an Ad a Day

A look at the marketing that surrounds us.

Posts Tagged ‘book’

Meanwhile: A Book of Many Paths

Posted by Rosepixie on June 13, 2010

This is the cover of the book Meanwhile by Jason Shiga.

I love this cover.  I think that it does such a great job of conveying the idea of there being multiple choices and paths throughout the book without being overwhelming.  It also works well with the title, since the images aren’t really aligned sequentially at all, so it’s easy to read them happening at overlapping times.  The character in the middle ties it all together, keeping the cover from being too visually busy, and again helping to convey that there is a lot going on and he needs your help!

Books where the reader gets to make choices and direct the story are so much fun, but it’s hard to convey the concept on the cover.  Most cover designers never even try – they just put a regular cover with an illustration of a scene from the book and the title, series and author information.  This one, however, manages to have all the required information on the cover and convey the style the book is in at the same time.  Since this is a children’s book, it’s even more likely that the readers who come across the book are going to be unfamiliar with this type of book, so the fact that it’s somewhat evident from the cover what the general idea is helps a lot.  It’s also bright and the art style is unique and eye-catching (it’s not a style we see often on book covers).

As a cover, I think this works great.  It tells you about the book and about the experience of reading the book – both important pieces of information.  It also grabs your attention right away and makes you wonder what’s going on (I certainly want to know what’s happing in some of those little pictures!).  As marketing for this book, I think this cover is fantastic.  The “Choose Your Own Adventure” series and others like it could learn a lot from this cover!


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Movie Monday: Eat Pray Love

Posted by Rosepixie on June 7, 2010

This is a poster for the upcoming movie version of Eat Pray Love.

I stared that this poster for a long time before deciding to talk about it here.  The thing is, this poster bugs me.  A lot.  And it took me a while to figure out exactly why.

It’s the nun.  I don’t think that the nun belongs in this poster.  In fact, I think she’s there deliberately and it bugs me even more now that I realize she’s the problem here.  The thing about Eat Pray Love is that it’s a memoir very specifically divided into three sections: eat, pray and love.  Each one follows the author’s journey to a different country and focuses very much on a different thing.  “Eat” focuses on her travels to Italy and, obviously, is in large part focused on her explorations of different dishes and foods.  “Pray” focuses on her travels to India and her spiritual quest there, which is not (obviously, since it’s in Italy and not the Vatican City) centered around Catholicism.  “Love” takes place in Indonesia and tells about her taking a lover there.

I’m pretty sure the nun is in this poster so that Julia Roberts eating gelato isn’t just representing the “eat” portion of the story, but that the poster can also evoke the “pray” part.  The problem is that it’s deceptive and makes me suspicious of the movie’s adaption of the book.  It’s deceptive because it suggests that “pray” has something to do with the Christian religion, which it doesn’t really.  It makes me suspicious because I have to wonder if Hollywood changed the story so that it does.

This may all sound like nitpicking, but in a country full of people who assume that the world is Christian and nothing that isn’t Christian is religious this kind of message is powerful.  Even subtle messages matter (hopefully if you’ve been reading this blog for a while that isn’t a new idea), and subtle message that I got from this poster was a continued marginalization of anything that wasn’t Christian.  There are so many ways they could have evoked Italy and food without Christian imagery and ways they could evoke India and her spiritual journey as well, but this is what they chose?  I just find it frustrating and disappointing.  We can do better and we should expect better.

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Trojan 2Go: Pride and Prejudice

Posted by Rosepixie on May 15, 2010

This is an ad from last year for Trojan 2Go condoms that takes it’s inspiration from, of all places, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

This ad is interesting.  It’s very different in tone from pretty much every other Trojan ad I’ve ever seen.  It’s slow and, while still full of innuendos and physical comedy, a lot more subtle than Trojan commercials usually are.

