PETER YORK ON ADS

No 96: LEVI'S
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The Independent Culture
LEVI'S have a new ad with a new technique and a new sensibility. This is important in adland, because Levi's has been the one to watch since the ground-breaking "launderette" pastiche of the mid-Eighties.

The technique is "Claymation", the plasticine world one associates with un-hip sectors such as electricity supply ("Creature Comforts"). The sensibility comes from US adult comic-strips of a certain post-hippie vintage. Linked to a ragga sound - Shaggy's "Bombastic" - the whole effect is dirtier, more contemporary and funnier than the heritage of beautiful, live-action set pieces.

It's set in 1950s New York, round a Towering Inferno skyscraper fire. There's a screaming girl on the roof of the burning building, a heroic rocker hunk in 501s, T-shirt and black sunglasses, hopeless firemen and a police motorbike to spare. Our man races the bike up the fireman's ladder, jumps on the roof and, in a very confident attack of self-reference, takes off his jeans to show his white boxer shorts (cf Nick Kamen in the launderette). The impact on the girl is immediate and dramatic. Her hair thrashes around, she grins insanely, her tongue hangs out and she falls to her knees (a less inhibited response than the women in the earlier ads).

Our man hooks his Levi's over a cable running to the next building, and slides down it with the girl clinging to him and the flames pursuing them along the cable. The details are lovely, all the bike-shed jokes that boys enjoy, like two pigeons evacuating themselves in terror as the hero and heroine swoop past. And, of course, they crash through a bathroom window where, of course, there's an old man sitting on the lavatory with his trousers around his ankles. And they ignore him for Love Action.

The reworking of Claymation as an adult comic strip, the Shaggy sound and the obsessive detailing add up to distinctive direction - there are signs of it elsewhere - away from filmic gorgeousness. It will certainly be copied.

! Video supplied by Tellex Commercials.

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