Levi’s Unbuttons Online

This season Levi’s decided to unbutton what’s been buttoned for so many years. The iconic 501 style denim is the focal point of a global campaign, “Unbuttoned,” which began last week.

Of all the Levi’s products, the 501 is the most consistent in all countries, and is the first line of clothing to inspire a fully integrated, global campaign. Levi’s worked with BBH in London to come up with the “Live Unbuttoned” concept, then took it to EVB in San Francisco to create the video component of the campaign.

Musicians, artists, and other personalities appear on the site and throughout the digital and print campaign with a 501-style button on their neck, forehead, wrist, or some other body part, suggesting consumers click to hear what they have to reveal.

“People are living their lives in the open. People used to have locks on their diaries, now they’re putting up drunk pictures on Flickr,” said Lauren Harwell, associate creative account director at EVB.

The first four personalities are singer and songwriter Estelle, lyricist Wale, musician and singer Nikka Costa, and BMX rider and recent XGames gold medalist Jamie Bestwick. The buttons are attached to the body part that makes each personality unique. “It’s on Estelle’s throat because she has such a beautiful voice,” said Doug Sweeny, director of Levi’s brand marketing. He said the button is placed on Wale’s forehead because he is more thought-provoking.

Each artist has provided a piece of unique, downloadable content. In the case of the music artists Estelle, Wale, and Nikka Costa, the songs are from upcoming albums. In most cases the songs are remixed and unique to the Levi’s Web site. Jamie Bestwick provided video content from a bike tournament. Levi’s worked with Cornerstone promotion to connect with up-and-coming talent for the campaign.

Levi’s will continue to roll out new artists at the rate of about one per week through the end of the year, and through 2009. “I think we are definitely looking at this in real-time; Unbuttoned will be out there for the next couple of years,” said Sweeny. “Plan to see the digital through 2009. There’s another set of artists, athletes, and musicians.” Sweeny said the campaign could extend into 2010.

In September, Celebrity blogger Perez Hilton will be featured on the site. He will include an animated piece created by an illustrator he has worked with in the past. “Perez Hilton is about as unbuttoned as you can get,” said Sweeny.

An accompanying banner campaign, created by Avenue A/ Razorfish, will begin on August 21 and draw traffic to the site. After filming, EVB shared the assets with Avenue A/ Razorfish. “They reinterpreted it and created banners, and put their unique spin on it,” said Harwell.

The banners are primarily rich media units featuring the artists. Like the initial appearance on the site before users unbutton the content, the artists convince users to click through. The ads behave in much the same way, according to Sweeny.

Online the ads will appear on sites such as Spin.com, MySpace, Perez Hilton, and a group of endemic music sites. “We are engaging with gen Y in a really ongoing way,” said Sweeny. EVB created a print campaign, which has ads placed in magazines including Rolling Stone, The Fader, Giant, Dime, Vibe, and ESPN.

An additional viral campaign, created for Levi’s to promote the 501 line, started in May and has four videos on YouTube so far, with more to come. Videos, published under the name “unbuttonedfilms,” include Guys backflip into jeans, Super chill monkey does Hollywood, Guys fill their jeans with helium, and Runaway jeans cause car crash. The work for the viral campaigns was done by Cutwater, an agency based in San Francisco.

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