NPR logo Why Do Book Ads All Look Alike?

Why Do Book Ads All Look Alike?

Over on the blog Copyranter, an interesting debate is going on about the incredibly bad advertising done by book publishers. From the post:

The Book Publishing Industry is dying. And it ain't a quietly-in-its-sleep death. It's a getting-hacked-to-pieces-by-machetes death. And speaking of hack, have you ever taken a good look at book advertising? Open any New York Times Arts Section to the book page and look at the ads — every single one of them looks EXACTLY the same: big jacket shot, surrounded by "Read it today!" — USA Today; "Entertaining read!" —Entertainment Weekly; and other such asinine attributes (at right, we have the brilliant move of repeating the author's name and title as the "headline"). Not one of the ads provokes even a slight glance in its direction. One of the reasons for this is that book ads are not placed to sell books.

While I am not in the publishing industry and don't know anything about it, to be honest, it has always struck me as weird. Also interesting on the site are the ongoing comments on the post, from one anonymous poster:

At my old job, I worked with many talented designers and creative people who came up with interesting and inventive campaigns — which were then almost ceremoniously killed by advertising directors. When shown several different layouts (say, one standard, one off-the-wall and one quirky but beautiful), advertising directors almost always default to the layout that looks like every other ad they've ever done. We are even told to design ads that look exactly like past ads, or use this exact same color, or that exact same effect on the book jacket. Occasionally, when they do choose a layout with a different look, someone somewhere down the line of approval usually ends up forcing it back into its uniform, squashing any creative impulse it might have once had. Tiny things, like the placement of a comma, are obsessed over, while larger issues — i.e., "This ad sucks," go largely unaddressed.