Monday, June 19, 2006

SB Day: Spicing Up Spice's Ads

It’s Smart Bitches Day once again, and I’m annoyed. Specifically I’m annoyed by the advertisements for Harlequin’s Spice line (click here and look at the picture in the upper right hand of corner of the banner). I think I first saw this ad in full in an issue of PW and my immediate reaction was, “Um yeah, no.”

Didn’t do it for me. Not at all. It felt thrown together as if the marketing firm folks put in charge (or the poor people in the art department who got the project at the last minute) said, “How do we advertise sex to women?” and found themselves at a complete loss.

Sure marketing is subjective, and I got the point (erotica is hot, potholders are used when something is too hot to handle, ergo potholders are necessary for these hot, hot books), but the overall feel? Bleh. Double bleh, and the potholders are ugly, which shouldn’t have any bearing on this at all, but it does. I keep wondering if the marketing people felt that they would tie together both the working girl (the girl in the full length print is wearing business type attire) and the stay-at-homers, or if I’m simply over-analyzing.

And I realize that it is one thing to bitch about how much you dislike something, and quite another to come up with a solution to fix it. Harlequin probably pulled in a team of marketers to create their advertising, and those marketers probably pulled out charts and graphs and surveys and contacted their pop culture anthropologists about the women most likely to be appealed to by this line, and then took all that data to create what we see gracing the banner of Spice’s site. Anything that I come up with off the top of my head would probably be off the mark and highly insulting to someone else out there (who would then bitch about it on their blog, thus continuing the cycle). That said I’m going to try anyway.

Here are my ideas for new advertising for the Spice line (or any new erotica line in general):

Two fold picture:

First picture: Guy—dressed for a night out—leaning against a porch support, looking at his watch, flowers under one arm (or in watch hand). Over the top of his picture reads “You’re not late getting ready…”

Second picture adjacent to the first or as the next page: Woman—dressed for the night out in a great dress and kicky heels (something slightly edgy, but still attractive to all the shoe lovers out there)—sitting on her stairs reading a Spice book with her expression entranced, knees pressed together (one edged slightly over the other), one hand gripping the fabric of her dress. Over the top of her picture reads, “He just knocked during a good part…”

Place the “Spice: Ignite your senses” at the bottom as well as a few book covers.

(‘Cause really guys, if you are going to acknowledge the sex then acknowledge the sex!)

Ad Two:

Woman (any age, any clothing style) on the train sandwiched between commuters. The book must be positioned low enough to allow an almost complete view of her face. Her expression is open, eyes widened, cheeks pink. Commuter—in full business attire—on the left has his head turned towards her and is perhaps frowning.

Caption reads: So good you won’t care who sees you blush.

Imprint information runs along the bottom.

Are these just as bad (or worse even) than Spice’s potholders? Would these appeal to you as a woman if you were in the market for some erotica or completely turn you off? Or have I missed the boat by being too hard on Spice’s print ads in general?

What kind of ado—if any—would appeal to you?


Milady Insanity said...

You got it lady!

Somebody send a link to Sil/Har's marketing department please.

And you're not being too hard on Spice's print ads. They are a yawn.

lady t said...

I like your idea for the first ad(the second one is cool but I'm a sucker for two folds)-very classy and stylish to boot.

That potholder pic is incredibly stupid looking,especially since the woman in the photo is shown to be reading outside! Who goes out to the park or somewhere outdoorsy with potholders on hand? To misqoute another ad,dum-de-dum-dum-dumb!

Robin Brande said...

BSC, love your ideas, especially the first one. You owe it to Spice authors to send that to the marketing dept.

Anonymous said...

Loved your first ad Idea. Yours talks about how sexy AND riveting the genre is.

Hate theirs. No lie. The potholders are ugly, why is she outside? Theirs talks about the very thing that causes snickers--that romance books are all about sex.

quiche said...

I'm not a romance reader but that ad definitely puts me off. You should have gone into marketing. Although the 1st one gets the most votes I like the 2nd one. I think the contrast of smart/career girl with the steamy novel has more potential and I like the element of humor as well. The chick with the potholders looks like, well, a desperate housewife.

Kathleen Dante said...

