On that day, while the country was still in the grip of rioting violence, the brand unleashed its new ‘Go Forth’ ad on Facebook. Unfortunately, it features a young man confronting a line of riot police, accompanied by a voiceover reading of Charles Bukowski’s poem “The Laughing Heart”, which concludes with the words “you are marvellous, the gods wait to delight in you”.
Under the circumstances, this comes across like an endorsement of last week’s violence, although Levi’s has been at pains to stress that the film is simply intended to reflect “youthful optimism”. In fact, in a logic-stretching which hurts one’s head quite a bit, Levi’s claims the ad captures the spirit of “the groups that came together in Clapham, Hackney and elsewhere to rebuild their communities”, rather than the groups who actually squared up to lines of riot police.
Watch: Levi’s ‘Go Forth’ ad
Levi’s isn’t the only brand to be dealing with an advertising headache at the moment. Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific has also had to can its latest campaign, “People and Service”, following the leaking of pictures last week showing an airline stewardess performing oral sex on a captain in the cockpit of one of its planes. The problem was the ad’s tagline: “The team who go the extra mile to make you feel special”. Awkward.
Still, both of these incidents pale in comparison with the ultimate branding nightmare endured by Greyhound a few years ago. You might recall the horrific episode on a Greyhound bus in Canada in 2008, where a passenger was stabbed and then beheaded by the man sitting next to him. Greyhound instantly pulled the campaign they were running at the time – for obvious reasons. The tagline? “There’s a reason you’ve never heard of bus rage”. DM
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