Bringing people back to books

April 23 is World Book Day, so we decided to take another dive into campaigns promoting literacy and a love of books.

von Mark Tungate , Adforum

“What’s that you’re reading?” Teenager replies in ironic tone: “It’s a magazine, obviously.” “I haven’t seen you with a book lately.” “Books are too long.”

If that exchange sounds familiar, it’s not surprising. The fact that our attention spans are shrinking has been making headlines since a 2015 study by Microsoft, which suggested that people now lose concentration after eight seconds, due to the havoc wreaked by digital media.

Young people, particularly, are more likely to be drawn to screens than books. But many initiatives are underway to fix that. One of the most eager participants is the National Library Board in Singapore. In a project with the agency Le Pub APAC, called “Playbrary”, it turned classic novels into interactive games. A little like the Choose Your Own Adventure book series, but with a digital twist.

One literary phenomenon of recent years is BookTok, in which people on TikTok talk emotionally and enthusiastically about their latest reads. The trend has turned books by new authors into bestsellers, resurrected older books, and been welcomed gleefully by publishers.

Young people are concerned about the environment, yet they often spend far more time with digital media than with books. The trouble is, “the cloud” isn’t a cloud, it’s thousands of remote servers that guzzle energy and create carbon emissions. So Kinokuniya Bookstores in Dubai, with the help of Saatchi & Saatchi, launched the “Offset Boxset”. A collection of books that enables social media addicts to offset their carbon emissions with reading time.

Having said that, some people can’t access “physical” books for a good reason. People in certain parts of the United States, for example, where a number of books have been banned. But take a look at the “Banned Book Club”, created by FCB Chicago and the Digital Public Library of America.

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. But a cover can still grab your attention. In Romania, the publisher Nemira and (once again) Saatchi & Saatchi came up with a novel idea. They negotiated with other brands to place their books as props in ads. The “bookvertising” initiative turned the country’s advertising landscape into a visual library.

Of course, it’s in Amazon’s interest that people buy more books. So it created an interactive quiz that allows players to find their reading personality, or “booksona”. See how it works below (no sound).

Another retailer, FNAC in Portugal, and its agency Judas Rocks (cool name, by the way), found an unexpected place to promote books. When customers called the store and were put on hold, they heard excerpts from classic books being read aloud.

Being unable to read is a serious problem in day-to-day life. The next film from ProLiteracy and Droga 5 follows a woman with low literacy who is frustrated that she can’t read a bedtime story to her children. An app that clones her voice solves the problem – but she is determined to learn how to read in the real world.

Books can make wonderful gifts, so let’s end with this amusing ad from Australia, featuring an unlikely giver and a grateful recipient.