Levi’s has an interesting ad campaign targeting its national audience of youth. I understand that the ads are designed to sell blue jeans, but one ad struck me at a level beyond marketing and perhaps what the producers intended.
The ads feature Braddock, Pennsylvania as a setting to create these striking mini-motion pictures that seem more like what you’d expect if watching a classic movie about the Great Depression.
Even a casual viewer gets the sense that this town was once a vibrant hub of steelmaking and has gone through years of neglect and abandonment. What the ads could not capture, however, was how the loss of this industry affected the steelworkers, their families and these communities for decades.
The point of this campaign is to show good people in Levi’s jeans working to bring this downtrodden community back through the general volunteer, clean-up, fix-up approach.
What the ads never hint about is that it takes much more than sweat equity to truly revitalize a community, a region. It takes the emergence of a major industry to drive an economy big enough to build new schools, churches, infrastructure and hospitals.
Not far from Braddock and all around it, natural gas producers are converging on the region to tap a tremendous deposit of natural gas known in energy circles as the Marcellus Shale. For the first time since the demise of steelmaking in this region, an industry has emerged here with that kind of economic potential.
Most residents welcome this because they know that we have a strong history of co-existing with heavy industry. We were able to do so because of strict pollution controls and diligent monitoring and enforcement of rigid environmental regulations.
This is not to dismiss the concerns of those who worry about the impact drilling could have on local communities. Concern is good, but blind opposition ignores this region’s strong track record of fostering thriving industry while protecting the environment.
While Levi’s may not have had the Marcellus in mind, its “Go Forth” ad campaign follows a theme that is more than fitting when considering the opportunity Marcellus presents.
A child runs down dark hallway, out a door into daylight, and metaphorically speaking into a brighter future. The voice of another child speaks softly over a building soundtrack of strings and percussion, “People think there aren’t frontiers any more,” the child says. “They can’t see how frontiers are all around us.”