“Thirteen Reasons Why” is a teen novel written by Jay Asher. The book is made up of a transcript by a 16-year-old girl named Hannah Baker. You remember the 1970s book, “Go Ask Alice?” This is kind of like the 2008 version – a tale of caution, teen angst and death. Asher’s book was released in October 2007 by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin Group U.S.A., and had become something of a cult hit via word of mouth. It spent a short time on the children’s best sellers list last spring and then, faded back to making steady, small sales gains.
Still, Razorbill hired Grey New York to in an attempt to move the title more into the main stream for a final big win. The agency released a series of simple, starkly shot YouTube videos (see above) of a cassette player with actress Olivia Thirlby reading the transcripts from the book as Hannah. Since hiring the agency, the book has had a surge of sales. “The book has re-entered the chapter-book best-seller list in November at No. 10. When next Sunday’s list is published, it will rise to No. 3,” according to The New York Times.
AgencySpy has asked the digital strategist in charge of the campaign, Regan Meador, how something so simple moved the sales needle so far.
1. As a digital strategist at the new Grey under wunderkind Tor Myhren, tell us – do you think people make digital campaigns too complicated too often?
“I think people tend over complicate the digital space. It becomes more about the technology and/or being the “first” to do something – that’s ridiculous. I am by no means the first to say this, but it’s about connecting with people in a way that means something to them. If that’s a website that is a portal to pages of other websites or YouTube videos so be it. If it’s a viral video or an iPhone application – just because it’s already been done doesn’t mean its necessarily wrong. And just because you can, doesn’t make it necessarily right. Our job is to create connection emotionally/physically/subconsciously/whatever.
2. What was the goal of the this campaign?
“The right answer is to “sell more books,” but ultimately it was to intrigue people. Penguin/Razorbill knew they had a book on their hands that was being discovered and it was obvious that we could build this fervor on the web. That is really what it came down to… how can we help facilitate the conversation to sell more books without talking through the same social media “echo-chambers,” but really focus in on the girls story and her telling of the tale that would potentially cause a reaction to the book.”
3. What was the overall strategy to help with sales book?
Of course, its amazing when you get to work on something that is this compelling, but simply, it was bringing the content of the book alive and allowing that content to be DISCOVERED in a simple way that first satisfied the fans of the book and then, made new fans. We knew there was a small but fervent fan base to tap into, we wanted to give them something more to talk to their friends about regarding their favorite book. At the same time, we wanted to extend the books mysterious nature in a way that compelled new people to pick up a copy and read. Much like a cover is used to intrigue, we used this content in ways to simply intrigue, not necessarily sell.
4. Are there any follow-ups to the YouTube video? Not to make a pun, but does this campaign die after these video?
“We shall see.”