Set in NYC, this British ad follows an old-fashioned Checker taxi driver as he nearly runs over a wealthy elderly couple to pick up a sexy, young lady (played by NY drag queen Zaldy).
She gets into the back of his cab and he grows increasingly hot for her, watching her in the rear view mirror. Then she pulls out an electric razor to clip the after-five o' clock chin stubble and the driver nearly loses it.
The cab screeches to a halt and she exits. Leaving no confusion, the closing words in rainbow colors say, "Cut for men since 1890."
While it's not clear if she was thrown out or merely got to where she was going, the driver is clearly pained that he had been "duped." Though this ad falls into Transgender Unflattering, some have argued that this commercial is actually flattering to the rider, since the driver is so repulsive that no one would sympathize with him.
"We always wanted it to be a positive message," explains Roy Edmondson, an openly gay executive and Levi UK marketing director for the campaign. "Levi's in Europe have had a very masculine image, maybe be too strong, and so we were not only trying to get the idea of unisex, but also playing on the fit.
"The idea of creepy cab drivers drooling over a pretty girl in back of cab, thinking he may have a chance, I guess that is a stereotype. Then we switch it by that girl being transgender -- we believed that the shaver bit gave Zaldy the power in the commercial, then the creepy cab driver became even more uncool."
This ad was at first a struggle to get on air. The British ad standards board refused to allow it to air before late night until the press brought massive attention to the spot as "banned." The board then relented and allowed it to air after 8 p.m. It was then well-received.
It followed a 1980s TV spot for stonewashed jeans created by the same ad agency, which the gay community thought was aimed at them.
Fashion advertisers tend to push the envelope more and challenge people, to create an image. Though based in San Francisco and acknowledging of it gay employees through domestic partnership benefits, Levi is still more often corporately safe as an advertiser.
Levi began a significant gay marketing effort somewhat belatedly. The denim manufacturer expanded its gay marketing efforts in November 1998, about the same time as its TV ad with a gay teen. Levi created its first gay-specific advertising behind the Dockers brand as an insert to OUT
magazine. It featured profiles of ten openly gay heroes, featuring people like James Dale, whose case against the New Jersey Boy Scouts went to the US Supreme Court.