Penguin Random House launches campaign reminding us that books make us better

The publishing group worked with agency Anyways Creative on a Christmas campaign that seeks to spark delight and raise awareness of books as the perfect gift.

5 December 2019

The publishing group Penguin Random House has worked with London-based agency Anyways Creative to launch a festive-season campaign that seeks to promote awareness of reading and gifting books. The campaign, which lives across a playful micro-site and on out-of-home billboards, simplifies the process of choosing a book for a loved one and looks to connect to the emotions associated with reading.

“We wanted this campaign to be something that would spark delight,” says Adam Royce, VP creative strategy director at Penguin Random House, based in New York. “In our initial conversations [with Anyways], we discussed creating high-quality and impactful visuals that would raise awareness of books as the perfect gift and could showcase the broad range of titles we publish.”

Having looked at lots of different ideas, Anyways (which, alongside It’s Nice That, is part of the HudsonBec Group) ended up creating a micro-site that people can use to find the perfect book to gift. “We created an online book recommender that invites users to find a book for their loved ones (or themselves) by selecting the recipient and their defining trait,” says Ellen Turnill Montoya, a creative at Anyways.

Under the heading “Books Make Us Better”, users type in who they’re looking to give a gift to, and select from a long list what that person’s key characteristic is. These options range from the funny (“is doing the cooking this year”) to the more profound (“is on a journey of self-discovery”) and the habitual (“is never without headphones”). As Ellen points out, the idea behind this is that “giving advice can be hard, but saying it with a book makes it a little bit easier (and funnier)”.

GalleryAnyways Creative: Books Make Us Better, for Penguin Random House

Analysing the information users have inputted, the site then trawls through the publisher’s many titles and finds three books that might work as a gift. For many people, the sheer volume of titles on offer when you step into a bookshop is overwhelming, so this narrowing down of the options being presented was key. “We are aware that finding the right title is the primary pain point for gifters, so we wanted to ensure that was integral to the user experience,” says Adam.

There are playful details dotted throughout the user journey. Anyways worked with the illustrator and animator Ben Ommundson to create a hand cursor that guides you through the whole experience. “We love Ben’s work,” says Anyways’ Charlie Sheppard. “He is a beautiful animator, and we wanted to reference the tactile nature of books and reading, so a hand-drawn animation style was perfect.”

If you dwell on any page for longer than a moment, the hand slyly creates a shadow-puppet penguin, as if bored by your inactivity. If you select one of the three books offered up at the end, you can decide whether to simply “Give” the book, “Spin” it like a basketball, or embrace the holidays by putting the title in a “Snow Globe”. “We loved adding this little bit of humour and personality to the experience,” says Charlie.

It was also vital that the campaign be inclusive. “Consumer data says that neither age nor gender is a meaningful driver of literary preference,” says Adam from Penguin Random House, “so we worked to ensure the recommendations were open and inclusive.” For the team, this was all about making sure the micro-site was “not just for book geeks!” Charlie says. “We wanted the idea, tone and copy to be relatable, human and fun, so that it felt like it was relevant to anyone buying a gift (or something for themselves too!).”

GalleryAnyways Creative: Books Make Us Better, for Penguin Random House

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About the Author

Matt Alagiah

Matt joined It’s Nice That as editor in October 2018 and became editor-in-chief in September 2020. He was previously executive editor at Monocle magazine. Drop him a line with ideas and suggestions, or simply to say hello.

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