By  on August 16, 2011

LOS ANGELES — After a 20-year absence, Jordache is returning to TV advertising with the help of “30 Rock” star Katrina Bowden and director Nigel Barker.

Bowden, who portrays the vacuous bombshell assistant on the NBC comedy alongside Tina Fey, is taking on the role of a fashionable time traveler for Jordache’s 30-second spot. Chronicling the New York denim brand’s evolution through the last four decades, she starts with a Farrah Fawcett-inspired look in the Seventies and moves through acid-washed jeans from the Eighties and the Nineties’ boyfriend fit before slipping on the skinny jeans that are popular today.

“[Viewers are] going to see the history of denim, in a sense, played out in front of them,” said Sam Sohaili, who conceived the campaign as the creative director of New York-based branding and advertising firm Ink & Co. “They’ll understand this denim has been there and involved with the customer all the way.”

In an about-face from its marketing strategy over the past five years, Jordache chose not to do any print ads at all this time. In addition to TV broadcasts, this season’s multimillion-dollar campaign entails an online component, such as allowing Facebook users to post photos of themselves wearing Jordache jeans.

Bowden’s commercial will air in September; at the same time, Jordache will begin selling its jeans priced between $15.88 and $18 exclusively at Wal-Mart’s 3,800 stores. “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” “Today,” VH1 and E! are some of the TV shows and networks on which Jordache plans to air the ad in hopes of reaching 25- to 45-year-old women, some of whom may be familiar with the brand and others who aren’t.

“We think we have a strong story to tell, that we need to tell nationally because we are now positioning the brand with Wal-Mart,” said Liz Berlinger, president of Jordache Enterprises in New York. “We do think television advertising is the most effective way to get the message out there.”

Barker, the photographer-turned-director who can also be seen as a judge on the reality TV competition “America’s Next Top Model,” filmed the ad amid Brooklyn’s brownstones.

“It’s always an exciting challenge to take on an urban legend,” Barker said. “Taking Jordache through the decades, I looked to inject a sense of nostalgia, whimsy and pop culture true to such an American icon.”

Bowden is the latest celebrity to add cachet to Jordache. British actress Elizabeth Hurley vamped for the brand in 2006. Two years later, John Rankin Waddell, aka Rankin, photographed German model Heidi Klum lounging in a bathtub while wearing skintight jeans.

By choosing Bowden, who started as a model before switching to acting, Jordache shifted its strategy to a younger, all-American girl. Bowden’s acting experience helped her personify a woman from each era. For instance, in the Eighties segment she sported acid-washed jeans with teased hair and severe makeup while the Jordache jingle was interpreted through the sound of REO Speedwagon and Culture Club. Fast-forwarding to the tribute to the Millennium, she donned skinny jeans in a dark wash with a mellow Feist-inspired jingle.

“All those [past] campaigns were cemented by those [celebrity] personalities,” Sohaili said. “With this one, we wanted to make Jordache — and Jordache’s impact on the denim culture — the hero.”

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