Anatomy of a marketing campaign: An insider’s look at the Fallada campaign
Tonight begins a project that we here at Melville House find kind of mind-boggling: We’re beginning a three-week TV advertising campaign for one of our books, thanks to the magic of Google TV Ads. Much as we hate to shill for Google — ahem — we must admit that they’ve come up with a way for us to do something we never thought we could: advertise on television in the four digit range.
So we jumped at the chance to use TV — are we the first little indie to do so? — to support a book that’s become really special to us: Hans Fallada‘s Every Man Dies Alone. It’s a book we’ve all come to feel is a once-in-a-lifetime event — a book that perfectly encapsulated the imperative of our nonfiction (to out fascism) and our fiction (to inspire perseverance), and was so moving it made us feel an immediate sense of its importance, as well as an impulse to pass it on.
But it’s not easy for little indies to pass it on — to get attention for anything in the mainstream. Plus, this book faces certain marketing issues beyond that: it’s old, it was written in a foreign language, and the author is dead. The common response: If it’s so good how come Penguin didn’t publish it for over 60 years?
But we exist to counter the mainstream. And we thought it might be interesting to document our attempt to do so here, on a daily basis, in an ongoing series giving a behind-the-scenes look at our marketing effort.
It all starts with the video below — our first-ever commercial, which we made ourselves on iMovie. (Our only production expense was a consultation with a sound engineer.) The core footage (the staircase) was shot by Benjamin Ditzen, Hans Fallada’s grandson, in an old building on Jablonskistrasse in Berlin, the same street where the protagonists of Every Man Dies Alone live. (The precise address cited in the novel, however, was bombed into smithereens during the war). The rest of the footage was made in-house, or lifted from Nazi propaganda footage.
That just left buying time on Google — true, way more expensive than anything we’ve ever spent before on marketing, but still, we couldn’t buy a single ad in the New York Times for what we’re paying for three weeks on the History Channel, BBC America, and elsewhere.
Worth it? Stay tuned.
Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House.