PRH Uses UK Designer for Holiday Campaign, Adds 300,000 Books to Donation

In News by Porter Anderson

Turning to London-based Anyways Creative for its new holiday gift site, Penguin Random House has a new D2C holiday gift selector, and ups its donation to longtime charity partner First Book.

Results graphics on the Penguin Random House gift-selector holiday sales site designed by the UK-based Anyways Creative

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

‘Books Make Us Better’ for Holiday Sales
There may be no market in world publishing that loves its campaigns as much as the UK does. After all, it’s the home of Books Are My Bag from the Booksellers Association and Midas PR, a tote-bag fest that’s been revving readers on the high street since 2013. After so many years, it still was one of six finalists in The Bookseller’s trimmed-down roster of FutureBook Live awards last week.

So it’s probably not surprising that the American flagship Penguin Random House (PRH) went to London to find a designer for its 2019 holiday sales campaign.

Anyways Creative in Downham Road (“Adventurous and Meaningful Creativity for Brands”) got the account. A look at Anyways’ own site will prepare you for the big screenful of opaque color you get at PRH’s Books Make Us Better site, a wall-of-pastel effect you see at many European sites these days.

Unlike the industry-cheerleading Books Are My Bag campaign in the UK, the season’s PRH Books Make Us Better site is a sales campaign. As you land on it, you’re prompted to make a few selections among its pink and orange pages to arrive at some book-giving ideas. (It also works for book-getting ideas. You can choose yourself as the lucky recipient, Ebenezer.)

The device’s range may not be what seasoned book-givers might wish. Ask it to show you books for your brother who “is secretly a spy,” and it offers you Danielle Steel’s Spy, Lara Prescott’s The Secrets We Kept, and Lee Child’s Blue Moon. So far so good. But ask it to show you books for your sister who also “is secretly a spy,” and it shows you the same trio of books. Same for your teacher, your in-law, and your grandparent.

So it appears that the actual selections are pre-loaded in threes and respond to whichever of the 12 deft, final phrases you choose to describe your gift recipient, who may be “secretly a spy” (Steel, Prescott, Child); “questioning the status quo” (Patti Smith, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and Toni Morrison); “dreaming of escaping the city” (Jojo Moyes, Ken Burns, and Casey Cep); or “fighting the good fight” (Rebecca Roanhorse, Margaret Atwood, Rebecca Makkai). All are worthy suggestions, of course, but you might wish that a campaign built for such a vast sea of content as that held by PRH (publishing some 15,000 titles per year internationally, as Publishing Perspectives readers know) would offer deeper dives into more options.

The design comes up with more once you choose a title. You’re offered three animated graphics you can use to publicize your selection on social media. You can also download your animation. Or you can buy that book for your brother, sister, in-law, teacher, or grandparent, through links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BAM (Books-a-Million), or IndieBound.

Animated graphics for social media and download at the PRH Books Make Us Better site. Illustrations by Ben Ommundson

The program is being reflected in New York subway ads and may actually get more response in reading centers in other parts of the United States, which much less frequently may be presented with book-buying pitches on public transport.

PRH vice-president for creative strategy, Adam Royce, is quoted in media messaging, saying, “This holiday campaign is our first foray into executing a unified campaign across our channels with a distinct creative direction and tone of voice. We’re looking forward to creating more of these meaningful campaigns in the future to continue to understand, reach, and engage more deeply with our consumers, raise awareness of books, and build experiences that help readers to find their next great read.”

And that’s a hopeful comment. In future iterations, the company may be able to apply more of its consumer data to make such a book-picker responsive to which “questioning the status quo” book is more often bought by women than men, or by older readers than younger ones, and so on—thus giving itself a chance to surface more of the catalogue instead of a single trio for all comers under each of these 12 clever personality banners. That’s what data’s good for.

At Anyways, a quote is provided by Ellen Tunrill Montoya and Charlie Sheppard, who say, “Referencing the intimate gesture of giving a personal gift during the holidays, and the tactile nature of books too, we hope we have created a campaign that’s engaging and warm throughout. It’s brought to life with beautiful animation from [illustrator] Ben Ommundson, as well as some characterful surprises along the way, too.”

The device is certainly worth a look as a new effort in direct-to-consumer marketing, and its finger-pointing hand graphic suggests there’s more to come in making such a campaign Be Best.

PRH Adds 300,000 Books to Its Obama Donation

On Tuesday (December 3), Penguin Random House US also announced that it would donate up to 300,000 children’s books to the First Book charity, over and above the previously announced donation of 1 million books in the Obama family’s name. That first announcement, of course, was made when PRH acquired world rights to Barack and Michelle Obama’s memoirs.

The newly announced 300,000 books are dependent on public participation. In helping the nonprofit First Book raise US1 million, PRH will donate two books for each $3 donation made to First Book between now and December 31.

The connection here lies in such community education charities as Child360. The former first lady made one of her tour stops in Los Angeles at the Para Los Niños Tina and Rick Caruso Early Education Center, which is supported by Child360—which received books from the PRH First Book donation.

Worldwide PRH CEO Markus Dohle in the announcement about the new 300,000 books effort, saying, “When children have greater access to our books and stories, we, together with president and Mrs. Obama, are helping to shape a literate, educated, and democratic society that will become the next generation of readers and leaders.”

First Book is a longstanding PRH nonprofit beneficiary and the charity reports that since 1992, it has distributed more than 185 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income communities in more than 30 countries.

First Book reports that it reaches an average 5 million children annually and supports more than one in three of the estimated 1.3 million classrooms and programs serving children in need.

More from Publishing Perspectives on Penguin Random House is here. More on charitable efforts in publishing is here. And more of our Industry Notes series is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.