Matthew Charlton is the CEO of Brothers and Sisters. He was a founder of BETC London, has run agencies in London, Amsterdam and the US and has worked on brands including Johnnie Walker, PlayStation and Sony Ericsson.
Happy 30th birthday to Levi's seminal Laundrette ad
Yep, this Boxing Day is the 30th anniversary of Laundrette. 30 years since a single ad stopped the UK in its tracks. 30 years since I tried wearing boxer shorts.
It is without question the most famous ad ever made in Britain. Sure Guinness Surfer is revered as the most beautiful piece of creative, but in terms of sheer stop-the-traffic-fame Laundrette has ever been matched.
It is as close an ad has ever been to creating a cultural explosion. We all babble on about creating culture now when we manage to get One Direction to retweet our latest opus, or retweet our retweet and then share it on Facebook. Forget that. Laundrette created an explosion in culture in every direction. Music, fashion, hairdressing, going to laundrettes even if your mum still did all your washing, taking your trousers down in public, and even, god forbid, advertising.
I was 15 when it launched. It changed everything about my entire class. Within weeks the whole class was listening to classic Marvin Gaye instead of The Police, all of us had slicked back hair, we all had Levi's jeans and were buying very uncomfortable boxer shorts that has replaced the quality 1970s Y fronts we were accustomed to. It appears that my entire school was dressed by John Hegarty via Nick Kamen.
It started the greatest series of ads ever made by BBH and Levi's. So much so that when I was lucky enough to join BBH, the first thing I did was ask for a VHS tape of all the Levi's ads. And when my schoolmates came around to hang out on a Saturday night, before we hit the pub, we would sit and watch 30 minutes of back to back Levi's ads. A bunch of blokes, of which I was the only one that worked in advertising, voluntarily watching ads like we were watching a movie on a Saturday night. Unbelievable. But that is what Levi's mean’t to us all at that time and what Laundrette started.
Why did it work? Well of course it zigged when everyone else zagged, but fundamentally the client bought something brave and very beautiful. Something that said to all youth out there, your boring old parents who put you in Y fronts like your dad and your grandad, well they won’t like this at all. But you will and so will every single girl on the planet. It was advertising’s version of The Sex Pistols' God Save The Queen mixed up with Rio by Duran Duran.
Will it happen again? Can such a cultural explosion happen again. Sure, why not. Whatever ad you are making, start here and work your way. Start with Laundrette. It’s just much harder to alienate your parents because they ve all got tattoos and videos on YouTube of themselves vomiting into a bucket of champagne. In the meantime thank you John, John and Nigel and everyone else who worked on it from my entire class of the Lower Fifth of Norwich School in 1985.
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