Levi’s has had to squeeze itself out of a tight spot by apologising for a controversial new ad campaign for its latest menswear range.
The campaign in question, dubbed ‘Live In Music’, promotes the denim brand by deploying a string of Aussie male creatives who are currently crushing it in the biz.
However, despite it being a menswear ad, the brand’s celebration of dudes in the industry has been slammed as poor taste at a time when women’s under-representation in Aussie music is a particularly hot issue.
Melbourne artist manager Lorrae McKenna wrote a fiery post in response to the campaign, and it’s been widely shared online. Her post laments the ad’s visuals for being chock-a-block with “seemingly macho white male[s] doing their thing”.
“[Watching it] made me feel invisible, it made me feel angry for all the women within the music industry who work super hard everyday just to be seen as an equal to their male counterparts,” she wrote, pointing out that the campaign’s copy was also offensive, taking particular issue with this line:
From the front man, to the music fan. There’s an entire industry of hard working individuals committed to long nights, early mornings, the sweaty front row and days on the road for the one thing they love: music. We may have invented the blue jean but these guys invented the music scene…”
Following the backlash against Levi’s which McKenna’s post kicked up, the brand has issued an apology of sorts on its international Facebook page, saying: “We understand there has been some feedback surrounding the fact that women were not included in these ads. We sincerely apologise to anyone who was disappointed by this.
“Our company has a long history of leadership in promoting equality, including gender equality.”
Speaking with The Music Network though, McKenna has called the apology disappointing.
“I feel like it was a #sorrynotsorry response to a very important issue and they completely missed the point I was trying to make in my article,” she said, going on to clarify that she wasn’t offended by the fact that the denim brand used only men in a campaign that was specifically for menswear.
“In their apology they used language like, ‘We sincerely apologise to anyone who was disappointed by this.’ I was not disappointed that women were not included in their campaign,” she said.
“My issue was that they painted a picture of the Australian music industry through several different marketing mediums which completely erased the existence of women in that space all together.
“The campaign made a clear statement that the music industry is a man’s space, that was created by ‘these guys’ as their marketing copy reads. Until there is an adjustment with the messaging in this campaign I think apologising for people’s disappointment is very futile.”
Levi’s has since provided a further comment to The Music Network, saying:
As the commercial outcome of the campaign is to promote our new men’s jeans range, only men were shot in the campaign – highlighting unsung male heroes of both the Australian and New Zealand music industry. Including women in this campaign may have been confusing and would have diluted the core product message; given that it is an advertisement for men’s jeans.“However, we understand from the feedback received from the music industry about the lack of diversity in the campaign, that the exclusion of women has been interpreted by some as being a statement that women are not centrally important to the music industry. This couldn’t be more false. In fact, we believe that women are integral to the industry’s success.”
The brand has also pointed out its strong history of promoting and supporting of live music, including the record-breaking $100,000 prize pool that’s set to be dished out to local artists at this year’s BIGSOUND music industry conference.
Watch one of Levi’s contentious adverts below.