At first I wondered about the inspiration here – this is a book mostly beloved by women being used as a clear reference but without being cited in an ad that appears to be aimed at men.  After watching it again and considering it, however, I think perhaps the inspiration is well chosen.  This is a story often cited as one of the most romantic of all time (I’m not endorsing or disputing that point of view, by the way, just stating that it is often stated to be such).  It’s more familiar now that perhaps ever before with all of the recent publicity around the movies, Colin Firth’s portrayal of Mr. Darcy, the numerous sequels and basically the mini-industry that has grown out of Jane Austen fandom.  And even though many of her characters have terrible manners, Austen’s stories and the feel of the society they center around is often a shorthand for romantic, polite society.  Since romance and manners are the focus of the selling point in this ad, it’s a logical choice to use Austen’s most famous story as a backdrop.

And I think they handle the odd juxtaposition of condoms and Pride and Prejudice pretty well.  It’s not completely seamless, but that’s almost the point.  Personally, I think it works well.  This is actually one of the most interesting and possibly effective ads I’ve seen from Trojan.

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Reading the Message: Because Girls Don’t Need Superheroes

Posted by Rosepixie on April 22, 2010

The days of comic books being for kids are long since past, but that doesn’t mean that kids don’t like or need superheroes.  Little boys still pretend to be Spider-Man and little girls still run around as Supergirl.  To help fulfill this common desire for superhero stories in kids, the major comic publishers have kids’ lines that specifically tell stories about their major, popular heroes for kids.  Sounds great, right?  One problem.  Someone at these companies seems to have failed to notice all those girls, because the default assumption in the kids’ lines is very clearly that girls don’t need superheroes.

The team that makes up the DC Super Friends consists of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash, and Aquaman.  All six work together in basically every issue of the comic to solve problems and save the day.  The above cover is from the second trade paperback, which collects several issues of this comic.  Notice anyone missing?  She’s missing from the first book cover too.  Worse, she’s not in the toy line.  Not a single female character is.  There’s probably six versions of Batman in the line as well as any number of other characters not central to the stories (Cyborg, Hawkman, etc.), but not a single woman.  And they have no intention of ever making one.

Marvel’s little kid super hero team is called (creatively enough) the Super Hero Squad.  That’s them in the picture above.  In Marvel’s team there isn’t even a female character to begin with!  If you dig through the website about them there is exactly one woman listed under “Heroes” and one under “Villains”.  The female hero is Ms. Marvel who is explicitly not a part of the Super Hero Squad, although she does work for the same organization, and is actually referred to in her bio as Ms. Crankypants.  Nice.  The female villain has a crush on Thor.  I couldn’t find either anywhere on the site except for the section listing characters.

What I noticed most about both of these superhero properties is that both have women characters, but both are explicitly marketed without them.  This is most marked in DC Super Friends, since Wonder Woman is a central character in the stories, yet is completely removed from all marketing materials for the property.  She doesn’t appear on any book covers, in any merchandise or in any of the ads that I’ve been able to find.

These are particularly notable properties because they are, for both companies, the property aimed at their youngest customers.  Marvel has “all ages” versions of several of their major characters which they market to kids, but they involve more complex stories and art, pushing them to a slightly older audience than the easily pre-school and young elementary friendly Super Hero Squad.  DC has a whole line of kids’ properties, but they too are largely aimed more at older elementary and middle school kids who are comfortable reading on their own and desiring more complex stories.  The only title they have which can easily be enjoyed by such a young audience besides DC Super Friends is Tiny Titans, which is clearly written with an audience in mind that already knows the characters at least a little bit and does not show the characters being superheroes, but rather focuses on superheroes living regular kid lives.

So the question is, why market them this way?  If you don’t want girl customers, why include the female characters at all?  What’s the point of Wonder Woman even being on the team if you only plan to pretend she isn’t there?  And if you aren’t explicitly trying to alienate female customers, why specifically leave the female characters out of all marketing and some major parts of the product lines?

