Levi’s Go Forth
The Levi’s Go Forth campaign launched in 2011, done by ad agency Wieden & Kennedy. It was Levi’s first global marketing initiative. The first ‘flagship’ television ad that was broadcast (embedded above) was shot by Ryan McGinley and features Walt Whitman reciting his poem “America”.
It’s been over 3 years, and I still use this as a benchmark for what an ad should be: inspirational, evocative, and original. It’s almost like W&K had found a way to almost manufacture authenticity. My own emotional response was so strong first seeing this ad, that I really had to step back and realize I was just watch a commercial for Jeans. The way it conveyed a sense of working class, bootstrap pulling, salt of the earth American values through a young, hip aesthetic really changed the way I looked at advertising. The immense sense of pride, and urgency, and patriotism all conveyed in 60 seconds made me see the power of advertising. If I hadn’t already owned several pairs of Levi’s at the time, I’m sure I would have went to go buy some.
I’m not a very self-expressive person; I like to make things that look nice, but don’t have any personal value to me. Advertising is the perfect vehicle for that sentiment. I’d rather bring a market research team’s vision come to life rather than my own. The idea that someone created something this profound and cinematic (to me at least) just to sell pants really spoke to me. The way it took something beautiful and commodified it, and made it accessible to prime time television audiences struck a chord in me. It made me realize that this is what I wanted to do as a career.