PETER YORK ON ADS

No 122: WRANGLER
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The Independent Culture
LEVI'S so dominates its sector as a TV advertiser that other brands have retreated from the cockfight, skulking on the margins in cinema or magazine work, aiming for safe little niches. Fifteen years ago it was all different: at least three major and several lesser brands of jeans slugged it out on TV, targeting young men with video promos, masculine authenticity and new music. They tried everything - but after the Nick Kamen "Launderette" ad the others seemed to fade away.

Now, however, Wrangler has decided the time is right for another heroic effort. It has taken as its theme the fall-back position of any jeans brand stuck for an idea: authenticity. So we get the unreal combination of authentic America and authentic masculinity expressed through a series of cliches played completely straight: "The Drifter", "The Flatlands", "The Slow Freight-Train".

The first shot, silhouetted against a deserted oil-well tower, shows the back-view of some jeans well beyond the decoratively frayed or the pleasingly decayed. And seriously dirty too. These are Mike Bradley's Wranglers and "every pair tells a story". Next we see Mike running alongside a slow, old-style freight-train with photogenically distressed, open wooden wagons.

Then our lad's on the straw in the wagon, shouting at the empty landscape. A rat makes its way over his feet but he's cool to the flows of nasty nature. We see rough boots, three days' growth and beneath it, a New York model-agency face. After that, a bit of arty flashback - Mike walking the straight empty roads with a poetical voiceover - serves somehow to introduce The Girl (rough but sexy, like a coarser Kim Novak) for a moment of implied coupling before she pushes him off the train and throws his bundle of belongings after him. And that's cool, too, for our director's read Kerouac as well as watching a number of 1970s "new westerns".

They're running like mad with the client's old claim to being "the authentic western jean". But they shouldn't have tried so hard, because every 14- year-old knows this kind of authenticity comes out of a can. They'd be better advised to go for something mythically inauthentic, like an out-take from a Fifties TV western, which by now looks as weird as you can get. As it is they've got just one clear target market: crusties.

! Video supplied by Tellex Commercials.

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