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Levi Makes Advertising Return to Times Square

NEW YORK — Times Square’s fashion profile is on the rise. Literally.<br><br>Levi Strauss & Co. has leased a 45-by-45-foot billboard, at 1552 Broadway and 46th Street, on the facade of the T.G.I.F. restaurant. The deal will return the...

NEW YORK — Times Square’s fashion profile is on the rise. Literally.

Levi Strauss & Co. has leased a 45-by-45-foot billboard, at 1552 Broadway and 46th Street, on the facade of the T.G.I.F. restaurant. The deal will return the fashion megabrand to Times Square in mid-February, for the first time since 1999. Terms were not disclosed, however sources said placements in Times Square run from $20,000 a month, for smaller signs at lower elevations, up to $250,000 a month for the showcase extravaganzas.

Sean John could be following fast on Levi’s seams, as it is holding talks with ClearChannel Spectacolor, which leases 80 billboards in the Times Square district, said ClearChannel chairman George Stonbely. Jeffrey Tweedy, executive vice president at Sean John, said Friday the hip-hop brand is “very close to committing” to a Times Square placement.

Not surprisingly, the new Levi’s billboard will hawk Type One Jeans, the label that’s been earmarked to receive all of Levi’s ad dollars this year. The billboard in Times Square will be one of nine outdoor placements set to bow in the middle of the month, and will be joined in New York by three others, at the corners of 35th Street and Eighth Avenue; Canal and Sullivan Streets, and Houston and MacDougal Streets.

Outdoor ads are also on the agenda for Type One in Los Angeles, where two are slated, one on Sunset Boulevard and another at the Kodak Theater, and in Levi’s home base of San Francisco, with one to bow near the company’s headquarters, another downtown, and a third on Highway 101.

“The overall strategy is to have stronger iconic ads,” said a Levi Strauss spokeswoman. “The message is Levi’s has reinvented the [jeans] category and will continue to innovate.” She said the campaign is timed to coincide with the Levi brand’s 150th anniversary and Type One rollout.

The billboards and a Type One print ad — due to break on newsstands Feb. 18 in Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue — will be created by Bartle Bogle Hegarty. The billboards will incorporate the “Bold since 2003″ kicker conveyed in the Type One spot that aired during the Super Bowl. It will also reprise the commercial’s modern-day take on 19th century portraiture, in a play to leverage Levi’s heritage. The actual images will be of contemporary people sporting Type One jeans.

With the placement, Levi will return to the spot it once occupied but lost when it blinked during negotiations several years ago. “They hesitated about whether or not to renew. By the time they decided they wanted it, it was too late,” Stonbely recalled. “They had been there for seven years, maybe more.”

If Sean John seals the deal for a Times Square billboard, it will join the brand’s outdoor placements at 31st Street and Broadway, and in Los Angeles on the Hyatt Regency on Sunset Boulevard. And there could be a fourth Sean John billboard in the picture. “I’ve had my eye on the DKNY one on Houston Street,” Tweedy confided.

Sean John uses the outdoor medium, Tweedy said, because “it’s the largest ad you can get. It makes the biggest impact. And, depending on where it is, it can become somewhat like an institutional ad. People have said to me, ‘I’ll meet you under the DKNY.’”