Always outnumbered. Generally overdresssed.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

How to save publishing

Given I'm currently writing a book, bitching about the publishing industry isn't the best idea I ever had. But then, neither is taking a month off my freelance job to work on my dissertation, and then blogging and playing Demon Souls instead.

Look, here's an advert for Dan Brown's 'Secret Lost Sudoku Puzzle'. The first thing you'll notice about this advert is that it's not very good. But it is nonetheless differently not good from your run-of-the-mill book advertising.

Apparently publishers assume the point of all advertising is to alert existing fans to the existence of new releases. Posters give precedence to author and title. They may also use visuals to imply 'mood' and maybe a line to mop up a few new readers.

The Dan Brown ad is different, it contains an idea, one that answers the brief 'page-turner from a familiar author for your summer holidays'. The barbecue does 'summer' - that's probably the best thing about it, the only thing that makes me think it was made by the agency, rather than just sketched by a maverick marketing manager on the back of an All Bar One napkin.

But the idea is, well, fairly rudimentary. It seems like when products begin to be advertised competitively they have to go through all the phases of advertising that products with a history of competitive advertising went through years ago. (You can see this with plastic surgery ads on the underground, which are still in the protozoan phase of 'here's a photo of someone who's happy with our product'.)

The Dan Brown ad proves a number of things:

a) yes, it is possible to write adverts about books that aren't just covers with headlines.

b) that publishing house marketing departments are fundamentally inert, terrified of doing anything that isn't a cover with a headline...

c) ...because, all of the very low-hanging advertising fruit is ripe for the picking.

d) that they do believe it's worth advertising certain kinds of book - interestingly they advertise Dan Brown because he is already so popular. His are casual readers, people who only read on holiday and choose their books like they choose their margarine.

But see, publishing people are always whingeing about how they're selling fewer books, that the industry is on its last legs, that times are tough, that they're nearly 30 and haven't had a baby, etc. And this is partly because people who work in publishing do tend to be drawn from the ranks of nature's whiners and also, because they don't have to make their product, they only have to sell it, so they've got a complex about how comparatively easy their job is, compared to that of the authors they're forced to associate with, which means they have go on and on about how difficult and overwhelming it all is.

So what I want to know is, why don't they try harder see? Or just sit down and have a little think about it?

Modern media is set up to sell personalities more than things. Brands are personalities, saucepans are things. This being so, why sell books, when you can sell people?

So what you want to do is have a branding campaign, for, say, Ernest Hemingway. You sell Hemingway, like he was aftershave, but better - an aftershave that would teach you things, teach what to say and how to be. You do posters of Ernest Hemingway, with headlines by Tim Delaney, you do TV ads with Hemingway reading 'The Old Man and the Sea' over visuals of old Cuban fishermen bringing in marlin. You bring out Hemingway in a new edition, that's as identifiable as a set of white headphones, an edition that's properly pocket-sized. You show people how Ernest Hemingway invented a lot of the ideas we now know as 'cool'.

It doesn't matter that he's been dead for forty years, look at Billy Joel. One of the things the internet has done is to give people the whole of history to choose from. You only have to put Richard Burton reading Dylan Thomas on a VW ad, and people buy it by the shed-load. It's not that they don't want beautiful writing, they just don't know how good it is, or they feel excluded by it.

Anyone want to start a publishing house? All we need is about £5 million for Hemingway's back list. We'll be rich. Rich I tell you.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Kingsley Amis's Life Kitchen no.1

Week by week I'll be bringing you pearls of wisdom from Britain's last great misanthrope. Amis's reputation is in no need of revival, yet or ever really.

'Man's sexual aim, he had often said to himself, is to convert a creature who is cool, dry, calm, articulate, independent, purposeful into a creature that is the opposite of these; to demonstrate to an animal which is pretending not to be an animal that it is an animal.'

One Fat Englishman p.110

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stockholm Syndrome

I had the misfortune to find myself in Stockholm over the weekend.

It's a truly awful place.

  • For a nation that prides itself on its design credentials, building a city spread over an archipelago isn't a great start. Unless you own an amphibious Volvo getting anywhere at all involves a tedious trudge over a network of bridges. And the weather, even in midsummer, is shit.
  • Socialism 1.1 Ten weeks paid maternity/paternity leave - which must be taken by both parents. What this means in practice is that there are loads of blonde men pushing three-wheeled prams with little frowning blonde children in them. Even the children are miserable in Sweden.
  • Socialism 1.2 No waiter or waitress in Sweden will serve you, as it were, automatically. You have to sit there for ages while they ignore you, and then when you eventually become so hypoglycemic and exasperated that you go and ask them whether they have any intention of bringing you any food they look at you like an unwiped arsehole. And that would be fine if you weren't paying £25 for what appears to be a W12 saveloy and a bowl of chips.
  • Their buses are gay:
  • Language - all Swedes speak English anyway, and that makes me think the Swedish language is really just English, written by a dyslexic with an extremely juvenile sense of humour. In fact the place we know as Sweden could just be a forgotten English internment camp for social deviants, founded in the 17th Century and allowed to develop its own culture, like a kind of Siberia for twats.
  • Fucking crows. Crows everywhere.
  • Ok, ok. There are some nice design shops, but all those modernist lampshades are Danish and Josef Frank was born in Austria. In the airport arrivals lounge they have photographic parade of famous Swedish people. I recognised ABBA and Dolph Lungren - listed as an 'actor and engineer.'
  • I stayed in a hostel dormitory with a German pervert in little shorts who liked to get up at 6.30am for a bout of sneezing, which I'm sure he was doing deliberately. I mean, he looked like he was enjoying it. The kind of weasle-faced Eurofucker who's just dying to cut off and sautee your penis.
  • Rutger Hauer is Dutch.

Seriously, never go there.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Happy Friday

GC may even have sold a long copy charity ad.

I will start being a blogger again soon.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Unoriginality splice?

Shit ad right?

Does it make it better or worse that the visual is stolen from this quite good campaign:

And the soundtrack meme from this excellent Christmas ad:

Who is making these adverts? Who are you? What does it feel like just not to give a shit? Seriously, I'd love to know.

Is there anything you can't sell with anthropomorphic animals?

So many questions and so few answers.

Monday, July 12, 2010

England's own Lou Reed

One of the first gigs I ever went to was Ian Dury with my Dad.

Sorry, I haven't posted for a while. I've been too angry to do anything except sit here grinding my teeth.

Also, you get a kind of blogging inertia, difficulty of thinking of something interesting/amusing to say x length of time since you last said anything interesting/amusing.

I might just post music that I like for a while actually and see how that goes.

Brother Stevie even offered to illustrate the rest of the Sisters strip, an offer not to be sniffed at, so I'll hurry along and do that also.