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Walt Whitman Inspires Levi's 'Go Forth' Brand Campaign

The "Go Forth" brand campaign, developed in partnership with Wieden+Kennedy Portland, is rooted in America's raw, pioneering spirit. The campaign positions the Levi's brand as the brand for pioneers who are in the process of building a new America. Their youthful optimism and pioneering energy are at the core of Levi's DNA, and this overarching theme has been woven into every component of the "Go Forth" campaign. Everything you see, from a cinema spot to a banner ad, is full of energy, vibrancy and provocation—created with a sense of movement, freedom and optimism in mind. "Go Forth" reminds consumers that Levi's jeans are the jean of self-reliance, hard work, and an independent, hopeful spirit.

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"'Go Forth' is more than a campaign; it is a north star for the brand. The campaign takes the raw, tough, and eternally optimistic spirit that made the Levi's brand great and brings it to life as a clarion call for this generation," said Doug Sweeny, vice president of Levi's brand marketing.

"Levi's has a rich history, steeped in American ingenuity and bravery. We wanted this campaign to pay homage to that heritage, but also to refresh and reinvent the idea of a pioneering spirit for the times in which we live," said Susan Hoffman, executive creative director of W+K.

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In celebration of the first true pioneers of our country, Levi's "Go Forth" campaign launched on July 4, 2009. The "Go Forth" mantra stretches across all key touch points for the brand, from product innovation and retail experience to more traditional advertising outlets such as TV, cinema, print, OOH and digital. Campaign elements will reach across North America from the top of Canada to the bottom of Chile.

Two provocative TV and cinema spots are at the forefront of the "Go Forth" campaign launch. The spots feature the idealistic spirit and celebrated works of American poet Walt Whitman. Walt Whitman was intoxicated with America and with its unlimited possibilities. Like the Levi's brand, Walt Whitman stands for the democratic power of real people—the self-reliant young men and women who make this country a better place.

"Walt Whitman's best writing always sought ways to face the adversity, bad times, and suffering around him and to find hope in the future," said Ed Folsom, Co-Director of the Walt Whitman Archive and preeminent Walt Whitman expert. "Whitman celebrated a desire for a future built on equality and freedom, a future where America's daughters were equal with America's sons, where the nation's laws would be consonant with the democratic laws of nature, where freedom and love were protected by America's laws."

The first ad, entitled "America," is set to what experts believe is Walt Whitman's original recording of his poem "America." It features diverse images of American landscapes and poignant portraits of the people who make this country what it is. The message is one of self-reliance, resilience, encouragement and hope. The second spot, "O Pioneer!" set to air later in the campaign, is a closer look at the pioneering youth culture of America.

The spots were directed by Cary Fukunaga ("America") and M Blash ("O Pioneer!"). Fukunaga recently exploded into the spotlight at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival where he picked up prizes for best direction and cinematography for his film Sin Nombre. "America" is Fukunaga's first foray into advertising work and will air in the United States beginning in early July on cinema screens across the country. Later this fall, both "America" and "O Pioneer!" will launch on primetime TV and cable networks.

The bold and colorful "Go Forth" print and outdoor campaign was shot by Ryan McGinley. The imagery captures a sense of youthful optimism and hopefulness for a better tomorrow. McGinley's work features active imagery of "Go Forthers" deeply engaged in sweeping nature scenes. Taglines such as "strike up for the new world," "this country was not built by men in suits" and "will work for better times" serve as an invitation to join in the quest for a new and better world.

The print campaign begins in July in publications ranging from sports, fashion, music and culture that target a young male demographic. Outdoor will run beginning in July in key youth markets including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.

"Go Forth Expeditions," an interactive digital program, also launches in early July and invites people across the country to participate in the "Go Forth" movement. In the spirit of the campaign, these expeditions will be a call to the masses to see the world differently, explore the energy of their America and pioneer in their thoughts and action. Additional details about "Go Forth Expeditions" will be announced later this month.

In the spirit of "Go Forth," the Levi's brand will continue its support of pioneering events like AIDS Walk and World AIDS Day as well as organizations that are engaged in the fight against AIDS. The Levi's brand will always be a champion for those who choose to "Go Forth" in whatever they do.