The biggest problem here is that this doesn’t make financial sense – a girl pays just as much for a comic book, t-shirt, action figure or costume as a boy does, so why deliberately ignore them when they are half the market and when appealing to them at the young ages these product lines target could mean you get a customer for life?  It’s not even that getting a kid hooked on comic books young means they’ll read them forever, lots of people read comics as kids and stopped at some point just like lots of adults never read them as kids but do now.  It’s more that if you tell that customer base that you don’t want them from the start, the message sinks in deeper, so you’re deliberately turning away someone who might otherwise have been interested, and then you’ve probably lost them for life.  The messages we hear as kids mean a lot, even when we don’t think about them.  So why would you ever want to make your message “we don’t want your money, superheroes aren’t for girls”?

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My Heart is Like a Zoo: How Many Hearts?

Posted by Rosepixie on February 28, 2010

This is a trailer for the book My Heart is Like a Zoo by Michael Hall.

I love this trailer.  Picture book trailers are hard because it’s too easy to just read the book and too boring to just talk about it.  So how do you make it interesting, but still leave something to be discovered?  This trailer does a great job.  It presents a number of images from the book and cleverly animates their transitions so that they seem to almost morph into one another.  It not only allows us to see how beautiful the book is and how clever the pictures are, but it makes us want to see more and to figure out how to make more animals out of only heart shapes.

This is well worked to highlight the illustrations and their intricacy as well as to focus on the theme of the book itself.  It is paced to appeal to young children as well as adults, which is great, since the book is one that will likely be shared with young children.  I love seeing ads that actually play to the intended audience like this when most picture book ads play to adults.  Kids are consumers too, remember.  It may be adults paying for the book, but it’s often kids driving the purchases!

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Vintage Friday: The Grapes of Wrath

Posted by Rosepixie on January 8, 2010

This is the original cover illustration from The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.

I love this illustration.  Not only is it simply a beautiful piece of art, it does a great job of selling this story.  The Grapes of Wrath is a long, depressing and brilliantly written story.  This cover shows a landscape that is pretty barren and a journey that is incredibly long, although not alone.  The family is dressed poorly (they don’t even have shoes).  You can tell from looking at this that you aren’t in for balls and banquets.  But it’s beautiful and there is a nobility to the family as they look out over the long row of trucks and cars piled with people’s lives.  And all of those things are exactly what you’ll find in the book.

The cover represents the book well and it a good light.  I wish they still made covers like this, but they are a rare thing these days.

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What to Expect When You’re Expecting

Posted by Rosepixie on December 10, 2009

Today I want to look at two different covers from the same book.  What to Expect When You’re Expecting has been in print since 1984 and has gone through four editions.  As far as I know, it’s gone through four covers.

This was the first:

The woman on this cover does not look happy or excited or hopeful.  She looks worried.  That doesn’t seem like the best visual message for a book about what to expect.  She also looks very old-fashioned or traditional, even for 1984, in her unflattering matronly maternity dress and rocking chair.

They decided to update the image a little with the second edition and came out with this:

So, Mom got a new hairstyle and wardrobe change here.  I like the hair and the wardrobe is slightly better, but she’s still got the rocking chair.  She also still sports the extremely worried expression.  Considering she’s reading what one assumes to be this book, that’s not very reassuring or encouraging.  If reading this book upset their cover mom that much, why should other moms buy it exactly?

But buy it they did.  This image remained on the book for the third edition, but the book continued to be a hit and word-of-mouth and parenting magazine recommendations did a lot for it.  So they needed a new, updated fourth edition.  This called for another update of the cover:

This is much better.  Mom is again sporting a new hairstyle and wardrobe, but far more hip and youthful this time, and she’s finally lost the rocking chair.  Not that I have anything against rocking chairs, but for some reason it was hurting the tone of the first two covers, I think.  This mom also has a big smile and seems genuinely excited about her pregnancy as she almost cradles her belly.  She does not seem worried like the first to moms at all.  She seems in control and confident (this suggests she knows what she’s doing and what’s happening to her body and baby – good messages for this book).

