Axe pulls a party together

By Published on .

Nelly rapping in the living room, Andrew W.K. rocking in the garage, BMXer Dave Mirra by the pool, coeds in the hot tub, and actor Jamie Kennedy answering the door. Sound like a Hollywood daydream? No, folks, this is marketing the Axe body spray way.

This festival of music, celebrity and debauchery was officially the Axe House Party-an event held last month in Miami that resulted from months of promotion online, in print, in stores, on campus and even in bar bathrooms.

One hundred winners, along with a selection of the Miami club crowd and celebs, were privy to the party sponsored by the Unilever men's fragrance spray and hosted by Jamie Kennedy. But the party did not end when the clean-up crew arrived at the Miami mansion.

Instead, this branded event became its own reality TV show airing on TNN April 14 and 19, with clips airing on axehouseparty.com.

helping hand

The effort was the brainchild of Omnicom Group's GMR Marketing, Chicago, following the blueprint set out by previous Axe lifestyle events held around the world. (The Axe brand made its debut in the U.S. in August 2002).

Axe prides itself on "helping guys get girls," said Diggi Thomson, Axe's director-brand development. According to GMR, the idea of a house party provided "a fertile ground" for interaction between guys and girls and would resonate with the brand's prime target of males age 18 to 24.

Steve Jarvis, senior VP-general manager of GMR, said a house party is "an emotional footprint that no other brand owns."

An online contest where consumers could win a trip to the bash was key. Clips of comical viral films, produced by roster ad agency Publicis Groupe-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty, New York, and an online house-party game drew consumers to the site. Other advertising efforts supported the event (see story at right).

A PR blitz by Edelman Public Relations, Chicago, targeted Internet, radio and broadcast media using interview opportunities with the party's celebs.

With the help of William Morris Consulting and Don Mischer Productions, the wild night was aired on prime-time TNN. Post-party photos, interviews and clips were also posted online days after the event. One million packs with new party artist CDs were shipped to retail outlets to continue the buzz.

Mr. Thomson said that it is too early to tell if the event has sparked sales, but asserted the event was a good "tool to build awareness."

"I think at a very simple level it's a guy saying `I hear they throw really good parties.' That is a very simple piece of information, but [it] is rounding out the brand," he said. "We know that we are getting noticed."

As for the coup of an integrated campaign resulting in its own reality TV show, Mr. Thomson said, "I wouldn't be surprised if this is the way things go in the future."

Unilever has earmarked $90 million in total marketing for the first 18 months of the U.S. launch.

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