May 24, 2024

Advertising: Tales of Reading in Reintroducing a Color Device

Make that Nook Color, the e-reading tablet that Barnes Noble is hoping to reintroduce to consumers in an advertising campaign that begins on Monday.

In gently singsong language that evokes Dr. Seuss — sure enough, “The Cat in the Hat” makes a brief appearance later in the ad — a commercial makes a general pitch for reading as it depicts people, old and young, utterly absorbed in their books while the world goes on around them.


A series of dreamy sequences shows a dark-haired boy in a hoodie sweatshirt, reading in a park and blissfully paying no attention as two other boys and a dog noisily brush past him. A young girl sits cross-legged on a dining-room rug, a Nook in her lap, as she absentmindedly tucks a stray lock of hair behind her ear. A couple is stretched out in bed, locked in their own worlds, she with a Nook and he with a book. Four people sit, still as statues, reading, on the stairs of a public building as passers-by rush down the steps.

One print ad bears the tagline “Read Forever,” with a picture of a small boy curled up on a window seat gazing at the screen on his Nook.

The hopeful message? Reading is changing, but it’s not going away.

There are no Barnes Noble stores in the ads, a nod to the transformation that is under way in the publishing industry. As e-books have taken off, foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores has decreased, a sure sign that more consumers are doing their book-shopping from home. (Or wherever they and their e-readers happen to be at the moment.)

Barnes Noble, which operates the nation’s largest chain of bookstores, is hoping many of those purchases will happen on the Nook Color, the $249 tablet that the company introduced last year as an addition to its original Nook, a black-and-white reader whose versions are currently priced at $149 and $199.

There are dozens of e-readers and tablets on the market, and many more are expected to arrive this year. But the most prominent players for devices that focus on reading e-books are Barnes Noble and Amazon, with its popular Kindle.

Amazon still has a significantly larger share of the e-reading market, but Barnes Noble has surprised many people in the industry with the gains it has made with its Nook, and the two retailers are locked in a battle for e-reading customers.

Barnes Noble spent more than $30 million on advertising in 2010 but was seriously outgunned by Amazon, which spent more than $150 million, according to Kantar Media, which tracks advertising spending.


Last year, an initial campaign to introduce the Nook Color opened on a picture of a Barnes Noble store, the camera zooming through the entrance and landing on a Nook Color, while Sarah Jessica Parker narrated the voice-over.

This campaign, which was created by Mullen in Boston, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies, was an effort to attach some emotional power to reading and to the Barnes Noble brand. Mullen was hired as Barnes Noble’s new agency of record in February.

“We really wanted to reach out to all the readers and get the message out about how wonderful reading is,” said Sasha Norkin, the vice president for digital and channel marketing for “The world changes, technology changes, but people love to read, and we’re giving them the best way to read.”

The Nook was first introduced in 2009, two years after Amazon began selling its Kindle. Last year, Barnes Noble added the Nook Color, a device featuring a seven-inch screen with a backlit LCD display, suitable for reading books, magazines and newspapers, as well as browsing the Web, playing games and listening to music.

The first commercial in the campaign will run on Monday, and a longer 60-second spot will run during “American Idol” on Thursday. Print ads will run in The New York Times and USA Today. On the company’s Facebook page, users will be invited to share their feelings about reading.

Barnes Noble declined to disclose the total spending on the campaign.

To add authenticity, casting agents were dispatched to find people reading in public places like bus stops and cafes. Some people were recruited to do voice-overs and appear in the commercial, which was shot in naturally lighted locations in San Francisco and Los Angeles. They eventually numbered more than half of the people on screen, while the rest were actors.

“It transcended age, race, gender,” said Tim Vaccarino, the group creative director for Mullen. “We wanted to find a collection of people who represented this community of readers.”

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