There is another way that books are advertised besides plastering their covers everywhere: the more general American Library Association “READ” campaign.
It started in 1985, and has continued without pause since. The conceit is simple: Ask a celebrity to donate their time and likeness, let them pick a book (that they didn’t write), and slap a big title on it. They’ve kept it up 30 years, a deeply impressive length of time for any ad campaign.We weren’t able to find statistics on the campaign’s efficacy — but anyone who has been in a school or library in the past 30 years has seen these posters, and probably been impressed on some level that they got that person for their poster. We probably don’t even need to show you pictures — you know the posters. But we’re going to anyway.* Sources for these images include Bookriot.com and ALA.org.
Now of course it’s easy enough to include superheroes — all you need is an artist to do a drawing (plus licensing agreements).
But what about getting one of the actors who plays a superhero?
Seriously, this campaign has everyone.
Diversity is a huge part of the campaign. As spelled out in the ALA Fact Sheet for the campaign: “They try to find highly recognizable personalities across all ethnic and cultural backgrounds to reach the diverse populations libraries serve.”
Of course, any long-running campaign will yet have vagaries.
Naturally, you can’t have a campaign about literacy without including the most recognizable faces from the most successful Young Adult series in history.
The Posters Go on Forever, But We Don’t Have to
Not only do the ALA put out posters regularly, they also license the format to community libraries, schools, and the like, so the campaign can include local celebrities. This has predictably mixed results in execution, but when the message is literacy and encouraging broad literary consumption — well, we can’t bring ourselves to mind.
Sometimes a simple idea, repeated over the course of years (or decades), works best. It helps when you have something truly excellent to promote.
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