Spot-on emotional D&I message in commercial advertising

Showing a few different characters in your advertisements is a simple way to leverage Diversity for business. Arguably, it’s too simple nowadays when diversity is a default state of many crowds. A new Levi’s® ad manages to capture and convey the spirit of D&I with a new quality.

Music is a key component of most cultures around the globe and almost everyone is caught by emotions – positive or negative – when hearing music – known or unknown. Likewise, moving our bodies to music is a key form of expressing our individuality and it often brings out our innermost feelings. Consequently, dancing is a central element to create belonging, to celebrate or to flirt in many cultures. And this is where Levi’s found yet another hook to connect their brand and products with their diverse customer base using explicit D&I messages.

The foundation: ethnically inspired music

An anchor element of the latest “Circles” advertisement by Levi’s® is the choice of music. “Mekeba” is an ethnically influenced global pop song performed by the young French singer, Jain, aged 25. She was born in France, grew up in the Arab world and in Africa, where she – years later – started to compose and sing. Levi’s took their ad song from Jain’s first album, Zanaka, meaning child in Malagasy – which was her way to honour her mother’s roots.

The story: dancing as a way to connect

The ad shows how music and dance bring people together and make everyone feel included. The specific strength of the video is to convey the same level of emotional connectedness across a variety of cultures. Their visual depiction avoids both exaggerating cultural traits and overselling their product, both of which can be tempting in advertising. According to Levi’s, they want to say that “We are all connected. We are more alike than different. And our differences only make us stronger”. While the video does not deliver equally strong on all of these elements, it talks about more than just Sense8-style dancing stories.

The circles: unity and inclusion

While people often dance individually to music, in many culture or contexts circles are formed as part of dancing together. The ad uses this element to show similar dynamics of moving as one in different cultures or (urban) tribes. More than that, the video also shows how connected groups often celebrate individuals taking the centre or taken to the centre. The message of inclusion at its best. And it has almost become a tradition that Levi’s does not avoid potentially confrontational topics but takes a clear stand instead.

The bottom-line: many differences, yet not all of them mixed

In addition to the explicitly shown cultures, the video reminds the audience at the end of some specific differences and says “men, women, young, old, rich, poor, gay, straight. Let’s live how we dance.” And although these topics – and cultural diversity – had already appeared in the commercial, the polarised Internet audience is split over some aspects. Sexual orientation (still!) gets challenged a lot in this context but also more general criticism of hipster/GenX or multi-culturalism. People even say they regret having bought Levi’s, and we regret to note that these comments tend to come from male users. Also, some comments raise the question about an expensive brand claiming to care about ‘poor’ communities. What users did not comment is the implicit message of separated communities – for the ad only includes very few and subtle examples where colours, cultures or tribes mix.

Nevertheless, it must be recognised that Levi’s is one of the few brands that has – throughout its history – incorporated social and even political issues in its corporate communication, including a recent standing against Trump’s travel ban. The company is also said to have donated a million dollars in grants to “organizations that protect the civil liberties of highly vulnerable communities across the United States and abroad” as part of their mission. Beyond this, Levi’s has previously used D&I messages in their advertisment, including the topics


Watch the current commercial here