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Friday, May 9, 2014

Deconstructing A Book Ad


While flipping through the New York Times on a recent Thursday, I came across a full-page ad in the back of the Arts section.  It was to promote the paperback release of Dan Brown’s latest fictional tale, Inferno.  Let’s deconstruct this ad and see what we learn. 

My first thought was: Why bother spending tens of thousands of dollars on an ad that would take the sale of 10,000 books to pay for?  But my next thought is: Nice to see support for a book.

Ads rarely pay off for a publisher or author when it comes to newspapers.  However, the NYT is not your average local paper – it has global reach.  The ad is a branding tool.  It doesn’t need to convince people the book is great – it serves as a mere reminder that one of your favorite authors has a book out in a less expensive form (trade paper).

What’s interesting, however, is the book claims to be “The #1 Worldwide Bestseller.”  I’m not aware of such a list existing.  Is this just a way of saying he’s been a best-selling author in multiple countries?  If so, why not just say something like: “Bestseller in 14 nations” (I’m guessing on the number).

The ad ran in The NY Times but the two quotes used are from competing papers – “A blockbuster” says USA Today and “Brown at his best” says the Washington Post.

The publisher, Anchor Books, is not mentioned anywhere, but if you look down at the photo of the book's spine you’ll discover who published it.  Why wouldn’t a publisher use this valuable real estate to brand itself?

Lastly, the add highlights the Facebook page of Dan Brown, which is good to develop author – consumer connectivity, but again, why isn’t the publisher’s social media ink anywhere to be found?

Would there be a bigger pay-off if they did two half-page ads – perhaps spread out a week apart?  Frequency in media impressions is important.  A half-page is quite noticeable, but I guess it lacks the same impact as a full-page ad.

The ad never said what the book was about.  It just sought to inform you that a Dan Brown book is out, respected papers said great things about it, and the book is a best-seller.  It had two strong visuals: one of the book cover, and one of the Vatican (where presumably the action takes place).  Brown will forever be known as the author of The Da Vinci Code, and with millions of fans, the ad had one goal: serve notice and let people run to buy it.

We’ll never know if it works, for it’s impossible to measure, and even if the publisher can estimate the ad’s impact, it won’t release that information.  But I can tell you the truth: These types of ads rarely have a direct sales pay-off but they do further a great brand and in the long run, coupled with publicity and author appearances, they will prove to be worthwhile in a handful of cases.


Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer, Media Connect, the nation’s largest book promoter. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at 
brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2014

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