Do we need to see the jeans?

In his new column, creative director Paul Belford looks at a brilliantly art directed ad each month. First up: Levi’s

This new column is about celebration. And inspiration. And masturbation probably, if – like me – you spend an unhealthy amount of time ogling creative work.

Each month I’ll choose a great piece of art direction and ponder what makes it great.

It’ll be tough to not use up all my superlatives with this month’s offering though. It’s one of the best print ads I’ve ever seen. Why?

For a start it’s a double page spread. Clearly more than twice as powerful as a single page. Although I’d be surprised if any of our media buying friends have a chart for that.
Naturally, I argued for a double page spread for this article. You already know if I won or not.

An ugly type
Well they won at BBH sometime back in the early 90s. With an ad for Levi’s that’s so utterly brilliant, it failed to get into the D&AD Annual. And they didn’t even have to contend with foreign jurors back then.

But of course D&AD juries were the least of the team’s worries. I can think of a client criticism for every element in this ad. The headline isn’t legible. The type looks ugly. The product isn’t shown clearly. Or in colour. The model isn’t aspirational enough. And wait for it… the logo is way too small and in a weird place.

Refreshing isn’t it? To see two fingers raised so gloriously to the mind-numbing, arse-covering, suicidal timidness that so many of us have to patiently argue against every single day.
And how ironic that each and every one of those predictable client ‘mandates’, naively intended to make the ad work ‘harder’ would actually make it less effective. By incrementally turning it into something clichéd and ignorable.

And the jeans?
You see, unlike 99.99% of all ads, I actually believe this one. It’s based on a great insight. An undeniable product truth. Visually dramatised about as well as it possibly could be.
It takes great skill to make the type look that bad. And real.

And the photography is sublime. By Richard Avedon, inspired by his American West series. A supremely appropriate style for the ad.

And the reason the person in the ad doesn’t look like a model is because he isn’t a model. He’s a plumber. And he’s wearing his own Levi’s. Obvious really when you think about it. But how many other jeans ads do that? And do we really need to see any more of the jeans? No. I think we all know what a pair of Levi’s looks like.

That logo
The reader either cares about this communication or they don’t. A bigger logo won’t make them care any more. In fact a smaller logo may actually make them care more. Because it’s less patronising. And cooler. And less like a bloody ad. Now I’m starting to rant. Better stop. I’m all out of superlatives anyway.

Paul Belford is the founder of creative agency Paul Belford Ltd, paulbelford.com. This column is the first in an ongoing series in which Belford will look at great art direction in advertising. Find further details about Belford’s D&AD Professional Development Session, Art Directing the Idea, at dandad.org

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