advertising

Marilyn

Cannes Festival poster

The official poster for the 65th Cannes Film Festival.

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Ad of the day

Berliner Philharmoniker

Cool print ad campaign for the chamber orchestra of the Berliner Philharmoniker featuring expansive photos of the cramped spaces inside musical instruments. More images here. (Via Andrew Sullivan)

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Think Different, cont’d

Muhammad Ali Think Different poster

Poster from Apple’s Think Different campaign (1998).

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Ali for Apple

Think Different 15-second TV ad, 1997

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Think Different, cont’d

Think Different Amelia Earhart poster

Poster from Apple’s Think Different campaign (1997).

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Steve Jobs introduces the “Think Different” campaign

Steve Jobs introduces the “Think Different” campaign in 1997. To put this video in perspective, remember where Apple was in 1997. In terms of market share, the company had only about 3% of the personal computer market, bottoming out at 2.8% in July 1997. Its stock traded at around $4 or $5 a share, also bottoming in July 1997 when it sank below $3.50 a share. In its previous fiscal year the company had lost $1 billion.

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You are what you read

Bookstore ad

Wonderful ad for a bookstore in Lithuania called Mint Vinetu. (Via Quipsologies.)

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How to design a book advertisement

My old friend John Kenney is a brilliant ad writer. He has created national campaigns that you would instantly recognize and Super Bowl spots, and traveled widely to research and shoot them. After twenty-plus years in advertising, he has a pretty good sense of what works and what doesn’t.

Last weekend John sent me an email that I’ve been thinking about ever since. He pointed out a two-page ad that appeared in last week’s Times Book Review for Henning Mankell’s new thriller, The Man from Beijing. The ad was unusual in that it consisted almost entirely of a long, closely printed excerpt from the opening chapter of the book, framed by an eye-catching red border. John’s comment (which he has oh-so-graciously allowed me to reprint here):

The really smart thing — rule 1 of a good ad — is that it shared the benefit of the product with me. A review doesn’t do that. I was able to read the words, get a feel for it, experience it.

This is the sort of thing that seems obvious once you hear it. Who has ever bought a book because of a cherry-picked snippet from a review? Or because of a blurb? (I once heard Robert Parker say, only half joking, that he would read a book or blurb it, but never both.) Even the graphics in an ad, while they may get you to stop skimming long enough to look at it, do not allow you to experience the book itself. Yet these are the staples of book advertising: reviews, blurbs, and pretty pictures.

Of course, there are budget and thus space constraints with print ads. Not every book will be supported by a two-page spread in the Times Book Review. Still, it is odd that publishers insist on building their ads out of things that mean so little to the target audience when, with a simple cut-and-paste, they could let the reader try out the product in a way that car makers, say, cannot.

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The Perils of Advertising

Rummaging through my computer recently, I came across this ad (PDF) for The Strangler. It ran in the New York Times and the Boston Globe on February 6, 2007, and in the weekly Boston Phoenix at the same time. There was a radio spot airing that week, as well, which was very fun to hear while riding in the car. Some other advertising, too.

An ad like this is every writer’s dream, of course, and I’d be a fool not to appreciate it. But there is a catch-22: you cannot sell books without publicizing them; but the more you spend on publicity, the more copies you have to sell to turn a profit for your publisher. When you go to sell your next book, the publisher will be looking with a gimlet eye at a balance sheet showing not just how many books you sold but whether you actually made any money. Obviously, advertising expenses count. From an accountant’s perspective, it is better to profit on 25,000 copies sold than to lose on 250,000.

Obviously this sort of old-school dead-tree advertising is going to become quite rare in the grim new low-margin world of publishing. No doubt it already has. It just does not make sense to pay top dollar to broadcast your message to millions of readers in the Times when only a tiny fraction of that audience is your actual target. In theory, at least, the web promises pinpoint accuracy in aiming your ad, and costs far less. The shotgun approach makes sense for mass consumer products like soap and beer. For books, you’re probably better off with a rifle. Or, budgets being what they are, a pea shooter. Most readers, I suspect, are more influenced by word-of-mouth from a trusted friend than by ads like this one, anyway.

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Walt Whitman for Levi’s

I was struck by this ad for Levi’s jeans, which features a few stanzas from Walt Whitman’s poem “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” If you dislike the spot, I understand. The bullshit factor is high even by advertising standards: half-naked slackers as “new American pioneers,” hawking these surpassingly American jeans that are actually made overseas, using a poet who probably never heard of blue jeans. And all this solemnity over … pants. But to me this looks like an ad for Whitman, not Levi’s. When was the last time poetry looked this cool or sounded this stirring? Whether the ad will actually sell jeans I have no idea. But it will get plenty of people asking, “What is that poem?” And that is a very good thing.

By the way, the actor reading these lines is Will Geer, recorded in 1957, before he became Grandpa Walton.

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