German-born Alexander Broich, the managing director of the online
book store, BOL.com, is absorbed in a copy of Jeremy Paxman’s revealing
tome, The English.
Having worked in London for less than a year, he is keen to learn more
about our culture and, more especially, our reading habits.
BOL.com, which is owned by the German publishing group, Bertelsmann, has
been operating in the UK for the past ten months and since November has
been promoting its titles through M&C Saatchi’s ’love books?’
This week it unveils new advertising which asks us the same question
The ad is set at an international conference at which a Russian delegate
makes a passionate speech. As the other delegates listen to the
translation through their headphones, one in particular appears to be
very moved by the delivery. However, it soon becomes apparent that he is
not listening to the speech at all but to rock music. The ad ends with
the line: ’Love music? Buy online at BOL.com.’
The work continues BOL’s strategy of establishing an emotional bond with
consumers - an absolute necessity in the intangible world of e-commerce,
according to Broich. ’If you have a virtual product or shop that people
can’t see, brand-building becomes a very important part of your
Tapping into the positive feelings people have about their hobbies seems
like a dream brief for agencies but, Broich says, it’s not that simple:
’We saw a lot of interesting ideas in the pitch but there’s always the
danger when promoting books of having an elitist touch.’
This explains M&C’s use of humour in the commercials. Although they
portray obsessive bookworms, they avoid doing it seriously so as not to
alienate more casual readers.
BOL’s advertising also aims to challenge Amazon’s domination of global
online book and CD sales. But Broich claims the battle is diminishing as
the companies head in different directions.
While Amazon is moving into areas such as electronics and toys, BOL says
that it will only stretch the brand as far as videos and DVDs. ’We will
continue to focus on the product and people’s relationship to it. ’Love
film?’ works, for example, but ’love petfood?’ or ’love electronics?’
BOL plans to sell films online by the summer, accompanied by another ad
Assessing the company’s success is difficult. Neither Amazon or BOL have
released traffic figures although BOL is set to do so. Broich stresses,
however, that he has his sights set on the wider market, as online sales
account for only 2 to 3 per cent of the overall book market. Other media
products such as games and CD-Roms are in the pipeline.