hard sell

Product: Levis jeans Agency: Bartle Bogle
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The Independent Online
Product: Levis jeans

Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty

Inter faeces et urinas nascitur is an unsavoury fact of life. But it seems that advertising has now decided to rub our noses in it - literally. Forget "yob" ads. "Shit" ads are making a big splash.

The latest Levis campaign is an animated essay in scatology. A hunk, Ed Clayman, rescues a dame from the roof of a burning hotel by abseiling with her down a telephone cable using his Levis, literally scaring the poop out of a couple of pigeons and crashing into a bathroom, where he and his babe begin to have sex, to the consternation of an old man sitting on the toilet. In case you didn't get the message, Ed Clayman spells it out for you, managing to break the neon sign on the roof of the hotel so that instead of "Schmitt Hotel" it reads "Sch itt Hotel". Ha, ha.

That Levis - once the purveyors par excellence of "high art" advertising which deployed desire as a stylish, chic aspiration that made you a little more godlike - have gone as low as this is quite remarkable. As Camille Paglia might have put it (if she were interested in the world of youth advertising), the Apollonian has been traded in for the Dionysian, Sixties soul for Shabba Ranks and no one's wearing any underwear (well, Ed Clayman wears some white boxer shorts).

Animation makes this possible because it is less real. But the kind of animation chosen, claymation, brings us back to the brown sticky stuff. Ed Clayman is an unwitting reminder that we are all basically sacks of shit (even if the sacks are double-stitched and made by Levis). Faeces are, you see, earthy, popular, and literally fundamental. Most of all, they're about infantile, rebellious desires, which are both fresher and easier to depict than the (sex war minefield) adult variety. So we're going to smell more of it in advertising for young people.

Even for foodstuffs. Campbells currently promotes its canned meatballs with a TV commercial in which a large meatball lands on the head of a sumo wrestler, one boy transforms his into a big round brown shiny ball, while another swimming in the sea turns brown and sticky, with a host of meatballs singing the chorus: "No need to tell you, Campbells Meatballs are everywhere." Indeed.

If Freud was right, and shit is money, then Campbells, Ed Clayman and scatological advertising have given a new meaning to the phrase "money talks".