Campaign Spotlight: Spare
By Caitlin Davies, Danielle Hernandez and Georgia Rees
One of the most anticipated autobiographies of the year, Spare has already become an unforgettable publication from Penguin Random House’s (PRH) imprint Transworld. Ghost written by J. R. Moehringer and published on 10 January 2023, this controversial book is full of raw and unflinching honesty, giving readers a deeper insight into the life of Prince Harry than we have ever seen before. With such contemporary content, and a fifteen-hour audiobook narrated by the Prince himself, it is no surprise this book release has received a lot of media coverage and publicity attention. In this article we explore the marketing and publicity strategies behind the Spare campaign.
Media and Publicity
Ever since the autobiography was announced back in the summer of 2021, the campaign strategies and material of the book for the most part remained undisclosed and highly confidential. Immediately, however, Prince Harry declared that sales would go towards two charities, Sentebale, founded to help children and young people with a HIV positive status, and WellChild, a charity aiding children who require complex care. From the outset, two causes that were highly important to the Prince were at the forefront of Spare’s campaign.
Despite his fraught relationship with the press, much of the publicity and marketing for Prince Harry’s tell-all book was driven by a busy media tour. Broadcast interviews were filmed in California, aired on American shows 60 Minutes, Good Morning America and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and an interview with ITV. Print interviews were also given. This high profile media tour evidently succeeded in grabbing the attention of both sides of the pond. Yet, as in-person events and book tours begin to gain traction again in the publishing world, you can’t help but wonder what a Prince Harry book tour may have been like.
As 10 January quickly approached, the confidentiality surrounding Spare rapidly unravelled, with extracts and anecdotes leaked to the press. The Guardian reported that in Spare, Prince Harry would recall a physical altercation with his brother Prince William. Stories of drug use were also revealed, with the leaks provoking a mixed reaction on social media. The public opinion was clearly divided, whilst some readers rushed to place a last-minute pre-order, others were shocked by the stories that were to be divulged. Nevertheless, the spotlight was on Spare, and dialogue and debate added fuel to the publicity and marketing campaign. In addition, several bookshops in Spain accidentally sold copies five days before the official release date. Despite the translated edition’s title En La Sombra, meaning In The Shadow, Harry’s anticipated memoir seemed anything but in the run up to publication day.
At the time of writing, Spare is currently the fastest selling non-fiction book of all time (Guinness World Records). For major chains such as Waterstones, Spare has been pre-ordered in an unprecedented volume, with both print and audiobook editions proving highly popular. There’s no avoiding the controversy surrounding this autobiography. Swindon-based bookseller Bert’s Books displayed both Spare and recent hit How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie in their shop window. Their tweet announcing “we do have some spare copies of Spare if you want one” was viewed by 3.4 million people and became a social media talking point. After also selling numerous copies of How To Kill Your Family, Canongate thanked the shop for their “killer display” with cupcakes themed around Bella Mackie’s bestseller.
Social Media Campaign
The market for this memoir is huge, and with no clear-cut audience to target, a sensational approach was required to sustain widespread interest following the series of bombshell interviews and documentaries. Using the Spanish leaks to their advantage, the PR team teased us with juicy clips from the upcoming interviews, a technique that was also employed by publishers (PRH) who teased snippets from the audiobook on their Instagram. The title, Spare, references Harry’s position within the Royal Family, and excerpts chosen to promote the book have all stuck to this theme, citing Harry’s turbulent relationship with his brother.
The core message of the campaign has been that this is Harry’s opportunity to tell his truth, and the slogan “His Words. His Story.” has been used throughout this campaign, appearing in bold type on the front page of the dedicated website princeharrymemoir.com. Set up by PRH, the site’s messaging is consistent with that of posts on their other social media channels, and on the pages of high street giant Waterstones. These are Harry’s words. And Harry’s story. This raw authenticity is again reflected in the simplistic title, Spare, and again in official social media promotion for release day. PRH’s post features simply a photograph of the book bearing Harry’s portrait against a muted backdrop. No elaborate marketing techniques are needed. The book speaks for itself, and the restrained and subtle campaign has certainly worked, with Spare storming its way to the top of multiple bestsellers lists.