America: Go Forth! (In Levi’s)


I have enjoyed and taken inspiration from these sixty seconds for many months now. This is really astonishing, inspirational commerce-art:


The spot is called “O’ Pioneer” and it is one of the core components of an ambitious marketing campaign put together by Levi’s and their advertising agency, Widen + Kennedy. The campaign went live last year, ever so cleverly, on the Fourth of July and linked the Levi brand with a new and energetic take on the American dream. The ad at hand was directed by the up-and-coming filmmaker M. Blash; but the imagery was inspired, perhaps overseen, by veteran photographer Ryan McGinley, who also shot the print and outdoor materials for the campaign. The copy is actually poetry. It’s an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s “Pioneers! O Pioneers” read all grainy and raspy by the Will Gear.

My praise for the spot is both straightforward and complex. Straightforward because electric (and patriotic) poetry overlaid onto fevered, sexually-charged visuals strikes all the right cords in my heart. The glammed up apocalyptic look and Christopher McCandless-esque models further resonate with me. And finally, that high voltage, that evangelically taut summons, flashed at the end (––Go Forth––) makes me want to get off my butt and do what I got to do.

Complex because what is occurring behind the scenes has a sophisticated and thoughtful design. How so? It invokes and coalesces so very much. It’s all here: History, Politics, and Art. July 1776 folds into February 2008: Jefferson and Obama merge. The visual motifs of McGiney revitalize the verse of Whitman. The gold rush pioneer morphs into the post-recession innovator or agent of change. All the while, the quintessentially American Levi brand and its quintessentially American values of self-reliance, hard work, independence, and hopefulness endure.

Yeah man, it just does. I gotta rip off these overpriced Italian jeans, zip on some Levi’s and hit the road.