A controversial pair of jeans

A new tv campaign for Levi’s has had its UK release postponed following the riots. This follows concern that the content of the ad- featuring kids confronting riot police, is too topical and thereby controversial for its British audience.

The advert, entitled “Go Forth” centres on the concept of youthful freedom, with kids shown taking action against their “submission”, “to beat the darkness”, and as the narrator repeatedly states, recognise that “your life is your life”. Yes indeed, and while this is all very heroic given Levi’s commitment to positive-change campaigns, like water aid, picture these words in the context of a still smoking Croydon and the advert seems like words of encouragement to rioters.

Surely, Levi’s is tackling an issue that is too deep and complicated for any advertisement? The jeans look great, but what kind of audience are they appealing to? Moreover, given the extent of looting, such an advert places a disproportinate emphasis on the power of the jeans, the power of a consumer culture bought and reinforced by a marginalised youth. While the advert is obviously untimely, it opens up a wider question of representation and lifestyle promotion in adverts, which in this instance has clearly gone too far and has become distasteful. That said Levi’s has also shown an uncanny ability to predict a segment of British teenagers.

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