Iconic Ads: Levi Strauss – Route 66

route 66

The advertisement is both highly skilled and sexually suggestive. It’s racy, law breaking, casual pickups & more – All in a Levi’s commercial!

Levi Strauss & Co. was founded on the West Coast to serve immigrants seeking the American Dream, and the firm eventually shifted focus from workwear to casualwear to appeal to a new generation of rebellious young Americans. It felt like an inevitability that Levi’s would become an iconic American brand in the 1970s; all they had to do was play up aspects of their character that had already evolved over the years.

The 1970s were perhaps the most sexually charged decade in the history of British commercials.

The obscenity trial against D.H. Lawrence’s scandalous book Lady Chatterley’s Lover ended in 1960 with no convictions, and British sexual mores shifted as a result. The acquittal of Penguin Books in the Lady Chatterley trial was the first jury judgment in history to have such a significant cultural effect.

Indeed, sexual activity had entered the realm of the aesthetic.

Ad men of the 1970s, like McCann Erickson’s Roger Manton, could logically feel free to openly embrace sexuality in their work.

The most extensive variety of products included sexualized images of women. All sorts of liquor, cosmetics, and confectionery had glaringly blatant sexual imagery or innuendo (such as young, attractive ladies devouring phallic chocolate bars with a smug air of sexual satisfaction).

Pirelli Tyres created some of the most exquisite sensual photos for its yearly calendars, photographed by some of Britain’s most ‘creative’ photographers.

And the term ” Male Gaze” became part of the language of cinema studies.

The British filmmaker Adrian Lyne was the most enthusiastic adopter of this new kind of sexual marketing. As you can see, no one could ever accuse him of lacking an appreciation for aesthetics. He was aware of the fact that sex appeals to consumers, as were so many other TVC directors before and after him.

In the TV commercial, he saw what epitomised the prevailing mentality of the time: women’s pants pulled up tight over their bottoms.

In this nearly three-minute commercial, two young women (the “Levi’s girls”) embark on a classic American road trip, complete with car trouble, a hunky truck driver to the rescue, and plenty of incidents along the way before meeting their favourite band backstage after a concert. This is, of course, Clover, and who plays Bobby Troup’s “Route 66” (also once titled “Get Your Kicks on Route 66”)?

In London, Adrian Lyne shot the last scene of a commercial that would go on to become a landmark spot for Levi Strauss & Co. It was filmed in both London and California.

This may seem like an overly simplistic tale, but often the simplest tales are the greatest. The commercial then deftly weaves together the music and script, resulting in a fantastic mash-up of fashion, music, and film.

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