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The Lee Man and Lee Woman Do Ridiculous Lee Things in Jean Maker's Upbeat Rebrand


Lee Jeans are back, and they're full of action.

After fading from pop consciousness in recent years, the denim label has launched a major rebranding campaign from GSD&M, themed "Move Your Lee," featuring a tongue-in-cheek portrayal of the archetypical "Lee Man" and "Lee Woman" getting into all kinds of hijinks, thanks to their pants.

In the centerpiece :30, the male lead dominates the spotlight, bursting through the roof in his office's conference room to arrive at a morning meeting via parachute crash landing, with coffees for the whole team, just in time to up the budget for ceiling tiles and then blow off work to go play. The sequence continues in that ridiculous fashion. He VR couch skis blindfolded before walking out to destroy a piñata with a single high kick.

"Lees aren't just jeans to him," intones the voiceover. "They're freedom pants."

The hero naturally works at a standing desk, on a treadmill, before literally falling into bed with his wife, the "Lee Woman," who also sleeps vertically.

Her character gets more play in a collection of set piece videos, where she does yoga poses on the wing of an airborne plane, works a jackhammer to dig a hole for the gazebo she's building, and paddles a swan boat while sipping a cocktail.

It's not all flattering, though. In one self-deprecating clip, the Lee Woman wants to play doctor, but her medical advice and bedside manner fall a little short when she tells an ice skater, with his leg hanging at an absurdly unnatural angle, that he's "probably going to need an X-ray." She also bangs on a drum kit, terribly, in a library, because apparently she doesn't care, and is kind of an asshole.

For his part, her husband can play the accordion, which he presumably picked up on a visit to a Renaissance style lobby. He also knows the correct way to start an uncooperative lawn mower is to kick it. But he's not unfailingly competent, either.

The "Lee Man" can't quite dunk that basketball, and a handful of further clips offer more insight into some of his activities in the main spot. In one, he absurdly knees another piñata with all his force, declaring it "por los niños." In another, he flaps his wings while, again, VR couch-skiing, this time at a beach house.

In the funniest ad of the series, he parachutes through a green-screen sky, musing on the phrase "vertical integration"—which tells viewers something about how he ends up where he does at the beginning of the TV ad (and perhaps, how the copywriter got there, too).

Last but not least, there's even a little cameo from Buddy Lee, the classic doll that Lee Jeans used as a promotional tool in the first half of the 20th century, but that millennials will recognize as the "Man of Action" mascot who anchored the brand's "Can't Bust Em" ads from Fallon in the late '90s and early '00s.

In a bit of homage, the modern "Lee Woman" maniacally twirls Buddy Lee in a field of green—because apparently only he can cause her to stray from her "Lee Man." Or, maybe, he is the original Lee Man.

Overall, the campaign makes for an entertaining strategy. It benefits from not taking itself too seriously, offering the audience the promise of confidence, and success, and a middle-of-the-road kind of rebel attitude—while essentially ribbing and winking at the consumers it's courting.

The selling point is well-enough woven into the fabric of the message. As the tagline suggests, Lee wants to emphasize motion, including fits for both sexes that offer stretch and comfort in active lifestyles. (Jeans sales, including Lee and VF Corporation sibling Wrangler, are starting to rebound after struggling in recent years due to the popularity of so-called "athleisure" clothing.)

But the real upshot is about bravado, and camp, and humor—the kind of qualities that make an ad memorable, even if it's for jeans that the Most Interesting Old Spice Guy in the World would probably wear if he wore jeans, and had a Quentin Tarantino soundtrack. 

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