Audible Makes Some Noise with “Don’t Read” Push: Campaign Analysis

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Remember those “Books, Check ‘Em Out!” TV spots? You know, the ones where the California Raisins flexed their rhyming skills in the name of literacy? The ads were so catchy and feel-good that even the National Association of Librarians dug ’em.

Well, times have certainly changed. Flash-forward twenty years, and bear witness to Audible.com’s recent “Don’t Read” promotion. Created from beginning to end by New York’s Agency.com, the tongue-in-cheek campaign is specifically meant to promote the re-launch and redesign of Audible.com—the premiere site for audio files, with over 80,000 hours of audio and 270 content publisher partners on file.

With a stark, cheeky title like “Don’t Read” more than a little controversy is to be expected. In fact, according to the folks at Agency, that’s exactly what they’re aiming for. “We’re definitely hoping that it affects people in every way possible, from the shock to the humor and frankly to the outrage,” Agency.com VP of Creative Tom Ajello says. “But I think that this was a wonderfully simple way of getting someone to engage in a conversation.”

To stir that “conversation”, Agency’s created several nifty viral components to the campaign that aren’t quite as simple as Ajello makes them appear. These unique concepts include building a digital audio player directly into the “Don’t Read” ad banners, which allows users to listen to 28 different randomly selected audio clips from within the banner. Access to the revamped landing page is available via the banners, but users can also forward the audio clips to friends via e-mail or text message. If the clips come via e-mail, users must click on a link to be redirected to www.dontread.org to listen; mobile-philes, on the other hand, can simply reply to the text message and hear the audio clip play directly on their phone. “It’s completely full-service,” Ajello boasts. “The site landing page, the viral, mobile, guerilla…everything’s pulled into this one campaign we’ve done. We’re using all of those different levers at different points in the communication.”

The hub of this full-service interactive campaign (which officially launched last Monday) is the ad banner itself, currently sprouting up on major sites like Forbes.com, NYTimes.com, Oprah.com and IVillage. It may sound ambitious, but the folks at Agency insist that when they were placing ads, things like contextual and behavioral targeting were carefully considered.

“The strategy is basically to go broad and deep,” Agency’s VP of Strategy Adam Lavalle explains. “What I mean by going broad—because the whole idea of “Don’t Read” is primarily geared toward building better brand awareness—is going to lots of places you would expect to see: Tribune.com, NYTimes.com, eBay, USAToday, etc. What’s great is each one of those sites allows us to get really contextual. Books hit so many different genres. It’s just a compendium of fodder to work with.

“The deep part,” Lavalle continues, “is there’s a niche targeting strategy [that] picks specific site messages that are more behavior-based, like people who are active users of the gym, commuters, truckers, places I never though I’d see us advertise. That’s the whole idea.”

It’s an idea sure to raise a few eyebrows among literary purists. But then again, we do live in the era of podcasting, where content is no longer relegated to tangibility. So if there is backlash, Agency.com says, bring it on. “[The campaign’s] got this cavalier way of approaching things, and yeah, we’re sort of playing with fire here,” Ajello says. “But that’s cool, right? The beauty of it is, it’s given so many opportunities, from the sites to the landing page, for someone to get into the viral—from printing posters to sharing the audio clips or emailing the posters to somebody else. So we’re hoping that that swell of people that will be touching all these different points of the campaign will be the biggest driver of the controversy.”

After all, what’s good marketing without a little controversy?

Don’t want to read? Then, umm, peruse www.dontread.org.

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