Saturday, December 19, 2009

After Copenhagen: Whitman's words, Levi's campaign

In my estimation, this latest Levi's ad campaign is the best ever on television. More stirring than the Coke commercials of the 1960s-70s, more compelling than the Volkswagen ads during the same period. Better than "Where's the Beef?" or "I Wish I Were an Oscar Mayer Wiener" or "My Dog's Bigger Than Your Dog." More rugged than the Marlboro Man and sexier than the Calvin Klein ads. A stronger clarion-call than Ronald Reagan's "Morning in America" campaign ads (of course, I did not vote for him!), and a gutsier wake-up call than the 1984 Apple Computer Brave New World commercial. More active than the latest "I'm a Pepper" Dr. Pepper street dancing ad. More vital and inspiring than my heretofore favorite commercial, Gap's 1998 khaki swing dancers (which did not make it in AdAge's Top 100 Advertising Campaigns list).

When the Levi's Go Forth ad came on Friday night it agitated me into a whoop! from my chair, and I looked over at Michael and said: "LOVE these ads. They make me wish I was 17."

Little did I know, until reading more online later on, that "Go Forth" is a major online/offline fortune hunt contest. Some of you may be playing it and others are probably as clueless about this as I was. Check out the short video at the Levi's Go Forth Fortune website that inspires youth and others to go forth in this individual and community quest. Here's a bit from the Rules of the contest from the website:
Contest Overview: Levi's® "Go Forth Fortune" Scavenger Hunt Contest (the "Contest") is a nationwide scavenger hunt with both online and off-line components that involves (a) completing scavenger hunt tasks to learn more about the history of Levi Strauss & Co. and the story of Grayson Ozias IV, (b) completing a virtual quiz using the information learned from completing the scavenger hunt tasks that provides an opportunity to be one (1) of one-hundred (100) finalists receiving a finalist prize, and (c) solving a final cipher based on information learned throughout the Contest for the opportunity to be the Grand Prize winner and participate in a real life treasure hunt to discover $100,000 in cash buried somewhere in the United States.
There is a fascinating article at ARGnet, titled Go Forth O Pioneers! A Reflection on Levi's Go Forth Campaign that gives deeper background into the phenomenon (read it here).

As the Copenhagen Climate Summit basically crumbled into ash I have felt depressed, truly depressed. But in these words by Walt Whitman, in these ads by Levi's, my frustration and fears have a place where they can run around screaming in the dark until my spirit is re-energized to carry on, to continue the fight for enlightenment before it's too late. As far as Stanza 7 below is concerned, I hope the new pioneers heed the lessons learned from those particular activities.

Pioneers! O Pioneers!
~by Walt Whitman

COME, my tan-faced children,
Follow well in order, get your weapons ready;
Have you your pistols? have you your sharp edged axes? Pioneers! O pioneers!

For we cannot tarry here,
We must march my darlings, we must bear the brunt of danger,
We, the youthful sinewy races, all the rest on us depend, Pioneers! O pioneers!

O you youths, western youths,
So impatient, full of action, full of manly pride and friendship,
Plain I see you, western youths, see you tramping with the foremost, Pioneers! O

Have the elder races halted?
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied, over there beyond the seas?
We take up the task eternal, and the burden, and the lesson, Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the past we leave behind;
We debouch upon a newer, mightier world, varied world,
Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the march, Pioneers! O pioneers!

We detachments steady throwing,
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,
Conquering, holding, daring, venturing, as we go, the unknown ways, Pioneers! O pioneers!

We primeval forests felling,
We the rivers stemming, vexing we, and piercing deep the mines within;
We the surface broad surveying, we the virgin soil upheaving, Pioneers! O pioneers!

Colorado men are we,
From the peaks gigantic, from the great sierras and the high plateaus,
From the mine and from the gully, from the hunting trail we come, Pioneers! O pioneers!

From Nebraska, from Arkansas,
Central inland race are we, from Missouri, with the continental blood intervein’d;
All the hands of comrades clasping, all the Southern, all the Northern, Pioneers! O

O resistless, restless race!
O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender love for all!
O I mourn and yet exult—I am rapt with love for all, Pioneers! O pioneers!

Raise the mighty mother mistress,
Waving high the delicate mistress, over all the starry mistress, (bend your heads all,)
Raise the fang’d and warlike mistress, stern, impassive, weapon’d mistress, Pioneers! O

See, my children, resolute children,
By those swarms upon our rear, we must never yield or falter,
Ages back in ghostly millions, frowning there behind us urging, Pioneers! O pioneers!

On and on, the compact ranks,
With accessions ever waiting, with the places of the dead quickly fill’d,
Through the battle, through defeat, moving yet and never stopping, Pioneers! O pioneers!

O to die advancing on!
Are there some of us to droop and die? has the hour come?
Then upon the march we fittest die, soon and sure the gap is fill’d, Pioneers! O

All the pulses of the world,
Falling in, they beat for us, with the western movement beat;
Holding single or together, steady moving, to the front, all for us, Pioneers! O

Life’s involv’d and varied pageants,
All the forms and shows, all the workmen at their work,
All the seamen and the landsmen, all the masters with their slaves, Pioneers! O pioneers!

All the hapless silent lovers,
All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and the wicked,
All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the dying, Pioneers! O pioneers!

I too with my soul and body,
We, a curious trio, picking, wandering on our way,
Through these shores, amid the shadows, with the apparitions pressing, Pioneers! O

Lo! the darting bowling orb!
Lo! the brother orbs around! all the clustering suns and planets,
All the dazzling days, all the mystic nights with dreams, Pioneers! O pioneers!

