Saturday, June 26, 2010

New Levi's Ad Campaign Focuses Cash and Attention On Braddock

Image of Levi's ad as seen on New York Times Website

Regular television viewers have seen plenty of the tough dedicated mayor of with the local zip code tattooed on his arm. So far I've been sort of ambivalent about the effects of all this. Often, Fetterman is photographed at Carrie Furnace, which isn't even in Braddock or really all that close while the actively working clanking, belching ET Works is rarely shown (actually I've never seen it in a national story about Braddock)

If one was going to shoot the mayor at nearby landmarks not in Braddock, why not Kennywood? Why not the busy, if ugly Homestead Waterfront mall? Even worse, most stories skip over the positive wonderful assets Braddock does have, like the Landmark Carnegie Library, or Unsmoke Systems or the thriving urban farm, the mayor helped start. Or that it's just a few short miles outside of Pittsburgh. The media is clearly portraying Braddock as a hopeless dying place, and Fetterman ("he went to Harvard") as saintly (white) hero for being there. The rest of the town's residents, are hardly seen.

This long PBS interview is pretty typical.

Of course, some positive press in the art world has followed Swoon, the famous, talented and attractive, young (white) street artist, helping to launch the Transformazium in North Braddock. This isn't to say the mayor and folks like Swoon, are not playing critical, interesting and likely leading roles, but this is clearly a team game. Anyone comparing the town they see today with what was there five years ago can see the sweat and care of lot's of people.

Now, a new Ad Campaign by Levi's will both bring more than a million dollars in cash for projects in Braddock, and hopefully put a more realistic spotlight on the town and the people working everyday to make it better.

"The town will also be featured in video clips and an hourlong show, sponsored by Levi's, to appear online and on the IFC and Sundance cable channels.

The idea to use the residents of a real community, shown trying to overcome tough times, was prompted by the introduction of a line of Levi's work wear, which includes jeans, corduroys, shirts and jackets. The print ads and billboards will carry headlines like "Ready to work," "Everybody's work is equally important" and "We are all workers."

"We wanted to engage consumers in a conversation about real work," said Doug Sweeny, vice president for Levi's brand marketing for the Americas at Levi Strauss headquarters in San Francisco.

"The apparel category can be about posing, about being somebody you're not," he added, whereas the Levi's brand promise is that "you always feel your true, authentic self when you put on a pair of Levi's jeans."

Pending further info, I give this a big thumbs up. The ads will begin appearing on TV next next week.


Karen Lillis said...

Local journalist Matthew Newton wrote this blog piece aboutLevi's in Braddock and trying to salvage their "Go Forth" campaign:

John Morris said...

Thanks for the tip. I can't have much opinion about this till I see more of the ads. Very interesting indeed.

I will say that my opinion of John Fetterman rises almost every day. The bottom line is that he is there on the ground.

Youngstown also would have been a great setting for this campaign but I suppose, their mayor, who also seems great, is a bit more of a suit type guy.

del79 said...

Huge fan of your blog.

The Carrie Furnace is actually in Braddock ... it abuts it, at the very least. The welcome sign lists its location as Rankin, Swissvale and Braddock.

John Morris said...

Wow, these teeny tiny towns are just too confusing. I pretty much put all of it in Rankin. Yes, it borders Braddock with perhaps a small part in town.

Even more interesting is that most of the ET works (Carnegie's first mill that's still running) that is clearly partly in Braddock is actually mostly in North Braddock.

Yes, showing Carrie Furnace does help give context to Braddock's situation since the loss of the bulk of these mills was the single biggest blow to the Mon Valley.

However, other factors are clearly at work. Until, the hospital closed, Braddock, itself had a large number of in town jobs but hardly any of these people lived in Braddock.