Lou Russell Maxon founded Maxon Inc. in Detroit in 1927. Among the agency's first successes was a direct-mail campaign in 1928 for Valet Co., a marketer of razors and razor blades, which tapped Maxon for its double-edge razor blade account the following year. In 1928, Maxon also won the H.J. Heinz Co. account, which remained at the agency for 36 years.
In 1931, Gillette Safety Razor Co. acquired Valet, and Maxon became Gillette's agency. That relationship lasted until 1933, when the marketer switched its account to Ruthrauff & Ryan; four years later, Maxon once again won the account. Other early clients included General Electric Co.'s home appliance and radio divisions, Lincoln National Life Insurance Co. and Reo Motor Car Co.
Over the next 10 years, Maxon established offices in Chicago, serving Edison Electric Appliance Co. and Montgomery Ward & Co.'s export division; Cleveland, handling Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co.; and New York, where it served a number of foreign import clients.
Despite its non-razor work, Maxon came to be known as the Gillette agency. Maxon promoted the marketer's low-price Thin Blade with comic strip-style ads in newspapers and magazines that showed how the product helped build successful careers.
Mr. Maxon believed that because of their common appeal to men, Gillette and sports had a natural affinity. He convinced Gillette to spend a quarter of its ad budget to sponsor the 1939 World Series. In fall 1939, Gillette's Tech Razor reached sales of 2.5 million units, and the marketer was sold on the sports connection.
In addition to the World Series, Gillette sponsored football games and the Kentucky Derby. In 1941, it added sponsorship of prize fighting and launched the "Gillette Cavalcade of Sports" on radio, then TV.
For Gillette's razors, Maxon created the tagline "Look sharp, feel sharp, be sharp" and the Sharpie the parrot spokescharacter, which was introduced in 1951.
By the mid-1930s, Maxon's New York office had grown to the point where it was virtually as large as the Detroit home office. In 1936, in order to bring the two halves of Maxon to parity, executive authority was divided between the two offices. Mr. Maxon assumed the title of chairman in Detroit and T.K. Quinn became president, based in the New York office. In 1943, Mr. Quinn left and Mr. Maxon reassumed the title of president.
The agency's client list shrank in the 1940s, but Maxon retained some notable marketers. It handled Lincoln and Mercury for Ford Motor Co. as well as Packard Motor Cars Co. (from 1951 to 1954).
In 1944, Maxon was No. 22 among U.S. agencies, with $10 million in billings; within a decade, it had tripled those billings. In the 1950s, billings growth slowed, then rebounded in the 1960s, growing from $31 million in 1960 to $54 million in 1965. About 40% of the agency's billings at that time were from Gillette.
In January 1962, C. Terence Clyne joined Maxon's New York office as an exec VP. In the summer of 1963, Mr. Maxon suffered a heart attack and withdrew from active involvement in the agency. Mr. Clyne became chairman and, in May 1964, president-CEO as well.
In April 1965, the New York office, which had billings of about $50 million, was renamed Clyne & Maxon; the Detroit office, with about $11 million in billings, remained Maxon Inc. In October, the agency, now Clyne Maxon, announced that it was being acquired by Batten, Barton, Durstine & Osborn, effective Jan. 1, 1966. The next month, however, Gillette moved about $8 million in billings out of Clyne Maxon to Doyle Dane Bernbach, leaving Clyne Maxon with about $22 million in Gillette billings, including its Techmatic and toiletries advertising
In 1967, BBDO and Clyne Maxon parted ways, and Gillette, along with about a dozen key Maxon executives, remained at BBDO.
Meanwhile, Geyer, Morey & Ballard acquired Maxon Inc. in 1966 and merged it into its operation, eliminating that side of the former Maxon agency.
Clyne Maxon continued in somewhat reduced circumstances, ending the decade with billings of less than $30 million. In December 1971, it affiliated with Chalk, Nissen & Hanft and built new business with American Home Products' Whitehall Laboratories (Anacin sinus tablets). On April 1, 1974, Clyne Maxon merged with another American Home Products agency, Dusenberry Ruriani Kornhauser, forming Clyne Dusenberry, which effectively eliminated the Maxon name from the annals of advertising.