an Ad a Day

A look at the marketing that surrounds us.

Posts Tagged ‘cover’

Zatanna: Mistress of Magic

Posted by Rosepixie on June 22, 2010

Last month DC Comics started a series focusing on the character Zatanna who is a stage magician with real magic powers.  To advertise this new comic, they’ve been using these two banner ads online.

What I love about these banner ads is that they have the feel of old carnival posters, which is very in line with Zatanna’s character and theme.  Even better, they’ve carried this idea through to the actual covers of the comic as well!  This is the cover of the second issue.

I love the poster feel and I could see the cover actually being a poster.  Actually, they should totally make poster versions of this cover.  Sadly, they probably won’t, since Zatanna doesn’t have a red S or a bat on her chest.  Too bad.

Basically, I think this is one of the most appealing, appropriate marketing campaigns I’ve seen from DC in a very long time.  I hope they keep doing interesting and fun things like this!  These are the kinds of marketing campaigns that make me want to read new comics!


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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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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”?

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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.

Posted in Health and Science | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »

Cosmopolitan: The “Bad Girl Issue”

Posted by Rosepixie on November 7, 2009

This was sent to me by a friend of mine.  It’s the November 2009 cover of Cosmopolitan.

Cosmopolitan November 2009

My friend noticed this in the grocery store check out line and was a little shocked by the “For Sexy Bitches Only” sticker (or rather, shocked that it was on a magazine carried by the grocery store).  I’m not sure what to think about that, although I have noticed a remarkable lack of consistency about what is and is not considered fit to be carried and displayed by stores when it comes to magazine covers.

I was more interested in the “Bad Girl Issue” element of this issue.  Honestly, I can’t figure out what makes this issue any more “bad” than any other issue of Cosmo.  The cover features these headlines:

What He Thinks During Sex: The crazy, dirty, worried and yes, even sweet stuff that goes through his head when you two get naked

8 Things Guys Notice Instantly

Mind Tricks That Melt Pounds

Hot New Party Dresses

Killer Cocktail: How a popular drink could kill you in your sleep

Kim Kardashian: The mistake that still haunts her (no, not the sex tape)

Foreplay Men Crave: Touch his secret erotic spot (surprise: it doesn’t rhyme with shmenis)

26 Gutsy Ways to Make a Fresh Start

The Silent Clue Men Give Off When They’re in Love

None of those sound especially “bad girl”-ish to me.  For comparison, I found a couple of other issues and checked out the headlines.  Some highlights:

His #1 Sex Fantasy: No woman has had the nerve to try this on him… and he’ll go totally nuts when you do

Cosmo News: A New Kind of Date Rape You Must Know About

Feel Sex More Intensely: A guide to your body during the deed

The Truth!: Sex advice men wish you knew

Get the Pay Rise You Deserve [note: I didn’t misspell that, that’s what the headline says]

Dirty Sexy Sex: Top pleasure experts share moves so new and naughty, you could only read them here

Ok… so now I’m even more confused about how this is the “bad girl” issue since some of those headlines seem more appropriate for it than the ones it came with!

Mostly Cosmo just confuses me.  It’s like it really wants to be porn or the Kama Sutra with a little bit of The Rules thrown in for good measure, but the result is that it fails at all three.  Porn is easily available for free, there are much better and more comprehensive sex guides elsewhere (and they can use pictures to describe things), and Cosmo is trying to be a little more liberal than The Rules really allows, so that falls apart every time.  And yet they keep trying and they’re still in print (although I’m told such magazines are seriously struggling right now).

It just seems like it’s a bad thing when your cover headlines do more to get me thinking about other resources and entertainment venues than actually intrigue me about what’s in your magazine.

I also love that my friend found the magazine in the “regional title” bin:

Cosmopolitan November 2009

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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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AccuQuote: My Fair Godmother?

Posted by Rosepixie on September 17, 2009

This is a banner ad that I’ve seen in all sorts of places online.  It’s for AccuQuote, which is an insurance company.

AccuQuote 1

So, the funny thing about this banner is why it caught my eye.  I noticed it because of the fairy.  I have no idea how long I’ve been seeing this ad, but I started noticing it while I was reading the book My Fair Godmother.  Check out the cover, below, and you’ll see why.


Other than the fact that the book cover fairy has pink hair while the banner ad fairy is blond, it’s the same image!  Even the house roof is the same!  This isn’t actually a good parallel for AccuQuote, either, since the fairy this represents in the book is awful at granting wishes and pretty much makes the lives of everyone she meets miserable.  Not that I was looking for life insurance anyway, but if I was, I wouldn’t buy it from a place with a fairy who messes everything up and has a chronic problem with listening as the star of their ads!

Posted in Services | Tagged: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Giada’s Family Dinners: Tasting as You Go

Posted by Rosepixie on September 16, 2009

This is a book cover that I came across frequently while working at a bookstore.  It’s from Giada’s Family Dinners, a cookbook with Italian-inspired recipes designed to be made for family meals.

Giadas Family Dinners 1

Usually I don’t care much about cookbook covers.  They generally either show people cooking or perfectly picturesque food arranged to five-star restaurant presentation standards.  I think this cover is great, though.  It immediately stood out to me, even though I really don’t care much about Giada de Laurentiis (and only vaguely knew that she was some kind of TV-famous chef the first time I saw one of her books).  I love that she’s tasting the food as she’s cooking with her fingers.  It’s not something we see Great Chefs do (probably because it’s not really restaurant-kitchen-sanitary), but it is something that I’ve seen most of the real people in my life do.  My mother did it, my grandmother did it, my friends who cook and my husband and I all do it.  It feels familiar and homey – perfect for a “family dinners” cookbook.  And she looks like she’s having fun, which is awesome.  It makes me want to bake cookies or make spaghetti!  I don’t own this book, so I guess it didn’t work well enough to make me buy the book, but I did debate it several times while I worked at the bookstore both for myself and as gifts for people.  In the end, I tend to stick with cookbooks I know.  Still, it’s a brilliant cover!

Posted in Entertainment | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »