CAMPAIGNS: Puppet raises Levi’s street cred - Youth Marketing

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.

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

Flat Eric.

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.

Budget: Undisclosed.

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