I always thought that Maxim was written at a 12th grade level. Now that I’ve read MH-18, the new magazine aimed at America’s male teenagers from the makers of Men’s Health, it turns out I was right.
Ask my man Phil Wise about Maxim Magazine and he’ll most likely wince in pain. Back in the day, he’d subscribed to the mag, and found it to be to be a good read…if the cable’s out, you lost your little black book, and bandits made off with your record collection. Excluding the occasional decent article, Maxim’s content pretty much puts the toilet bowl back into bathroom literature. The joke got even funnier when Dennis Publishing (Maxim’s sugardaddy) unleashed Blender, a music magazine written in the same towel-slapping tone as its brethren. And now Men’s Health has sent out MH-18 to meet the masses. Like li’l Aaron Carter following in the Backstreet footsteps of his crooning brother Nick, MH-18 has combed its hair like Maxim and started hanging out at The Peach Pit.
MH-18 is published by Rodale, Inc., the parent of Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, and other magazines with covers featuring shirtless dudes with great abs. Though it isn’t affiliated with the Dennis Group, there’s no mistaking the look and feel of a mag like Maxim, Blender, or Stuff. Where Maxim’s masthead features the calling card of SEX SPORTS BEER GADGETS CLOTHES FITNESS, MH-18 has its own, pre-kegger version: FITNESS SPORTS GIRLS GEAR LIFE. The articles are a potpourri of inspirational bios, female tips, product reviews and Men’s Health-type fitness how-tos. The snapshots of young athletes are the best. In a very Boy’s Life sort of way (“you too can be a rodeo rider! C’mon, it’s easy!!!”), surfers with names like C.J. and Hawkbit tell the average lawn-mowing high school shmoe what’s it’s like being a world-class wave rider. It’s the same fawning type of copy that reigns over at Rosie, where a profile of Hollywood newcomer Shannyn Sossamon lets every lonely girl in the world know how to get discovered lickety split.
One insight into the demographic research sunk into MH-18: no music/movie reviews. Instead, the last third of the book features reviews of video games and personal electronics gear. In the Summer 2001 issue (ft. a Judas Priest-clad Mena Suvari on its cover), the “Report Card” section features reviews of personal CD systems by two high school cross-country runners. Like the interactive nature of Disney’s Zoog TV cable outlet or similar articles in magazines aimed at teen girls, MH-18 is making an attempt at least to actively involve the voice of its target market. I guess I’d still like to see music reviews or band profiles. Maybe the guys in Blink-182, Sum-41, or SR-71 could review MH-18…
Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve subscribed to Maxim, too. After all, I’m as big a fan of young starlets doffing their kits as the next dope. But just like Phil Wise, it’s the copy that kills me. It’s white noise in print. And MH-18’s attempt to latch onto the younger brothers of Maxim’s subscription base kind of kills me. Rodale’s press release for MH-18 describes what its editor believes about his new ad vehicle: …[MH-18 will] “help teen males break through the clutter of information to find out what they really want to know about being fit, looking great, and staying on top of their lives at home and school.” And hey man, that’s great. I know that I was like a little lost sheep without MH-18 to guide me through puberty. But later on in the same PR, MH-18’s ad director weighed in with his thoughts (perhaps while lighting a cigar made of C-notes). “Teenage spending power was more than $150 billion last year, and is expected to grow by almost 10 percent a year well into the decade,” stat[ed] Steve Bruman, Advertising Director for MH-18. “MH-18 magazine and Web site offer a new conversation for marketers to reach this young, dynamic segment.”
MH-18: We’re here to make sure that you’re just as dumb as your older brother.