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Ready to work... pfft.
More than anything, one of my favorite topics to write about is hypocrisy in advertising. Most recently, I’ve been irked about the latest advertising campaign from W+K and Levis Jeans called “Ready To Work”. In this campaign, Levis celebrates the average American blue collar worker, you know... the people who built America and made it the great place it is today.
Ideally, it makes sense right? What is more “American” and iconic than Levis jeans? Long the chosen affordable brand of those who punch the time clock, work hard, sweat hard, and know the value of a dollar on a days work, Levis has collaborated with the people from the dilapidated rust belt town of Braddock, PA to celebrate “work” and “iconic heritage work wear”. Levis features the Braddock citizens in their marketing campaign which includes TV ads, print, film, website, etc. In return the folks from Braddock get their mugs in advertisements, they get written about in GOOD magazine (which is actually a paid product placement articles on behalf of Levis), they get some respect from the average consumer that sees the ads and thinks... “Yeah, the people of Braddock... they are hard working, just like me.” On top of all of that, Levis is even helping the town by donating money to the local library, community center and urban farm.
Seems like a pretty good deal eh?
However, the irony with all of these these “classic american icon” articles of clothing is that they are not your standard affordable prices for the “hard working American”. No, they are fashion items made to appeal to the current hipster or seemingly recent trend of blue collar “chic” aka: heritage brands. Take for example the classic Levis Trucker denim jacket, on average it will cost you $80. Or... if you want the one that is apparently more of homage to the “respect for heritage workwear, heirloom quality and tradition” be willing to shell out $280. Jeans? Well, according to the Levis website, no pair of jeans under the basic Levis label is actually less than $44. Now, by no means am I impoverished - my family has done pretty well for ourselves, but I come from an impoverished rural area. The majority of the folks in my small Southern Ohio hometown are as about as hard working and yet down on their luck as the people of Braddock PA and you know what... the majority of my community does most of their shopping at Wal Mart. This means that at most, the average price that hard working american is willing to pay for their denim staple is $20.
Oh, and did I forget to mention that that “heirloom quality” jacket (which pays homage to the hard working American) is imported? As in.... not even made in America? That’s the second piece of irony here; Levis closed their last American plant in 2003 and since, all Levi’s items have been made outside of the USA. You know, if Levis really wanted to help and support the people of Braddock Pennsylvania, they could do more than feature them in advertisements, blogs and donate money to the local library and community center. No, if Levis really cared about the people of Braddock and the hard working American down on their luck... they could put a factory there and give the people jobs. Because we all know that another trend will come along and people will forget the ads, and then where are the people of Braddock? Still in the same slump... their 15 minutes of fame over and guess what, they still have to put food on the table and provide for their family.
Another funny thing is, apparently all over America you can find these ads and billboards that have "Levis" and then "Braddock, PA" listed under the slogan; which ideally, makes most people think that the jeans are being made in Braddock. However, a trip to Braddock proves that Levis doesn't even try to make people think there is a new industry in town... no where in Braddock can you find a billboard that has Braddock and Levis on it.
Basically it all comes down to this.... if Levis really cared enough to celebrate the American work ethic and the American worker, they could actually just make their jeans in America.