The “Books=Gifts” promotional campaign that Random House C.E.O. Markus Dohle came up with last month sees its latest manifestation on The New York Times‘ Web site today, with a tall, bookmark-shaped Knopf ad that appears when you open any of the top stories. The ad is made up of three slides, all of them very much out of step aesthetically with the understated and sophisticated look that Knopf’s designers and brand-managers usually strive for.
The first slide features a picture of P.D. James’ The Private Patient below the large-type slogan “BOOKS MAKE GREAT GIFTS!” and a pricetag at the top which informs readers that this is “an important message from Knopf.” The second slide has a bunch more pricetags, each of which provides a reason why a book makes a good gift. From the top: “A book can change someone’s life,” “It can make someone laugh,” “It’s thoughtful and affordable,” “You can never have too many!”
The third slide, which is what stays on the page once the first two have cycled through, boasts in big letters (and an exclamation point) of the fact that eight of the 10 books the editors of The New York Times Book Review chose for their year-end list “ARE KNOPF BOOKS!” At the top, another pricetag, this one emblazoned with the declaration, “We make shopping easy.”
Oh, is that what Knopf does these days! One wonders what happened to that elegant dog they used to have.
According to Knopf’s creative marketing director Anne-Lise Spitzer, who has been with the house for 23 years, the nytimes.com “gift” ad was deliberately made to look a little snazzier and populist than what advertising director Stephanie Kloss and designer Amy Citron usually do.
“I liked the tags and all,” Ms. Spitzer said. “It’s definitely more commercial than we normally go for, but we have some books that really are commercial and really do make good gifts, so why not get that message out? We were trying to make an ad also that would draw, attention and not to be too quiet on the busy New York Times page.”
She added that the advertising team tends to do more “generic” ads during the holiday season.
One disappointing thing about the campaign, Ms. Spitzer said, is that the Web site the ad was supposed to link to—an interactive gift guide hosted on the Random House site—went down for about an hour this afternoon.
“It’s not their problem, it’s a problem on our end,” an exasperated Ms. Spitzer said shortly after the problem was corrected. “We tried to get them to pause it while it was cleared up but apparently that didn’t happen.”