Levi Strauss and Company reached a new level of creepiness with their new ad campaign, “Unbutton Your Beast.” Soon after the site appeared, it saturated the blogosphere.
After the initial shock wore off, I began to wonder how creatures emerging from Levi’s classic 501’s iconic button fly would help the company sell jeans. I had trouble wrapping my brain around the research and development meeting where this idea was pitched — and why no one said, “You’ve got to be kidding!”
Your worst guess on what the “beast” is supposed to represent would likely be correct. Levi’s encourages visitors to the site to “create your beast,” “customize it,” and “send it to your friends.” Your (soon-to-be-ex-) friends receive an e-card with a less-than-desirable view of a pair of jeans which open to reveal the critter of your choice delivering a special message on your behalf. How raunchy could it get? Hint: you can choose the prerecorded message or record one of your own.
Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse, Senior Fellow for Concerned Women for America’s (CWA) Beverly LaHaye Institute commented, “This advertisement is absolutely crude and socially unacceptable. Remember the phrase, ‘defining deviancy down?’ This advertisement is ‘corrupting culture down!’”
Over the last several years, risqué ads have become the MO for the San Francisco-based company. Once an icon of Americana, Levi’s has become as over-sexualized as their hometown and radically changed their target demographic.
Lauren Harwell, creative director for EVB (the ad agency hired by Levi’s for the campaign), claims the ads will only be Internet-based (as if children will never see them there). Harwell said of the ads, “We didn't think it would make people angry, because what comes out of the pants is so silly," she said on the phone from the agency's San Francisco office. “The ad won't have a print or TV equivalent — it's just meant to be e-mailed around.” She added that the site was “geared for 15- to 20-year-old guys.”
Robert Cameron, EVB’s vice president of marketing, says that the site is all about “good clean fun.” I would add, “If you can ignore the obviously sexualized nature of it.”
“Unbutton Your Beast” is a follow-up component of a campaign by EVB, which included “Live Unbuttoned” last July and “Unbuttoned” in August. One of the gems of the “Live Unbuttoned” ads is a commercial with teens discussing their “first time”—not what you think, but the clearly underage couple does strip down to their underwear.
Dr. Crouse added, “One has to wonder when these ads will reach the bottom of the gutter? The advertising executives are continuing to push the envelope in terms of the amount of vulgarity they can use. They have no sense of responsibility for polluting the social environment in which our children are growing up, forming their values and shaping their attitudes. When cultural sensitivities are hardened, it is hard for purity and virtue to survive. Our young people deserve to discover the beauty of sexuality within marriage; instead they encounter crudity and vulgarity from the time they are in middle school. We are robbing our children of their innocence and these hard-hearted corporations should be held accountable.”
To express your outrage to Levi’s, click here.