No, Culture Marketing is NOT dead.
Yes I know it looks like it is, pretty much, but I'm still around. I indeed found out that outside France people were working in August. I know, you cannot believe it, but trust me, they are.
Culture marketing has been struggling for life and still is, but is proud to celebrate its third anniversary, yep. And 3 years in blog time means a lot, believe me!
The campaign that was indeed striking enough to get me back to work is the Go Forth Campaign by Levi's, that I've been seeing everywhere from subway to theaters for the last few weeks.
A campaign shot by Mr Ryan McGinley, king of the 70's-inspired photo, featuring naked people, freely frolicking in the countryside. Who could better picture this long-forgotten heritage? The current crisis has tolled the knell of bling-bling years, the glorious ones when one could sell just a brand because everyone wanted brands and logos, and to me this campaign is one of a perfect illustration. Who more than Levi's could indeed claim to be the absolute, quintessential jeans?
It was about time, as for the last decade Levi's had been suffering from a consumers' strong disinterest. Remember back in the 80s / 90s when all teenagers would wear the mythical 501 (and would either kill or die for it) : who's wearing it now, when so many hype, tallked-about, niche brands have emerged and are now driving the trend?
From the inside, this campaign is a true homage to the brand's past and heritage, as they say. "But also to refresh and reinvent the idea of a pioneering spirit for the times in which we live" according to Mrs Hoffman, Exec. Creative Director. Like it's now time to forget about the tie and suit that enslave us everyday, even more these days, when for some people wearing a suit is not part of their life anymore.
I must admit, I liked this campaign. Dark but holding hope as much as possible - like there might be a life beyond subprimes and credit crunch...
But I have to say that going deeper I found out that there was a real controversy rising around this ad, about the total lack of originality of the campaign. WHAT? Levi's, the historical leader of the jeans market, known by millions of people accross the world, caught red-handed at copying?
From that point, a lot of existential questions would emerge like : can a leader copy the others? Are agencies suffering from a lack of imagination? Do we talk too much about the crisis? Is it a source of business? Isn't it cynical to re-launch a brand thanks to it? Is marketing+crisis an efficient association? Will all has-been brands use the crisis as a stepping stone towars success?
FYI, and to be totally dispassionate, you should know that Wrangler recently released a similar ad, shot by the same photographer. First part of the debate.
But there's also the other brand, March Forth Clothing, that had launched a very similar campaign in 2003 and is denouncing this plagiary in a viral movie, that you can watch on Youtube.
Actually, Levi's has been strongly criticized for this ad, whether it is for the elitist aspect of it, the snobish Whitman quote, the 'go forth' thing that can be a bit hard to accept when you're struggling to get over poverty, or the selfish, post-apocalyptic vision, a bit too much to be true.
What we can at least say is that they definitely created a ras-de-maree when launching it. Scandal, buzz, scandal... My last but not least existential question...