These are of us, they are with us,
All for primal needed work, while the followers there in embryo wait behind,
We to-day’s procession heading, we the route for travel clearing, Pioneers! O pioneers!

O you daughters of the west!
O you young and elder daughters! O you mothers and you wives!
Never must you be divided, in our ranks you move united, Pioneers! O pioneers!

Minstrels latent on the prairies!
(Shrouded bards of other lands! you may sleep—you have done your work;)
Soon I hear you coming warbling, soon you rise and tramp amid us, Pioneers! O pioneers!

Not for delectations sweet;
Not the cushion and the slipper, not the peaceful and the studious;
Not the riches safe and palling, not for us the tame enjoyment, Pioneers! O pioneers!

Do the feasters gluttonous feast?
Do the corpulent sleepers sleep? have they lock’d and bolted doors?
Still be ours the diet hard, and the blanket on the ground, Pioneers! O pioneers!

Has the night descended?
Was the road of late so toilsome? did we stop discouraged, nodding on our way?
Yet a passing hour I yield you, in your tracks to pause oblivious, Pioneers! O pioneers!

Till with sound of trumpet,
Far, far off the day-break call—hark! how loud and clear I hear it wind;
Swift! to the head of the army!—swift! spring to your places, Pioneers! O pioneers.



Indigo said...

I love those commercials too. I didn't realize there was a scavenger hunt going on behind the scenes.

Love the Whitman poem. Strong and resilent the way I remember things used to be and can be again. (Hugs)Indigo

Canada Guy said...

Copenhagen has failed. The UN has failed to address the most important crisis in human history. This is now the time for sanctions, boycotts and embargoes. A new alliance is needed. An alliance of hope and peace and justice must be built to oppose the axis of pollution, extinction and self destruction.

YogaforCynics said...

Old Walt, visionary as he was in so many other ways, was definitely pre-ecology. In his day, the world still seemed so vast, and people so puny and weak, that the idea of exhausting resources or actually damaging the environment in any significant way simply wasn't on the radar...but how things changed in just a matter of decades...

Darlene said...

Stirring commercial and stirring words by Walt Whitman. Onward!!

The Peace Corps comes to mind and we should encourage those out of school and out of a job to enter it.

As to commercials: my favorite all time commercial was so simple, cheap to make and catchy. It was a picture of a VW Beetle moving forward as a soothing voice said :A Volkswagon can go forward" and then as the VW went backwards "A Volkswago can go backwards. Isn't that wonderful?" I loved it.

secret, fragile skies said...

i am with you on this spectacular ad...whitman!!! love this post!

Lydia said...

@Indigo- Interesting you would refer to the Whitman poem as "strong and resilient," because those are words I would use to describe you as expressed through your blog. xo

@Canada Guy- Wow. Thank you for visiting my blog and for leaving such a dynamic comment. I couldn't agree with you more, and am happy to have the link to explore possibilities of that "new alliance."

@YogaforCynics- I had never really questioned him from an environmentalist stance until recently. Your comment was wise and wonderful and would make a great post/editorial/commentary (hint).

@Darlene- O, I loved the VW ads and remember the one you mentioned! They worked their magic on me, because I had two VW bugs during those years. My first one was totaled on US 395 and I had eye surgery in the ER after the accident. The second one was a replacement, but didn't have a moon roof like my original one and I never bonded with it...

I loved your Onward!!

@secret, fragile skies- You made my day :)

Canada Guy said...

Thanks Lydia, and thanks for you comments on my blog!

Phivos Nicolaides said...

Fascinating commercials!

English Rider said...

I am glad you posted this. Kudos to the Ad-Creators and the clients with courage to step outside the box.

Lydia said...

@Canada Guy- My pleasure, most definitely.

@Phivos- I wondered what people outside the U.S. would think of them, as I assume this particular ad campaign is not playing away from here. Thank you for your input!

@English Rider- Kudos indeed. That is what they deserve!

cathwrynn said...

aren't Levis one of the clothing brands with the worst social and environmental records around?

under age labour in developing nations, unsafe and unhealthy factories secreted in locations with shabby labour laws, a carbon footprint to "die for" etc etc etc
just shows you that spending money on PR goes much further than on cleaning up your human rights abuses... marketing department delivered! Bonuses all round...

the ads are certainly emotionally inspirational, well-targeted and visually provocative... great propaganda in the age old tradition of public manipulation.

The ads are about a competition to increase brand buy-in and consumer loyalty... to a jeans company. How inane and depressing can you get????

sad to see good art in the service of minority enriching corporates...

Ben said...

I just saw this commercial and I was very intrigued at the oration. I had thought it was a quote from the classic book "O Pioneers" by Willa Cather. That's awesome that it's from a poem by Walt Whitman. I agree. The commercial was very stirring.

Lydia said...

@cathwrynn- I must admit that I'm unaware of Levi's corporate ills or carbon footprint, but you sure have brought up some potent points in a most articulate way. Since I haven't purchased a pair of Levi's for well over 18 years, preferring other brands for cut and style, I at least have not been a paying contributor to whatever it is the company is doing regarding those issues. But I love the ads; American youth need to see themselves in a more positive light different than what has prevailed for over a decade. And the competition, though designed as you said, appealed to me for the mere fact that it may inspire a desire for exploration beyond a computer screen or alcohol/drugs. Naive of me? Maybe!

@Ben- Yes, the oration is a huge part of the appeal. In fact, I wondered whose voice that is. He is compelling.



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