising Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty) London

Directed by Tarsem Singh, this Cannes Award winning commercial is a romanticised story that appealingly recalls the Levi’s brand’s American Wild West heritage.

The soundtrack song, ‘Ring of Fire’ by Johnny Cash, was an inspired choice that resonated with millions of viewers.

6. Levi’s 501, Creek 1994

Advertising Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty), London

Directed by Vaughan & Anthea, the story about an Amish family on a picnic outing in the 1850’s is superbly crafted.

The award-winning commercial evokes the iconic black and white images of the great American photographer and conservationist, Ansel Adams.

The unexpected choice of the song ‘Inside’, by Scottish rock band Stiltskin for the soundtrack, was resoundingly effective.

7. Levi’s 501, Drugstore 1995

Advertising Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty), London

A Levi’s classic of note, brilliantly directed by Michel Gondry with “Mule Skinner Blues” as the emotive soundtrack.

The multi-award winning commercial which included a Cannes Gold Lion, was entered into the Guinness Book of Records for winning the most awards of all time.

8. Levi’s 501, Washroom 1996

Advertising Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty), London

This amusing Tarantino styled, crime genre commercial was directed by Tarsem Singh.

Filmed on location at a sleazy looking Los Angeles gas station, it features a girl on the run and her quick change of identity and clothes in the men’s washroom.

The actress is Ana Cristina de Oliveira and the soundtrack music is ‘Falling Elevators’ by the US avant-garde group, MC 900 Ft. Jesus.

9. Levi’s 501, Kung Fu 1997

Advertising Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Gegarty), London

Time Magazine rates Bruce Lee as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century and the greatest martial arts icon of modern, popular culture.

His most famous starring role was in ‘Enter The Dragon’. It is considered to be one of the greatest martial arts movies of all time.

Skillfully directed by Jonathan Glazer, the excellently choreographed Levi’s commercial entertainingly references scenes from the iconic ‘Enter The Dragon’ movie, and stars Kung Fu master Dusting Nguyen.

The soundtrack music features a remix of ‘Stepping Stones’ by Johnny Harris.

10. Levi’s 501, Dangerous Liaison’s 2007

Advertising Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty), London

The Cannes Gold Lion award winning commercial, directed by Ringan Ledwidge, stars Hollywood superstar Lea Seydoux and French actor Raphael Personez.

Their passionate action of tearing each other’s clothes off is cleverly crafted as a ‘time-travel’ episode that reveals the iconic brand’s evolution of appeal from the 80’s to 2007.

The soundtrack features ‘Strange Love’ from Little Annie’s Durtro Jnana’s album; ‘Songs from the Coal Mine Canary’.