This summer, Levi’s launched the ‘Not all asses are created equal’ campaign, as well as the ‘We are all Workers’ campaign, which, according to their website, the latter is explained:
“Amid today’s widespread need for revitalization and recovery, a new generation of “real workers” has emerged, those who see challenges around them and are inspired to drive positive, meaningful change. This fall, with the introduction of Go Forth ‘Ready to Work’, the Levi’s® brand will empower and inspire workers everywhere through Levi’s® crafted product and stories of the new American worker. Bolstered by its pioneering spirit and ‘Go Forth’ rallying cry, Levi’s® will explore how a new generation of real American workers is rolling up their sleeves to make real change happen.”
Levi’s picked Braddock, PA ( a community close to my heart, as it is just outside of the city of Pittsburgh where I grew up) as its focal point for the campaign’s videos and images, creating nine (thus far) videos showcasing the spirit, the hope, and of course, the abandoned buildings and lots, empty storefronts, and people left in this town. Once the steel mills left the area, so did most of the people and the businesses, leaving it as a relatively run-down shell of its former self for almost three decades. Levi’s says:
“The muse for Levi’s® new campaign is Braddock, a town embodying the demise of the blue collar base that is taking radical steps to reverse its decay. Braddock now faces a new frontier of repurpose and new work in what was once a flourishing industrial mecca. Since 2001, John Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock, has taken his fight for social justice in Braddock to the masses by enlisting the help of modern pioneers – artists, craftsmen, musicians and business owners – to rebuild and revive the town. As it rebuilds, Braddock has become a model for how any city, in any part of the country, can prevail as a symbol of hope and change.”
“To contribute to the real change in Braddock, the Levi’s® brand is committed to funding the refurbishment of Braddock’s community center, a focal point of the town and their youth-based programming. Additionally, Levi’s® is supporting Braddock’s urban farm which supplies produce to local area residents at reduced costs.”
The aptly dubbed ‘Ready to Work’ campaign filmed in Braddock most certainly lends an authenticity to the clothing and the mission at hand, and I can say that the videos are beautifully made and really do tug at the heart strings (Episode 3 is my favorite!).
One thing, that struck me as quite ironic, however, is the fact that the reason why Braddock has become a ghost town is essentially because all of the steel mills were shut down and the jobs were shifted abroad. Levi’s closed its last remaining U.S. factory in 2003 to do all of its production abroad. Such an iconic, quintessential American brand such as Levi’s definitely needs to secure its roots somehow, and by not making its garments here, it loses a lot of that luster. Hmmmm……
Is Levi’s exploiting Braddock, PA in this ad campaign? Are they trying to make up for what they’ve done by ceasing U.S. production and do ‘good’ by throwing money at this economically depressed community? What is really the motive here? Watch the videos, think about it, and please comment.
My intentions are not to slam Levi’s but rather to reflect if this ‘collaboration’ between Levi’s and Braddock, PA is really mutually beneficial. Braddock, PA is more than just an ad campaign — it’s a community that is full of spirit and hope, and in need of funds, but is it being taken advantage of in this capacity?