Awkward timing for new Levi’s ad

Levi’s has released the latest ad in its Go Forth series of ads. The campaign is centred around youthful freedom, usually of the semi-naked-in-nature variety, but this spot also features kids fronting up to riot police, scenes the brand no doubt didn’t actually think would be happening when they released the spot…

Levi’s has released the latest ad in its Go Forth series of spots. The campaign is centred around youthful freedom, usually of the semi-naked-in-nature variety, but this spot also features kids fronting up to riot police, scenes the brand no doubt didn’t actually think would be happening when they released the spot…

Titled Legacy – Now Is Our Time, the ad features a reading of Charles Bukowski’s poem The Laughing Heart, which opens with the lines ‘Your life is your life, don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission, be on the watch, there are ways out, there is a light somewhere.’ The visuals are a mixture of kids having fun (jumping into swimming pools etc) and the more pertinent imagery of protests and riots.

Realising that the timing is off, Levi’s has apparently postponed the ad’s UK release, but has uploaded the spot onto YouTube and similar sharing sites, and it is available to view on the Levi’s Go Forth site,, so is easy to find. Plus with the unrest that has occurred elsewhere recently, the ad’s imagery will no doubt feel topical to people all over the world, not just in the UK.

Levi’s is far from the first brand to want to co-opt the romanticism and danger of protest imagery for commercial gain. And looking more deeply into the mission statement that accompanies the ad on the website, Levi’s is clearly trying to instigate positive action with the campaign (in particular support for the charity But should brands really be dabbling with the language and imagery of political protest to sell products? Especially when the issues behind such action, as has been proven lately, are often far more complex than brands are ultimately comfortable with engaging in?

Levi’s Go Forth credits:
Agency: Wieden + Kennedy US
ECD: Susan Hoffman
Creative directors: Tyler Whisnand, Jeff Williams, Eric Baldwin
Creatives: Antony Goldstein, Julia Blackburn, Jeff Williams
Production company:
Director: Ralf Schmerberg


CR in Print

Don’t miss out – there’s nothing like CR in print. Our August Summer Reading issue contains our pick of some of our favourite writing on advertising, illustration and graphic design as well as a profile of Marion Deuchars plus pieces on the Vorticists, Total Design, LA Noire and much more.

If you would like to buy this issue and are based in the UK, you can search for your nearest stockist here. Based outside the UK? Simply call +44(0)207 292 3703 to find your nearest stockist. Better yet, subscribe to CR for a year hereand save yourself almost 30% on the printed magazine and get Monograph.


  • Mike

    Timing may be off, but a really inspiring piece of film, up until the point where you realise it’s selling jeans.

  • Also, the Coca Cola spot with Thomas Turgoose running through the street with a flaming torch seems a little bit odd now. Plus it starts with him clearly violating the Countryside Code, so he manages to represent urban AND rural antisocial behaviour.

  • @daniel — your comment properly made me laugh.

    using social issues in order to sell stuff is seriously low, so i’m glad to see it backfire.

  • Rob

    I find it odd how an advert for selling clothes tries to be so much more. At the end of the day all this ad wants to do is sell X amount of jeans, no more. I’m sure consumer culture had a part to play in the lootings, in London

  • At least the advert portrays youth in peaceful protest for ideals that they believe in, rather than wanton violence and theft that is going on at the moment. Beautiful art direction and I don’t mind it selling good jeans either :-)

  • Lucky they didn’t release it before hand — no doubt they would have been blamed for ‘influencing young minds’. Nicely shot all the same (no pun intended).

  • matt pam

    So that’s the mood film. When are they going to make the actual advert, you know, with an idea in it?

  • Ed

    Buk would’ve loved his poem being used to sell jeans.

    The whole thing is admittedly really pretty, but lifestyle salesmanship is really starting to bring me down; the hijacking of good times and artistic integrity to sell arse-coverings to teenagers just grates on me regardless of riots.

    Ben Kay says it better here:

  • It’d be a nice irony if the ad prompted wholesale looting of their product. Rather a waste of their media budget, eh? And a caution for advertisers trying to tie their product to the zeitgeist – which was obviously a little too ‘right on’ in this case!

  • Mindless though the rioting youths are, even they would not be influenced by this (though it would be foolhardy to show these films in the near future).

    I’m after a pair of jeans at the moment, and this leaves me cold. It aspires to the great Levi’s campaigns of yesteryear, but ignores one crucial point. The ads in those campaigns (such as the guy bathing in the jeans, and the jean ‘funeral’), had a product benefit seamlessly woven into the idea (shrinking, and longevity respectively).


    This is bad, bad, bad, work.
    Do not tell me how i should my act out my life.

    Puma and DIESEL are at least not trying to take themselves so seriously. this is just crap.

    Poor Charles.

    Thanks levis. You put the fire in my heart.

  • Rob

    There is nothing wrong with a brand dabbling with the imagery of political protest, if that’s what it wants to align itself with, that’s fine. A political protest is meant to be for the good of the people, revolutionary and productive; quite a positive thing for a brand to associated with. The riots playing out at the moment are the exact opposite of this.

