THE JEANS BLITZ
Byline: Miles Socha
NEW YORK — Wild postings. Sweepstakes. Food trays. Music partnerships. Short films. In-store concerts.
Recognizing that TV commercials and print ads are not enough to break through the clutter, jeanswear firms are reaching out to young consumers in nontraditional ways. They’re talking to them instead of at them; surrounding them with messages where they live and play, and then luring them into stores — with music, celebrities and prizes — to close the sale.
“It’s kind of like wraparound sound,” said Mindy Grossman, president of Polo Jeans Co., describing a fall campaign that will have everything from print, outdoor and radio to a custom “lifestyle” newspaper polybagged with magazines and a short commercial running in Sony theaters right before the movie.
“The younger customer, their lifestyle has them looking at many different things,” said Grossman. “They don’t want to just be talked to out of the box. We’re trying to live in their world.”
Polo’s fall campaign starts with cinematic black-and-white advertising images by photographer Bruce Weber. They break in August magazines and will relate back to billboards, buses and all collateral in stores — “every visual piece, every column graphic, every light box, even down to the fit cards,” Grossman said.
Promotional tie-ins are planned around the interests of young people: music and film. Grossman said Polo Jeans plans an extensive radio campaign in support of the Polo Jeans Unsigned Bands Showcase, and it would continue to feature independent films in outdoor venues.
Jeanswear’s biggest spender, the Levi’s brand, is also taking the multifaceted approach. Instead of rolling out one major TV campaign every year, as it has in the past, the firm is releasing smaller campaigns in a much broader range of media.
The new mix emphasizes print and outdoor, in addition to TV, “to surround the consumer with our messages and talk to them in more direct ways,” said Kendra Kallan, senior advertising manager. “The overall strategy for the brand is to change the way people think about us; to have them expect the unexpected.”
With its new ad agency TBWA/Chiat Day, Levi’s has released two major outdoor campaigns that stake Levi’s claim as the original maker of jeans. The first had the slogans “Tommy wore them,” “Ralph wore them” and “Calvin wore them.” The current one has images of Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando and other icons with the tag line, “Our models can beat up their models.”
And already, wild postings — posters plastered on construction sites and such — in major markets, with the slogans “industrial strength fashion” and “denim rigor mortis,” cue a new product-focused phase of the campaign emphasizing dark denim or “hard jeans.” Television commercials break next week.
The new focus on outdoor, through billboards and wild postings, is designed to find people “where they hang out,” Kallan said. “I think people are out on the street a lot more.”
And as part of Levi’s push behind its junior Silver Tab subbrand, there will be lots of print ads in niche titles including Paper, Thrasher, Detour, Bikini, Surface and Urb. “We’re trying to be places consumers are tapping into to get fashion cues,” Kallan said.
Kallan acknowledged that it’s difficult to get the attention of today’s savvy and sophisticated young shoppers — especially without alienating them.
“They don’t like to be advertised to and they don’t want to be sold something,” she said. “So both the message and the medium has to speak to them and not at them. The jeans market is a lot more fragmented, and there’s a lot more messages for them to listen to.”
And instead of hitting them over the head, jeanswear firms now opt to tease their brains with so-called “discovery” advertising.
In support of Lee Dungarees, its largest product launch ever, Lee Co. began this spring by posting images of Buddy Lee, its corporate doll, in major markets. Designed to create a buzz and build intrigue, the posters had no markings, just sepia-toned images of the doll in a variety of outfits.
“You can’t try so hard and be so obvious,” said Jamie Lockard, Lee’s director of advertising. In engineering its campaign for the new Lee Dungarees subbrand, Lee went straight to its target consumer, 17-to-22-year-olds, and asked for their advice. The company showed these young adults items from its archives and they chose the Buddy Lee doll, the Dungarees name and the “Can’t Bust ‘Em,” tag line — effectively “giving us the campaign,” Lockard said.
In keeping with its low-key approach, Lee ran a short, quirky documentary-style film about Buddy Lee on late-night cable and in print teaser ads in alternative magazines. TV commercials depicting Buddy Lee as a “Man of Action,” whose jeans emerge unscathed from a variety of heroic rescues, will begin running Monday on cable networks. Lockard calls the choice of cable stations “truly targeted media,” designed to reach the desired customers “exactly where they are.”
Grass-roots efforts are similarly targeted. Lockard said Lee has even done individual product placements, seeding Lee Dungarees jeans at music industry festivals and in trend-setting boutiques. And it has aligned its name with this summer’s X Games.
CK Calvin Klein Jeans also plans a strategic mix of media for its fall campaign; print accounts for less than half of spending, outdoor gets about 25 percent of the budget and “alternative media” the remainder, according to a Calvin Klein spokesman.
The new media include popcorn boxes and food-carry trays at Madison Square Garden, an expansion of Calvin Klein’s popcorn bag advertising in all Cineplex Odeon theaters and a purchase-with-purchase pager offer in partnership with MTV. Outdoor advertising, considered a major vehicle for reaching junior consumers, will be expanded in major markets, including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco.
“It’s more challenging to reach teens because of fragmentation of activities and issues of interest,” the spokesman said. “Therefore, targeted approaches such as creative advertising placements — outdoor in key locations, movie popcorn bags — and strategic placements are more important.”
Calvin Klein also is focusing on the point of sale, rolling out more in-store concept shops. The plan is for 700 by the end of 1998, each featuring current advertising imagery for an integrated message.
Donna Karan International is taking a wide-band approach to support its launch of DKNY Jeans, which began this spring, but will intensify during the back-to-school selling period. Although print ads featuring DKNY house models Esther Canadas and Mark Vanderloo will get about 70 percent of the media budget — including, for the first time, ads in teen magazines — outdoor will get the balance.
“More than ever, we’re pushing outdoor,” said Trey Laird, senior vice president of advertising. “Everybody sees it.”
The company has a separate promotional budget for driving consumers into stores. Although details are still incomplete, DKNY Jeans plans a partnership with a major British recording artist who will be the focal point of a sweepstakes and in-store events. Laird said signs in record stores will point the way to DKNY Jeans shops.
“Our number one priority is to get people to the point of sale because we think we win, product-wise,” Laird said. “You can’t just put ads in magazines. You have to give it more of a voice and get them into the stores. We can’t underestimate the value of the point of sale, the way the shop looks, key visuals. To me it’s all advertising.”
In-store events are part of the mix for Tommy Jeans, which, as reported, has teamed up with Dimension Films to release a sci-film entitled “The Faculty” in a combined $50 million marketing and promotional effort this fall. These were slated to kick off Thursday at Macy’s Herald Square here, with a fashion show and live performance by artist Destiny’s Child.
Andy Hilfiger, director of advertising, said cast members of the film will make appearances in stores, sign autographs and perform. Print ads and TV commercials will build hype leading up to the release of the film Christmas Day on more then 2,500 screens across the U.S.