Who says major publishers don't know how to push the envelope in marketing their authors? Not Bantam Dell. The Random House imprint is unveiling an unusually avant-garde trio of TV spots to promote a popular series by one of its marquee authors, Dean Koontz. The spots, pushing Koontz's Odd Thomas titles (the latest of which, Brother Odd, bows November 28), will each air once during C.S.I., unfolding over the course of three consecutive Thursdays: November 16, 23 and 30. The black-and-white ads, which are loosely linked, attempt to describe the Odd Thomas character (a detective who speaks to the dead). But the most striking aspect of the campaign is that it doesn't initially make clear what it's advertising. (It's not until the final spot that the book materializes: at the close of the clip, a shot of the cover is shown and the voiceover says: "Read Brother Odd, the new Odd Thomas novel by bestselling author Dean Koontz." The final ad also plugs an Odd Thomas website, where the campaign, along with other promotional information, can be viewed: www.oddthomas.tv.)
As Betsy Hulsebosch, senior v-p of creative marketing at Bantam Dell, explained, this is what sets this advertising effort apart. "There's no product shot... and I don't know of any other time a book publisher has done that, and done it intentionally," she said. The episodic nature of the ads is also something Hulsebosch thinks is a first. Although she's worked on TV ads for a number of other Bantam Dell authors, including Koontz, she's never done a campaign in the style or format like this. (She also confirmed that Bantam Dell paid for the spots, not Koontz.) So will the imprint go down this road again for other authors? Hulsebosch couldn't say, noting, "Certainly we're looking forward to seeing how [the campaign] performs."
Also noteworthy on the ad front, and similar to Bantam Dell's spots (if on a smaller scale), is FSG's recent trailer for The Mystery Guest. Like Bantam Dell's campaign, this trailer tries for a more subtle style of advertising - it attempts to function as in irreverent mini-movie - which begs the question: Are publishers realizing there are ways to advertise books by taking the book itself out of the equation? Looks like it.