    Political protests are very necessary things, these riots should never be associated with politics and have nothing to do with necessity.

  • These type of adverts irritate me, when all they are doing is peddling their wares. Where’s the social responsibility in this brand!?

  • Rob

    I would like to see a more responsible direction to selling goods. Something like, you only get what you work for.

    Firms like Wieden + Kennedy are all part of the bigger picture of a consumer society that thinks its entitled to have anything without working for it.

  • James

    This is fairly innocuous stuff and quite pleasant to watch – and credit must be given for trying to raise the profile of any charity – but the timing is very unfortunate as those few shots clearly glamorise riots/rioters during a time when people in the UK (at least) will think they’re anything but.

    The HD beautified images of youth and youth culture seem at odds, and slightly risible, compared to the low quality mobile phone footage of real youth insurrections in the UK and around the world. The danger for Levi’s is that they’ll be perceived as being out of touch and no one will want to buy or associate themselves with a brand that seems uncool.

  • baz

    Come on. This predictable & pretty shameless appropriation of global events is depressing.
    Abstracting the genuine sentiments behind events such as those in Egypt, Syria and Libya (where people have and are continuing to be killed remember) and using them just to sell some jeans and promote a fictitious brand ethos is pretty unpleasant, no? Further, isn’t this type of facile appropriation part of the reason people are going stark raving bonkers trying to attain aspirational lifestyles we have been sold but which we can’t afford and which, more importantly, don’t exist? Crumbs, what a madhouse.

  • Whenever a brand draws upon social issues, they get this kind of po-faced reaction. Yet, years down the line, the likes of Coke’s On A Hillside and Benetton’s AIDS posters are remembered as being iconic and representative of their times while all the USP and benefit-led stuff that the industry establishment prefers is forgotten. As for timing, from the student demos to the Arab Spring there’s been a lot of protests in the last year. I say this ad is timely and may prove to be timeless.

  • Ouch.

  • Ron Stephens

    Just goes to show, advertising, branding and PR works! What’re you going to rob?

    And if you’re not on CCTV you don’t have to pay for it

    The advertising, marketing, PR, spin and branding fraternity should think deeply about what they have created

  • Lily

    I felt the manifesto and direction of majority images is to create positive attitude. I can see they just wanted to tell the youth Go forth. .. hmm rather than just showing jeans yeah the ad would be dead bored to relate to.

  • Fred

    How many creatives are needed to write an ad these days?

  • J.Keet

    Bloody great timing, I say.

  • Captivating images, nice timing lol

  • Yes! Go forth; run wild and free, don’t take any crap from ‘the Man’!

    P.S. If you would be so kind as to restrain yourselves from looting/setting fire to any Levi’s Stores that may be in the path of your self expression/rampage that would be most appreciated.

  • Bo Davis

    It’s a shame t-mobile aren’t producing their highly irritating spoof viral dance ads anymore. They could have featured the looters / rioters dropping there newly acquired flat screen tv’s and breaking into song with a break-beat provided by the coppers riot shields!
    Bad taste? Indeed! almost as tasteless as the ‘Royal Wedding’ viral they made.

    As for this Levi ad. I love it. Beautiful & inspirational piece of film making.
    @ James Nelson ‘using social issues in order to sell stuff is seriously low’ Are you kidding?
    Any advertising creative worth their salt draws upon current affairs and popular culture to help sell.

    Bo Davis

  • *Deep breath* Whilst sitting in my room with a lovely and expensive banksy (rioting) image on the wall, listening to a dubstep MC lyrically murking the beats, playing Gears of War (with my 20% VAT from purchase funding the rebellion in far of lands) in my Fred Perry shirt (just like the ones on the film This is England) with a T.V. licence on my doorstep from the BBC (to pay for the news) I am reminded that rebellion has been selling products since the days of James Dean but that it takes a bit of bad timing for ‘tards to come out and point a finger today whilst turning their back tomorrow. Ban hoodies, burn Banksys (I am sure he started it somehow) is what I say as a new generation of total repression that will well up like a volcano until the next reason to rampage presents itself. I am off to throw out all of my Marketing / Advertising life to date. I have been such such a c*nt. *exhale* Phew that was cathartic. Any jobs at Maccy D’s anyone?

  • KEB

    “You’re not REALLY rebelling until you’re rebelling in a pair of Levi’s.”

  • I guess timing isn’t everything…

  • Lol pretty awkward timing indeed.

    Quite a nice ad but as with a lot of ads these days, it could simply be for anything.

    Nice music though! Very tranquil.

  • I like.

    Good use of a Poem.

    And a beautiful film. Is it an ‘ad’? Not in the traditional sense but fuck it, what is these days?

  • felipe


    Individualism again?


  • Lovely piece of work. Brilliantly art directed and produced.

    I see a lot of people miscomprehend it though.

    Great to see Charles Bukowski brought into a mainstream medium.
    If they had managed to tone down the product focus just a little, it would have been even better.

    @ Mat Pam. (Chi ?)
    Maybe your way of thinking of ‘advertising’ is a thing of the past?

  • Matthew Hodges

    Levis Riot-wear – brilliant

  • Katia

    Do you know whose voice is it?? The one that read the poem??