Harry’s, the Shaving Brand, Tells Its Whole Unlikely Story in This Fun Long-Form Ad

Company tries TV for the first time

To tell the origin story of Harry's, the shaving subscription service, co-founders Jeff Raider and Andy Katz-Mayfield will show you their baby pictures and their boxer shorts.

It's their way of explaining how a couple of self-professed regular guys went through puberty, sprouted their first facial hair, felt ripped off by the cost of grooming products, launched a company and angered Big Razor in the process (as in, fielded threats to have their pants sued off).

New York-based Harry's, which has used only digital and social media marketing since its founding in 2013, kicks off its first national TV campaign next week. The move follows the debut this summer of a next-generation razor and its first retail deal with Target.

The documentary-style ad, from agency Partners & Spade and directors Supermarche, launches this week across YouTube, Hulu and various digital media. It stars Harry's workers, including the baritone-voiced employee No. 2 (Jon Goldmann, director of brand engagement) who serves as its narrator, and its clean-shaven co-CEOs.

The mini-movie, with a dash of animation and a charming Skype call from Katz-Mayfield's proud parents, runs about two and a half minutes, with shorter versions planned for cable TV. Here's the long-form:

The campaign traces Raider and Katz-Mayfield's journey from disgruntled shavers to startup mavens, complete with their purchase of a 100-year-old razor factory outside Frankfurt, Germany.

"Getting people to buy into the brand based on product and technology is clearly important, but the brand is more than that," Katz-Mayfield says. "It's a set of human beings. We want to showcase our community."

Harry's competes directly with Dollar Shave Club (which also has fresh ads rolling out for the new year) and the category's traditional giants, Schick and Gillette, with the latter filing and later abandoning the aforementioned lawsuit.

"Our biggest challenge is letting people know we exist," says Raider, who was one of the co-founders of Warby Parker. "We're at a point in our growth where we want to invest in that. The logical place for us to start is by talking about how we got to where we are today."

That involved buying a $100 million razor manufacturing plant in Eisfeld, Germany, where much of the ad was shot, and working with its vice chairman, Heinz Becker, seen in the campaign embracing his new colleagues. (The deal was considered a bit of a head-scratcher in the beginning, say Harry's execs, who were nicknamed "the American internet cowboys" by the German media.)

The campaign follows the trend of humanizing a brand by using C-suite mavens, not actors or pro athletes, as spokespeople. It's a tactic that worked incredibly well for online category leader Dollar Shave Club (now owned by Unilever) and its hugely popular viral videos starring founder Michael Dubin.

Harry's, headquartered in SoHo, has amassed some 3 million customers, growing twice as fast as the e-commerce shaving category overall, with estimated revenue of $200 million in 2016. It was dubbed "the Warby Parker of shaving" by Inc magazine, an obvious nod to Raider's role in that disruptive, hugely successful eyewear seller.

The Harry's campaign will air on national prime-time TV, mostly during male-targeted programming. It will also run in theaters and across social media with the tagline, "Meet the shaving company that's fixing shaving."

Procter & Gamble's Gillette, though no longer suing Harry's, isn't taking the competition sitting down. It recently debuted a digital campaign of its own that hits its bargain-priced rival head-on, using social media comments from consumers who tried Harry's but abandoned the service.

Gillette "Welcome Back" campaign, using the theme song from '70s sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter, is doling out free razors as part of an accompanying promotion. Though it's not the focus of the ads, Gillette now has its own shaving subscription service, launched in mid-2015 as a response to its e-commerce rivals.

Men's grooming is huge business, with the overall category estimated at $3.3 billion in the U.S. alone, with online shaving clubs becoming the fastest-growing segment, according to Slice Intelligence. With so many brands duking it out in the space, Harry's execs said they believe in their "self-deprecating, hopefully relatable approach" to their first TV ads.

"There's all this noise in the industry, and brands are shouting really loudly," Raider says. "If people get a peek into Harry's, they'll see our attention to detail. And we'll use this as a platform for more compelling creative down the line."

See the 60- and 30-second cutdowns below: