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Behind the Idea: Giving the gift of reading this Christmas

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Last month, Penguin Random House collaborated with London-based studio Anyways Creative to create the ‘Books Make Us Better’ campaign to promote the joy of reading by gifting books at Christmas.

The campaign aims to appeal to readers of all ages and pairs Penguin Random House’s wide-ranging catalog of books with Anyways’ playful and personality-filled creative style. It’s a huge campaign that spans a dedicated book recommendation microsite, shareable social media gifs, and advertising campaign throughout New York subway stations. 

With so many eclectic assets and channels to negotiate, how did it all manage to come together so cohesively? In order to get answers from both sides of the agency/brand divide, I asked Adam Royce, VP Creative Strategy Director at Penguin Random House and Ellen Turnill Montoya , Senior Creative at Anyways Creative, to take me through the process behind the idea.

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What was the brief?

Adam - Our brief was to raise awareness of books as the perfect gift for everyone during the holidays. We wanted to create a campaign that elevated the joy of reading and showcased the diverse range of titles that Penguin Random House publishes. It was important for us to appeal to an audience beyond the avid reader and lean into the emotions associated with books.

How did the initial conversations/pitch/brainstorming phase go?

Adam - Consumer data shows us that literary preference is hardly influenced by age or gender, so it was important for us to create a campaign that was broad and inclusive. To engage a diverse audience, we wanted to use a humorous, light-hearted tone that sparks joy for everyone. We were keen to reflect this playful tone through catchy, striking and shareable visuals that would translate across multiple platforms so that the campaign could have as far a reach as possible. When we came across Anyways' creative style, we immediately knew they would be the perfect fit. 

Tell us about the concept and why it was the right choice?

Adam - Anyways’ response to our brief really took into account our aim of promoting books as presents during the holidays. The campaign is full of charming details, illustrations, and animations which makes it incredibly strong and allows us to connect with a broad range of consumers. The physical gesture of giving a book is captured with the central hand motif that appears throughout. Although it is simple, it is incredibly eye-catching. The microsite, which forms a large part of the campaign, presents a move away from the typical genre-based book recommendations. Instead, it allows us to help you select the perfect book by generating suggestions based on personality types. 

What was the production process like and what was the biggest challenge to overcome? 

Ellen - Once we had landed on a concept and agreed to this with the client, our biggest challenge was working out all of the assets, how they would link to the priority book titles from Penguin Random House and curated personality types. To work this all out, we devised a system, which we named ‘The Maths’ which influenced everything we did and the number of final assets we created. We worked with Ben Ommundson and Feed Me Light to bring all the animations to life, and we turned these into shareable social assets too. 

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What’s the main message of the campaign and why is it important?

Adam - We wanted the campaign to be inclusive to everyone, with the goal of communicating that there is a book out there for anyone - even if you don't see yourself as an ardent reader. 

Why will the final assets resonate with consumers? 

Ellen - We hope that we have created an experience that is useful, fun, and charming for a varied audience, irrespective of age, background or level of book geekery. We carefully considered how people could enjoy the experience at every stage, from the copy we wrote right through to the characterful cursor that guides you along the way. The site allows you to choose a book based on a personality trait of a loved one or yourself. The resulting books that the site then recommends are suitable for adults, young adults, and kids, as it was important for us that this campaign works for all audiences and ages. We wanted to bring the joy of the holidays into every stage of the entire website and experience, even the shareable animations at the end are bespoke to your selected book and preferred gifting method! 

What’s the most interesting thing or unique fact about the campaign that will help it cut through?  

Ellen - The most interesting thing is that the original brief of ‘raising awareness of books as the perfect gift for anyone’ wasn’t just focused on driving people to purchase. It meant that we could showcase and explore the joy of reading and use that as the base for all of our ideas. As far as facts go - at the end of the website your animation is one of a total of 189 animations that you could potentially choose from!

What do you hope it achieves for the brand now it’s out

Adam - We hope that the campaign showcases the breadth and diversity of books across our imprints. By creating a fun campaign filled with humour, we want to encourage people to turn to Penguin Random House when thinking of what to gift someone this holiday season and beyond. We also hope that consumers will use the shareable social media gifs to begin a conversation online about the joy that books can bring them.

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How satisfying is it to have released the campaign finally?

Adam - Extremely! We are incredibly proud of this campaign. We think the collaboration with Anyways has led to something truly unique and striking. 

Ellen - It is so satisfying! We love seeing the campaign out in the world, and having our own friends and family enjoy it too. Bill Bryson also shared it on his Facebook page, so that was a great pinch-me moment for us too!

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