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Levi's controversial riot ad: Bad taste or bad timing?
The denim giant's first worldwide ad campaign launched this week... too bad its imagery of youth protests uneasily evokes the London riots
 
In Levi's new commercial, a denim-clad man faces a line of riot police, the sort of inadvertently topical imagery that led the company to pull the ad in Britain.
In Levi's new commercial, a denim-clad man faces a line of riot police, the sort of inadvertently topical imagery that led the company to pull the ad in Britain.
YouTube

The video: Levi's first ever global ad campaign hit a snag this week. A commercial called "Go Forth" features images of jeans-clad youth gathering and marching in the streets in protest, confronting police lines and smoke bombs, as a voice-over intones the Charles Bukowski poem "The Laughing Heart." While the poem primarily celebrates youth and optimism, its opening lines are "your life is your life/don't let it be clubbed into dank submission." The ad (see it below), which launched on Facebook Tuesday, was due to air on British TV and movie screens, but, after several nights of violent riots in England, Levi's announced it had "temporarily postponed" the campaign, even while insisting that the ads were about "positive action and a pioneering spirit." The controversial commercial, which is still up on YouTube, has garnered nearly 330,000 hits. 

The reaction: "Talk about bad timing," says Mark Borkowski, a branding and PR expert, as quoted in the Guardian. This is part of a larger trend of brands "associating themselves with gangster-type behavior," and it "shows how far Levi's has come from the ads showing teen idol Nick Kamen in his underwear in a laundrette." Of course, "Levi's is far from the first brand to tap into the imagery of mass gatherings for its campaigns," says Emily Cronin at Elle UK. But it may have the worst luck, says Samira Shackle at the New Statesman. "While advertisers are keen to tap into the spirit of the age" and romanticize rebellion, it makes little business sense when looters are attacking the very stores that sell their high-end wares. Watch the video, below:

 

 

 

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