Rion Harmon, vice president of marketing for the storage service upstart MakeSpace, had what he calls “a moment of realization” when he attended a screening of the latest season of the Vimeo-backed web series (and future HBO television series) High Maintenance, which centers on a pot dealer—known simply as The Guy—who delivers marijuana to New Yorkers.
In fact, he saw parallels between the on-demand at-home service that MakeSpace offers—the company sends employees called Uploaders to customers’ homes to help pack and then take away items to be put into storage—and the on-demand at-home service that High Maintenance’s The Guy provides his customers.
“There were all these similarities between the weed dealer and our delivery guys in the sense that this person comes into your life and into your home, and you trust him with something precious, and there is a transaction. That was really interesting to me,” Harmon says.
Within days of attending the High Maintenance screening, Harmon wanted to produce a series of MakeSpace commercials that—like High Maintenance—focused on the lives of customers, and he reached out to Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, the husband-and-wife duo behind High Maintenance, and asked if they would be interesting in directing them. After testing the service, the couple said yes.
Obviously, Harmon had no qualms about MakeSpace being associated with High Maintenance. “I think big brands might have been put off by High Maintenance in general as a concept. There is a lot of conservatism with large brands,” Harmon says, adding, “We don’t have that burden of being a legacy brand. We’re forging ahead right now and trying to build an interesting brand in a space that, historically, hasn’t been that interesting, and I think not being a big brand is great for us because we can take larger risks. It’s one of the great plusses of being at a startup.”
No advertising agency was involved in the project. The in-house marketing team at MakeSpace worked with Blichfeld and Sinclair to generate concepts and create storyboards, then Blichfeld and Sinclair wrote the scripts for three videos that tell short, funny stories about why people need to use MakeSpace’s services.
“Jump the Gun” centers on a lesbian couple who move in together after just a couple of dates; “Sublet” profiles a man who has to get rid of all the junk in his apartment fast after subletting it; and “Empty Nest” is about a mom who cleans out her son’s room and transforms it into a meditation space just seconds after he leaves for college.
MakeSpace will initially push out the content via its email newsletter and social media channels. A media buy will come later.
The effort marks the first time MakeSpace has invested in video content. Previously, the storage company, which is up-and-running in New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C., had done subway campaigns as well digital. “This is definitely our biggest, most ambitious thing to date,” Harmon says.
By the way, Harmon reached out to Blichfeld and Sinclair about working together last December, well before the couple found out that HBO was picking up High Maintenance as a six-episode series. (HBO made the announcement on April 20, which happens to be National Weed Day. A premiere date has yet to be set.)
“I’m fortunate enough to have been in a position to be able to hire them. I thought the work they were doing was incredible,” Harmon says, “and I love having the opportunity to support artists that I really like.”