CLOSE-UP: LIVE ISSUE/BOOKS ADVERTISING - Puffin's TV spot is unlikely to begin a new publishing trend, Jeremy White writes

Puffin, the book publisher, has gone and done something rather

rash. It has spent what must be a sizeable chunk of its marketing budget

on its first ever television advertising.



A TV spot profiling Puffin's range of Roald Dahl titles broke last

week.



On paper this sounds like a cracking idea. With books in vogue thanks to

Bridget Jones and Harry Potter, surely a national TV campaign for a

high-profile author can't fail to boost sales? And, come to think of it,

why aren't other publishers doing the same?



The problem is money. Or rather, the lack of it.



'Apart from the BBC, which gets to advertise on the back of its TV

programmes, there often isn't the money for publishers to do something

as large scale as TV advertising,' Kirsten Grant, Puffin's acting

marketing manager, admits.



But this year is Puffin's 60th anniversary. Combine this with a

universally recognised author and all of a sudden, the marketing

department has a good chance of persuading the beancounters to release

enough funds.



'Last year Roald Dahl was voted the UK's number one author by children

and adults in the World Book Day poll. We realised that he's the perfect

person to do this with,'Grant says.



Rhona Drummond, the marketing director of Publicis Networks, which

handles Harper Collins, thinks it is unwise for publishers to rush into

TV advertising: 'People do not buy books by the publisher, they buy by

the book. So the promotional budget is linked to the book and the

author. The margin is very low on books. Admittedly, Harry Potter made a

fortune, but it's hard to predict that before it starts, and usually

once that gets going the PR's been so good that it carries it

through.'



'Publishers spend a lot on PR. They have a big budget to launch books

and get journalists talking about them. That's where they focus a

significant part of the budget,' Drummond adds.



Jackie Berryman, the BBC Worldwide book marketing manager, continues:

'The amount of money that you can spend on a single title is less than

if you were selling baked beans or something.'



But Berryman concedes that 'there are certain opportunities in

publishing that could be exploited more', and cites Dorling Kindersley,

a good quality educational publisher, as an example of a company that is

doing it right.



Berryman points out that all of Dorling Kindersley's titles look the

same.



In other words, they're branded. BBC Worldwide has also tried to brand

its activity in with certain key sectors, especially cookery.



'Traditional publishers are targeting a diminishing market,' Berryman

warns. 'The people who are buying books are buying more books but there

are fewer of them. Publishers can reach that target market very

successfully through the traditional ways. To build something into a

mass market title that appeals outside of the normal book-buying market

takes much more. This is where, I suspect, Puffin is coming from with

Roald Dahl.'



Grant says that this is a one-off, for now anyway: 'We have to wait to

see how successful this one is. It is a very big departure for us.'



'We want to stand out from the crowd,' she concludes. 'We are 60 years

old this year - we want to move forward and secure our lead on the

competition.'



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