Thursday + Gregory Huffstutter = The Ad Man Answers
Thursday + Gregory Huffstutter = The Ad Man Answers
Advertising can be particularly effective when it draws consumers into a narrative, instead of bashing sales messages into their noggins.
A perfect example of this technique is Sony Pictures’ viral campaign for their upcoming flick, “District 9.” Instead of a typical movie poster, these outdoor ads bring us into an alternate reality, where Human Rights vs. Aliens Rights are an ongoing issue.
Notice there are no actor names, no release date, not even the movie title. Instead, the campaign directs people to a toll-free phone number (which logged 33,000 calls in 2 weeks) and a website (which helped drive over 20 million views to the movie trailer in 6 weeks).
Can similar methods be used for book launches? Look no further than S.G. Browne, who recently published his debut, BREATHERS: A ZOMBIE’S LAMENT (Broadway/Random House).
BREATHERS’ viral advertising campaign was so clever that we’re breaking from our Ex-Ad Guy/Gal interview series to bring you a 2-part chat with the author. The closest S.G. got to an advertising career was post-production work for Disney, but after these excellent YouTube ads, we’re going to make him an un-official member of the Advertising fraternity.
S.G., you not only have a dedicated author website & blog, but an excellent micro-site "Undead Anonymous" wrapped around your debut. Were those websites in place before or after you signed with your agent and eventual publisher? Who wound up funding them?
I didn’t have any web presence prior to signing with my publisher in February 2008 and the idea of creating a web site was completely foreign and overwhelming to me. I didn’t even know what HTML code was. Not long after I signed with Random House, a friend helped me to set up a basic author web site using a Wordpress template just to get something out there and then I worked with a designer on the Undead Anonymous site, which went live around the end of last October. I’m finally getting around to upgrading my author web site, though if I had the time to learn more HTML I might be able to upgrade it myself.
The funding? That would be me. At least I get to write it off.
“Undead Anonymous” does a wonderful job of wrapping your book around compelling content -- zombie testimonials, undead commandments, original music ("Your Brains" mp3), iPhone app, and even mock commercials for "Necrobrufin," a zombie anti-depressant. How have you used this website as a marketing tool? What % of your sales and online traffic with Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Borders have come as a direct link from your micro-site?
The idea was for Undead Anonymous to allow visitors and readers to feel like they can connect with characters in the book and get some insight into what it’s like to be a zombie – their struggles, what they like to eat, their favorite zombie films. I even have an Ask Andy section for those curious about decomposition, sloughage, and whether or not it’s necrophilia if you’re both dead. I also blog about the process of writing BREATHERS and provide an event list of my Next Scheduled Resurrection.
Wait. I’m supposed to know what percentage of my sales and traffic with on-line bookstores comes as a direct link from my web site? Oops.
Who created the "Necrobrufin" spots? Have they been tied to an advertising campaign, or just disseminated virally?
The Necrobufrin spots were created by Milk Products Media with actors from Second City, which was something my publisher helped to set up. I really love the spots and the producers of the spots were kind enough to solicit input from me, though all of the kudos goes to them.
The videos were disseminated virally as well as part of my publisher’s outreach to the zombie and horror community when the book launched. They also posted the videos on all of their video sharing channels, including YouTube, and on my book catalog pages on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.
What other advertising -- consumer or trade -- have you or your publisher done around your book launch?
Prior to the book launch, my publisher did early galley and finished copy buzz mailings targeting zombie fans and just to get the word out, which included outreach to the zombie/horror community online. They also ran Facebook ads at on sale targeting zombie fans and readers of related books and authors like
My advertising has consisted of visiting as many bookstores as possible to introduce myself, sign stock copies, and let them know that in addition to zombie fans that I think readers of Moore and Palahniuk would enjoy BREATHERS. I’ve also organized a zombie pub crawl and a zombie protest for equal rights prior to a couple of my local readings. The protest was a lot of fun. There’s even a video of it on YouTube. And I’ve given away free, personalized signed copies of BREATHERS both on Twitter and on a couple of web sites where I’ve been interviewed. I’ll probably do another giveaway on Twitter sometime in the fall.
For someone who doesn't have a formal advertising background, you seem to have an acute sense of how to market yourself. Where did you learn these promotional skills?
To be honest, it’s something I’ve learned to do over the past six months or so. Quitting my day job as a property manager helped to free up my time. Maybe not the smartest thing to do in the current economy, but I guess when your first book gets published, you do what you can to help it succeed.
It’s likely that some of what I’m doing developed out of nearly two decades of writing query letters and trying to market myself to an agent or a publisher, but it’s definitely felt more like on-the-job training. At first it seemed like so much shameless self-promotion, but apparently I’ve moved past that. Still, I don’t want to become a promotion whore.
Next column, we’ll bring you Part 2 of our chat with S.G. Browne. He’ll talk about selling his theatrical rights to Diablo Cody (no joke), participating in the world’s largest Zombie Walk (no joke), and dating Megan Fox (joke).
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.