A novel idea for advertisers

As people look away from their phone screens, brands are returning to the page to reach their audience, fully embracing the power of the book-bound, written word.

David Sanger

PR & Content Manager


Are you a casual reader, or someone whose bookshelves bow under the weight of pristine hardbacks? Perhaps you’re never without a paperback in your hand or you savour those holidays when you can finally get stuck into that thriller everyone is talking about. You might even count the books you’ve read on the fingers of one hand, or like me covet a ‘to read’ pile that’s larger than most furniture. The point is that there are plenty of types of reader out there. But what remains is a unique relationship with the books themselves.

And the world is recognising the importance of this relationship. Last week, vending machines popped up around the Canary Wharf estate offering time-poor commuters the perfect opportunity to start reading. The machines are from French company Short Édition and accompany research led by the Canary Wharf Group that showed 53 million books are left unfinished every year in the UK. It also revealed that 36% of those giving up on a book did so because of lack of time, while 30% hadn’t finished one in over six months.

The vending machines aren’t the only ways readers are being given a helping hand. In Berlin, old trees are replanted along the streets of Prenzlauer Berg, enjoying a second life as mini libraries for readers to take from and add to. Whilst in the Netherlands during National Book Week, train-goers can show a specific book in place of a ticket and travel for free.

The world likes to pitch in to help readers out, whether it’s time or access that’s the obstacle. Libraries might be disappearing at an alarming rate, but the quest to get more people reading remains. And that’s because people, and brands, understand the value in sharing time with the page.

Advertisers are no strangers to this trend, with brands such as Volvo and Baileys aligning themselves with books, whether publishing books themselves or sponsoring The Women’s Prize for Fiction. In the US, Grey Canada and Miami Ad School teamed up to publish Chapter One, a book that collects advertising creatives’ first chapters. It acts as a play on the adland cliché that every copywriter has an unfinished novel in their top drawer, but this is one whose proceeds will benefit copywriting students.

The shift marks a retro lean into the face of technology, a digital detox of sorts that sees brands using books as a ‘new’ platform to reach their audience. Below we explore examples of those brands struck by novel ideas to engage with readers and writers alike. They are returning to the page to fully embrace the power of the book-bound, written word.

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Books as therapy in the UAE

“Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.” So wrote Virginia Woolf in A Room of One’s Own published just under a century ago.

And the idea of books as a private space is a familiar one, providing the solo escape that turns many of us to reading in the first place. With a book in hand, we are granted a moment not only to read a good story, but to be alone with our thoughts.

This idea is fully embraced by The LightHouse Centre for Wellbeing, a mental health and wellness clinic located in Dubai. They have paired with McCann Health Dubai and FP7 McCann Dubai to produce a unique book for those struggling with their mental health. ‘unspoken, uae’ brings together 20 artists from across the UAE region to visualise feelings that may otherwise go unspoken. The book is a striking compendium of raw emotion, tailored in each artist’s style and with their accompanying words.

The concept came from local insight that revealed that the communication in Western markets around mental health wouldn’t work in the UAE because of stigma and misperceptions. In book form, the campaign takes on far greater significance, allowing readers to address and process their feelings and experiences in private. The catalogue of artists and their additional expressions demonstrates to those who might be suffering from mental health issues that they are not alone. It also highlights that nobody’s issues should need to conform to what they might consider ‘normal’.

The LightHouse Centre make the very most of the form of the book, inviting the reader to become a part of the conversation as well as encouraging thought and honesty in a most private space. They’ve also delivered the book to workplaces across the region.

McCann Health Dubai & FP7 McCann Dubai
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Bedtime reading for mini ecowarriors

Before it became a Christmas ad for Iceland, Mother London’s beautifully animated ‘Rang-Tan’ film was part of an anti-palm oil campaign from Greenpeace. Now, Mother is teaming up with Greenpeace and Hachette Children’s Books to publish the story in hardback this August, coinciding with World Orangutan Day. The ad loses none of its power on the page, and instead looks set to be a bedside reading staple for most parents, encouraging the next generation to consider environmentalism and responsibility before it’s too late.

Mother London

Tapping into adland’s tradition of great writers

It’s not just about reading but writing too. Adland is no stranger to authors with the likes of Salman Rushdie, F. Scott Fitzegerald and Mary Higgins Clark all doing their time in the industry. Now in its sixth year, The Winston Fletcher Fiction Prize is encouraging literary-minded individuals across marketing and advertising to take part in a short story competition. To help drive awareness, MullenLowe London ran a digital and OOH campaign with the line ‘Great stories aren’t told in the headlines’ at its heart. The striking posters rework literary greats into underwhelming plot expositions, showing the power of not only a good story, but a good writer too.  

MullenLowe London
Guest Author

David Sanger

PR & Content Manager,


David collaborates with brands and agencies on getting the best coverage for all involved. In-house, he encourages his colleagues to divulge their most-guarded business secrets before publishing them online for all to see in the form of insight and opinion pieces. Before joining Creativebrief, David worked in the tote bag-dominated world of publishing and spent an ill-advised year at drama school. He spends his spare time writing and baking unhealthy cakes to eat whilst writing.

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