Yours are much better! Particularly the first one with the "knees pressed together." When I checked out the banner, my first reaction was "Ick!" and it didn't get better. Talk about conflicting messages: supposedly "discerning women" and ugly mitts; the skeptical look on the model's face; the awkward positioning of the mitts that makes it obvious she's not the one holding the book (or she's not a reader)... Hello? Those marketing people haven't got a clue.

Jane said...

Jesus. Why are you a bookseller? You could make a fortune in the ad business. I love that stuff.

Bookseller Chick said...

You know, my parents ask me that all the time? Why bookselling? Why? Didn't you want to be a doctor?

As for why I never went into marketing it's because my muse is a fickle bitch and I usually only come up with marketing ideas after I've seen one that is just awful. Is there any room in the industry for a marketing/publicity group that comes in and picks up the pieces after other group screw up?

Also I didn't realize that marketing was a viable job opportunity until I was out of college and now I don't feel prepared to step into the field. I only know what I like.

Fickle Fiona said...

I definitely like the first one and the second is apparently advertising straight to my market!

I also thought 'discerning' was a strange word to use when matched with those awful oven mitts!


Anonymous said...

Very good ideas. Now, please fit them on the banner 200 by 200 pixels, and make sure that it is appropriate to view for minors, loads quickly, and has no small text or it will discourage readers with poor eyesight. Oh and it has to deliver its message in 2.6 seconds flat :)

(Not a professional by any means, so take this opinion with a giant mountain of salt. )

Okay, the list of demands is an exageration, but you're thinking of this in terms of how to make it pretty. They're thinking of it in terms of how do we get the message across quick, clear, and make it versatile. Hit the reader's brain with recognition almost immediately after her visual receptors react to the ad. Because most of us really don't spend time on ads. We glance and move on.

Don't get me wrong - your ideas are fantastic and would work beautifully on a full color poster in the bookstore. Or a 20 second commercial. Doesn't quite work for the web banner :(

Eileen said...

I like the second idea- but perhaps the two people sitting alongside her on the train should also be reading over her shoulder.

Andrea Blythe said...

I'm not a romance reader either, but I definitely dislike their ad. I wouldn't have even guessed that it was erotica at first. The ad confused me, and that's the last thing you want to do to potential buyers.

I think your ideas are right on the mark, especially the first.

SandyO said...

Maybe I'm overreacting to the ad, but the oven mitts puts the reader in the ad in the "little woman in the kitchen" category. Certainly nothing against stay at home moms, etc, but it seems to direct the ad toward the stereotypical woman who is home all day doing nothing but reading "hot" novels.

Valeen said...

Wow - I love both those ideas. The first one would look fabulous as a magazine add.

And both of them would definitely catch my eye and I would relate. And probably check out the books next time I see them.

Oven Mitts doesn't have that effect on me. I understand the symbolism (like you said too hot to handle) but it just looks corny ... not hot.

SKapusniak said...

I think I see the problem with the oven mitts ad; they wussed out on the concept.

C'mon, oven mitts? If you want it to say hot, you want it to say HOT!

You want massive greasy industrial machinery operated by the rippling muscles of both RAW STUDLY SPECIMENS OF MANHOOD and BUFFED MODERN AMAZONS pulling the IGNITED FLAMING book from the molten metal depths of the FIREY FURNACE as the other faint-hearted publications RUN AWAY SCREAMING because zee goggles ZHEY DO NOTHINK!1!1!

...And giant robots, definately needs more giant killer robots AS THE SUN GOES NOVA AT THE END OF THIRD ACT.

Okay, maybe that's slightly the wrong demographic there :)

Abby said...

Anonymous is right. No room for storytelling in a banner ad, and little room for text. You need one image, preferably one that speaks for itself and needs no caption to be understood.

That said, "oven mitts" is not exactly the sexy, sassy image they want to put across. But you can see where they were going with it. You can hear them brainstorming: The books are hot. Book on fire? Hot coals? Woman spraying book with fire extinguisher? Something like that.

Personally, I'd use an image of a woman reading with spectacular fireworks going off in the background.


Diana Peterfreund said...

I like the second one and think it would work with the banner ad.

I also like the pulling-book-out-of-molten-something... image as well.

Camilla said...

The oven mittens ad also reinforces the stereotype about romance readers being bored, sexually-repressed housewives.