Recently a special edition of this book came out for Australia and New Zealand and it got it’s own new cover (the first local edition I’ve seen to do so).  This time we got our first photographic cover mom:

Again, we have a young, hip mom who is smiling and indicating that she is proud of her pregnancy.  Again she seems knowledgeable and confident.  I’m not sure that moving to a photographic cover mom was necessary, but this is a great cover – it conveys everything this book is trying to give it’s readers.

I agree that periodic style updates of the cover models on books like this that stay in print for over two decades is necessary – that first mom’s hair is in a common style from the early 1980s, but looks downright silly today.  I think that the first two covers are pretty bad, though.  The worried look on the moms’ faces sends absolutely the wrong message for this book.  I’m so glad that this book, which is reportedly one of the best of it’s kind, has fixed that particular problem and has used cover images showing moms displaying confidence and a sense of knowledge in recent years.  It suggests that someone realized the problem and corrected it.

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Movie Monday: He’s Just Not That Into You

Posted by Rosepixie on November 16, 2009

This is a trailer for the recent movie He’s Just Not That Into You and was found on YouTube.

So here’s what I learned from this trailer:

1. The women are all insecure and operating on social principles learned in preschool (?) in the hopes of getting married, and appear to not even have considered the idea that not being married is a valid status for a meaningful relationship.  They’re pretty much all neurotic and need men to find value in themselves.

2. The men are also somewhat neurotic, but less so, and mostly find the women baffling.

3. Nobody is genuine, ever.  They’re all too busy overthinking everything to be able to honestly interact with each other.

4. And since women are apparently crazy and obsessed with marriage while men are clueless and unable to follow the clues the women give (which, admittedly, kinda suck), everybody’s confused and unhappy.

5. And the bonus lesson: Technology is bad and has made human interactions messier and more painful.

Conclusion: this movie is clearly more understanding to the guy mentality (even though the title would suggest that it’s going to be the opposite) and generally thinks everyone is crazy.

Of course, this is a movie based on a nonfiction self-help book, so of course everyone’s crazy.  If they weren’t, they wouldn’t need self-help books!  But the ad really didn’t make me care much about anyone involved, it pretty much just made me go “ya’ll are crazy” and I felt perfectly happy to go on my way without ever having any inclination to watch the movie.  And this is coming from someone who generally enjoys romantic comedies.

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Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters: Period Piece with a Twist

Posted by Rosepixie on November 4, 2009

This is a trailer for the book Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (from the people who brought us Pride and Prejudice and Zombies).

I love this trailer.  It’s so well done.  It starts out like a moderately decent period movie and the monster bits actually do kind of creep up and surprise you!  And the monster is remarkably well done (especially considering this is a book trailer).  Mary Ann is even kind of clueless, like in the original book!

This totally does what it’s supposed to do – it makes the book seem like a fun mix of monster story and Jane Austen.  It’s definitely an excellent book trailer!

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Oliver at the Window: Mystery and Trepidation

Posted by Rosepixie on October 29, 2009

This is the cover of the recent picture book, Oliver at the Window.

Oliver at the Window

I love this cover.  I think that it’s brilliantly designed.  The image is bright and simple, but it evokes a lot.  The little boy, Oliver, and the lion are watching out the window.  The way they are peeking out suggests to me that they are eager to watch out the window, but fearful or worried about what they might see (or what it might mean).  It definitely makes me want to read the book to find out what Oliver and the lion are watching out the window or waiting for.

Apparently this book is about a child who is starting preschool and each day he wonders which parent will pick him up, which house he will be staying in that night.  His parents are divorced and he’s clearly confused, scared and wondering about the whole situation.  His uncertainty is clearly portrayed on the cover of this book, but it’s still comforting somehow.  You know that whatever he’s worried about will be ok (if nothing else, he’s got that lion, right?).  This was a brilliantly designed cover!

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