In October 2001, I got a phone call. Combe Incorporated needed a freelance consultant who could create the company’s first-ever integrated TV/digital campaign.
I knew I could handle digital. That’s all I had been doing for the past 5 years.
But I hadn’t created a TV commercial in so long I wasn’t sure if I’d still know how.
The other challenge was that I had never worked on a brand like Maxim, which David Brooks aptly described in The Atlantic as either a sexist world where “babes in lingerie meet power tools and serial-killer computer games” or “a self-conscious, deliberately ironic joke”. I think it was both.
I partnered with Maxim digital to create the website. This helped us speed development by leveraging existing assets and ensure we got the brand voice right.
We also partnered with Comedy Central to create a stylish online “are you smooth enough to get the girl?” game that was pretty slick for its day. See the screenshots above.
For TV we shot two commercials…
… and some extra footage for an Internet-only video starring Carmen Electra that got hundreds of thousands of views. We got the tone right. We had a tightly integrated campaign. We had Carmen. How could we miss?
My First Client-Side Lesson: Sometimes Being #1 Isn’t Enough
We launched the advertising in the worst marketplace you can imagine. It was post 9-11. Post dot-com crash. Post the boy-band frenzy that started this kind of hair style in the first place.
But against the odds, we took Maxim from launch to the #1 selling brand of young men’s haircolor.
In the end, being #1 wasn’t enough. We just couldn’t drive enough sales volume at mass retail to stay on shelf. And when Wal-Mart banned Maxim magazine from its stores in 2003 it was the death-blow.
But the campaign convinced Combe to hire me full-time for a unique integrated role spanning traditional advertising and digital. I left the agency world and went client-side for the first time in March 2002.