BBH resigns Levi’s – divorce after a fraught separation

Bartle Bogle Hegarty has resigned Levi’s, one of its signature accounts, after 28 years.

But crucially it hasn’t got any scripts through production since 2008, the year it also declined to repitch for the US business which went to Wieden & Kennedy Portland.

Since BBH produced its celebrated ‘launderette’ commercial in 1985, which kick-started the agency’s love affair with music after the huge success of the Marvin Gaye soundtrack, it has had the odd hit like the quirky ‘Flat Eric’ series but has struggled to produce, or clear with the client, the cutting edge stuff it likes to do.

One reason being surely that Levi’s just ain’t a cutting edge brand any longer; movers and shakers no longer insist on 501s, indeed they probably don’t know what they are.

So BBH will hardly miss the Levi’s income but the resignation nevertheless adds to the impression of drift at the agency.

Last year it made ten per cent of its London staff redundant, a most un-BBH thing to do although it claimed it would hire digital experts to replace them.

Its biggest account gain of the last decade, British Airways, has failed to spend the mega-sums it once did, bedevilled by strikes and, some would say, mercurial cost-cutting CEO Willie Walsh.

It has excelled for Unilever with Axe/Lynx and its outpost in Singapore has been voted the best agency in the region.

But the US is a problem too; no Levi’s of course and it recently lost Cadillac to fellow Publicis Group agency Fallon.

The resignation of Levis at least creates a gap for a trendier brand. Maybe it could try its luck with Diesel which has just dumped Anomaly in the middle of the agency’s first campaign for the brand.

Or maybe not.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.