Levi’s, the world’s leading jeans brand, has been synonymous with
rebellion and cult cool ever since the 1950s when icons such as James
Dean sported the brand.
However, with denim being declared passe in 1998, and Levi’s sales
falling by 13 per cent, a move towards non-denim casualwear made
Shilland and Co was briefed to manage the PR for the UK relaunch of
Levi’s Sta-Prest, a non-denim range of garments first introduced by the
company in the 1960s.
To make customers reappraise Levi’s as a brand. To raise awareness of
Levi’s Sta-Prest as sharp casual wear.
The first step was a January launch in Sartoria, a restaurant on
London’s Savile Row where a mix of retailers, trade writers and consumer
media were invited to peruse items from the Sta-Prest range. The idea
was to familiarise guests with Sta-Prest and to get them to look at it
off the peg.
The second step was to get people talking about the product. Levi’s
launched an advertising campaign featuring the now-notorious character
Shilland and Co worked to win coverage for the ads and the product. A
computer screen-saver featuring Flat Eric was e-mailed to ten
journalists before the advertisement appeared on television.
The advertisement’s human star, Angel, played by a French actor,
appeared in youth and culture magazines such as M8, Sky, Minx and Heat,
without Flat Eric in tow.
While teaser ads appeared as early as January, the full campaign rolled
out in February, and press mailings accompanied this launch, underlining
the association of Flat Eric with the Levi’s Sta-Prest brand.
With the Flat Eric cult seed sown, the challenge for Shilland and Co was
to ensure his cool image was maintained and to make sure the Sta-Prest
brand was promoted alongside him.
Interviews with Flat Eric himself were highly selective, appearing only
in the Face, a non-mainstream youth magazine, and Arena. To maintain the
cult image, the puppet was forbidden to speak in public and mainstream
coverage was consequently restricted to reactive features. Reader offers
for button badges and Sta-Prest branded posters featuring Angel wearing
the Sta-Prest brand appeared in a handful of mainstream publications,
including the Sun.
The campaign won lots of coverage, including the cover and six pages of
Heat magazine, and pieces in the Mirror, Sunday Times and the
The talkability side of the campaign too has been a resounding success,
with the dancing Flat Eric screen-saver appearing on increasing numbers
of PCs in the workplace - there is even anecdotal evidence that Flat
Eric button badges are changing hands for pounds 20.
The techno soundtrack to the advert was play-listed by Radio One and
Kiss FM and hit number one in the charts, guaranteeing free ongoing
brand exposure in the broadcast media. No exact sales figures are
available, but the Sta-Prest shirt is now Levi’s best-selling top in the
Shilland has controlled Flat Eric as a cool cult figure but stopped him
from overwhelming the promotion of the brand. People are still talking
about Flat Eric and ’the new Levi’s ad’ a month after the campaign
Client: Levi Strauss.
PR Team: Shilland and Co.
Campaign: Relaunch of Sta-Prest range.
Timescale: Mid- January to end of March.