Building Billboards: A Closer Look at Street Advertising in Publishing
By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees
The billboard is often regarded as a traditional approach in marketing. Though often static and constrained by size, a billboard shouldn’t be underestimated as an effective component to a book’s marketing campaign. It can attract a key demographic and convey important messages with continual exposure. Billboards continue to push boundaries and present the latest titles in creative and innovative ways. Designers and marketers are moving beyond visuals in the creation of billboards, making them a memorable, sensory experience.
Using the advantages of space and time afforded with a digital billboard, Amazon Publishing used the bustling areas of Times Square and Leicester Square to show a rotation of new and bestselling titles for the Christmas period. With a focus on sustainability, Celeste Ng’s, Our Missing Hearts, was promoted using a billboard with plantable birds, establishing an environmentally friendly visual impression.
We have covered some incredible billboards in previous issues of The Publishing Post, and 2022’s offerings are no different.
The Problem With My Normal Penis
Obioma Ugoala’s first publication draws on his own experiences as a Black man in Britain today to deconstruct unjust stereotypes around race, sexuality and masculinity. What better way to challenge the norm than with a public billboard that is anything but normal. The creative street advertising specialists Buildhollywood collaborated with Simon & Schuster on the launch of this title to construct a unique two-part billboard series. The first, a censored billboard sparks interest by teasing part of the title, while keeping a crucial word covered up. This was then replaced by a second edition revealing the full name in striking gold foil and bold font. This was one billboard that definitely made a statement.
To launch Florence Given’s debut novel, Girlcrush, Hachette have also partnered with Buildhollywood to create a vibrant and unique campaign on the streets of London. Inspired by Florence’s bold style, the team produced giant street posters featuring the book alongside glowing reviews from authors Chloe Ashby and Emma Gannon which provided an aesthetic backdrop to the campaign. Passersby in Shoreditch could grab a sample copy of the book ahead of its publication on 9 August, and also had the option to receive a temporary tattoo inspired by the cover design.
You Don’t Know What War Is
One of the most interesting aspects of an effective billboard is its ability to fill a public space with an important message. The ability to spread a feeling of hope and community across the city seems to have been a guiding intention for the Bloomsbury Kids marketing team. The billboard for Yeva Skalietska’s You Don’t Know What War Is has contributed to the moving launch for the Ukrainian refugee’s memoir in a more interactive way. Handing out sunflowers as a “little symbol of unity and hope,” Head of Marketing Alesha Bonser aimed to raise awareness and highlight the partnership with the UNHCR agency.
Billboards are also a great way to get children excited about upcoming releases. Musician and children’s literary sensation, Tom Fletcher, partnered with Buildhollywood and Penguin Random House, to create a giant billboard for his new middle-grade novel, Space Band. Featuring the three main characters from the book, the billboard also contained an interactive element. Passersby could scan a QR code incorporated into the billboard to hear the music from the book as performed by Tom’s band, Mcfly.
Even for a well known journalist, podcaster and award winning author, billboards can be a fantastic way to build anticipation and shake things up. Dear Dolly is an insightful collection of highlights from the author's agony aunt column by the same name in The Sunday Times. Bursting with empathy and wisdom, these pieces of advice allow women to walk away feeling a little less alone in their problems. Magically, the billboard created by Penguin Books has been able to give pedestrians a taste of that same experience. Designed in the complementary colours of the book cover, the billboard also featured a pad of tearaway notes written by the author so you could literally take a piece of Dolly’s wisdom as you walk on…to the nearest Waterstones to pre-order a copy.
Billboards aren’t reserved only for celebrity figures or well-established authors. Liv Little, the founder of gal-dem, an online and print magazine for women of colour, used a billboard situated at Loughborough Junction for the exciting cover reveal of her debut novel Rosewater. Set to be published in April 2023, buzz for Rosewater is starting early. The installation was in place for two weeks during October with many excited passersby taking the opportunity to share their photos on social media. The team at Dialogue Books opted to send those who came to see the billboard away with a very relevant memento, a tiny bottle of rosewater with personalised Liv Little branding, and featuring a QR code to pre-order the book.