Levi’s Australia and New Zealand launched a new ad campaign crediting unsung heroes of the music world — which, according to them, exclusively comprise white dudes.
The campaign titled “Live in Music” includes interviews with a dozen people in the region's music industry dressed in Levi’s. It’s the first menswear advertisement in seven years and features the denim brand’s commitment and connections to the music world by paying tribute to the music community and the work that goes behind the scenes when creating an album, tour or live show.
That’s actually a great idea if not for this tiny problem: There are no women or people of color in the advertisement.
“We may have invented the blue jeans but these guys invented the music scene,” read the Live in Music website.
In fact, the language of the campaign rendered women completely invisible.
The brand threw a party in Melbourne for the campaign last week and invited the female artist, manager and record label owner Lorrae Therese. But when she got there, she realized the event was for a menswear brand.
“All of a sudden I felt slightly off and then incredibly angry,” Therese wrote on Medium. “Where was the representation of the many and great women within the music industry at this event.”
Other women also remarked on the glaring absence.
How would women even DO music?? What with all their ovaries and bleeding and whatnot.— Marian Blythe (@MarryinB) August 4, 2017
I tried to play a guitar once but it was too big for my teeny-tiny hands. And then I fainted.— Lia Weston (@LiaWeston) August 4, 2017
A Levi’s representative later explained to BuzzFeed News why women were not in the campaign ads. Apparently, since the brand was specifically selling menswear, “it would have been confusing.”
Levi’s also “sincerely apologize to anyone who was disappointed by this.”
But that does not explain the complete lack of people of color in the ads. Yup, there seem to be no men of African, Indian, East Asian or Arabic descent in the commercials. In fact, even the Aborigine community has been given the shrug off.
“Also, Levi's is only featuring white men,” said Caitlin Pasko, the owner of music publicity and management company Drunken Piano, who was offended on behalf of both women and the minority communities. “White men stole from black men who were creating an entire genre of music at that time and trying to silence them. It feels like they’re giving credit to people who either stole it or had an advantage.”
“I find it pretty strange that an ad campaign which seems to have taken pains to show a cross-section of roles in the Australian music industry couldn’t also attempt to show the cross-section of ethnicity, color, and gender that comprises it,” said Omar Musa, a rapper, poet and author, whose father is Malaysian.
“I’m not really that surprised, though. This is reflective of an attitude that places the white, male experience at the center of what’s positive or to be aspired to. It’s not just confined to advertising, the media, or the music industry — it runs like a seam throughout our society, so often subconsciously,” he added.
Aside from the apology to women, Levi’s spokesperson has given no explanation on why it did not address people of color in the ads.
The copy of the ad hasn't been changed on the website.
For anyone interested, you can see Levi's “Live in Music” ad here:
Banner/Thumbnail credit: Reuters, Elijah Nouvelage