Thursday + Gregory Huffstutter = The Ad Man Answers
Thursday + Gregory Huffstutter = The Ad Man Answers
Steffan, why did you decide to go with an independent press for "Happy Soul Industry"?
My first agent, Jeremy Solomon became a publisher and one thing led to another. Obviously, if someone like Penguin bit, I’d be with them. Inkwater, however, allows me to market the book as I see fit. It’s also a very personal relationship. Even if they are lucky enough to get a deal, unknown authors (like me) are often treated shabbily by publishers. If the book isn’t a hit, they get dumped, often unceremoniously. Inkwater and I work hard keeping the book relevant.
Has Inkwater been able to secure any shelf space at brick & mortal bookstores, or have your sales been mostly online to this point?
98% is online. This is the primary rub of author subsidy publishing: no brick and mortar (unless you really work at it). Had I gotten shelf space I'm convinced my sales would be infinitely higher. When “The Last Generation” came out I conducted an experiment. I snuck 5 copies of the novel into a Borders on Michigan Avenue and surreptitiously placed them on a table of new releases. Within 20 minutes, they were all picked up. Given they weren't in the computer, it created a bit of a scene at the cash register. But the event showed me how lucrative the concept and design for my novel was... is!
How did your adverting experience guide your book marketing campaign?
Are you kidding me? I wrote the copy for HSI marketing with the same passion as the book. That’s part of the fun. A big part.
What specifically did you do to advertise “Happy Soul Industry”?
I created the ad below for postcard leave-behinds, mailings, and even a billboard campaign in Chicago. (If you add me as a friend on facebook, you can see me standing under my billboard.)Then I ran digital outdoor billboards in LA to target the film industry.
Copy 1: Just what God needs...
Copy 2: An ad agency
Copy 3: The Happy Soul Industry.
I was able to get the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) to comp me these wonderful boards in exchange for doing work (and potentially hosting) the Obie awards. They (OAAA) have been good to me since the glory days of Altoids, where outdoor advertising launched that brand into the stratosphere. I went after film people where they live, work and play. The strategy worked as I now have manager (Sleeping Giant) and potential agent at CAA.
I've read that you will match the price of every book you sell with a donation to your church. That seems like an odd marketing strategy for someone who's a master of marketing... is this a tactic you'd recommend to one of your clients?
Inspired by a sermon at our church, I wrote a blog post promising anyone who ordered my book that I would donate the proceeds to the church. I’m afraid it’s a limited time offer! I did have a book signing in December. All the proceeds ($1100) went to Chicago Lights at Fourth Presbyterian Church. For the record, as an author, I’m deeply in the red. But that’s okay; it’s a labor of love. If I’m to make any money, it will be from the movie deal. Fingers crossed!
I was a fan of the TNT show "Trust Me", and found it an extremely accurate portrayal of the advertising business -- office politics, long hours, stealing desk chairs. You were an early champion of the show -- with one of your Cannes Golden Lions as a prop piece – but, alas, the NY Times just announced it would not be back for a second season… so what happened?
It wasn’t just awards trophies. We were also able to get three of Euro RSCG’s clients on the show: Effen Vodka, Potbelly Sandwich Works and O&I Shoes. They “play” actual clients of the fictional ad agency. Totally post modern, I’ve written about this extensively on the blog.
Two men I worked with at Leo Burnett, John Coveny and Hunt Baldwin, created “Trust Me.” I consider John one of my best friends. These guys also write for TNT’s award-winning show, The Closer. Helping them create their show was a thrill. Seeing my awards and clients in the “mise en scene” was downright surreal. I loved it!
As for your last question, I thought “Trust Me” was getting better and better. But these are tough times -- a show needs big ratings in order to survive. Moving “Trust Me” to Tuesdays did not help its cause.
Why do you think that show didn't attract a larger audience? My wife, who was an advertising copywriter, thinks "Trust Me" suffered because it was almost too real. For example, you had two co-workers -- one who's now married -- engage in a drunken kiss after an old company Christmas party. (Very, very plausible to anyone who worked in advertising.) But if it had been another show, like “Grey's Anatomy,” the two characters would've had a torrid affair cut to a montage of indie music.
Many argued that “Trust Me” was too real. I think that’s a high-class problem and one they addressed. As I see it, each episode delved further into the characters psyches. In addition, they brought classic drama into the stories, not just advertising. But your wife has a point: watching “Trust Me” was a little like going to work. It made me giddy and nervous. But there was something revelatory about seeing your world on TV. During the pilot they shot a scene in front of a Michigan Avenue bookstore. For fun, the producers put copies of my novel in the window, as part of the set. Alas, it ended up out of the frame…
Will you encourage your children to go into advertising? Do you think it’s in their blood?
Given my father, mother and two brothers are all in (or were in) advertising, I don't see how my children can avoid it! Despite HSI's dark undercurrent, I think I have the best job in the world. I make a great living doing something I adore. Why wouldn't I want my kids involved?
Thanks for the time, Steffan, and here’s hoping you sell lots of Dutch vodka, potbelly sandwiches, and those movie rights to “Happy Soul Industries”!
Gregory Huffstutter has been punching Ad Agency timecards for the past dozen years, working on accounts like McDonald's, KIA Motors, Suzuki Automotive, and the San Diego Padres. His first mystery, KATZ CRADLE is on submission while he's working on the sequel. The first 100 pages of his novel are linked here. For general advertising questions, leave a comment or send e-mail to katz @ gregoryhuffstutter dot com with 'Ask The Ad Man' in the subject line.