When a celebrity publishes a book, it's to be expected that the marketing push will go far beyond the norm for, say, a literary novel or a business title. But the effort expended on publicizing the new book of lyrics by rapper and mogul Jay-Z is in a whole different league -- and partners him with some very odd bedfellows.
As The New York Times reported on Oct. 18, New Yorkers may find themselves stumbling onto reproductions of entire pages taken from Jay-Z's Decoded, which will be published by Random House imprint Spiegel & Grau. Roughly half of the pages will be displayed in traditional outdoor advertising like billboards in Times Square. But others will be displayed in less obvious places, such as the bottom of a hotel swimming pool, on the lining of jackets in a store display window or on the felt of pool tables in a pool hall.
As of early today, four pages of the book had been "discovered." Eventually the entire book will be available via reproductions at no cost. The marketing campaign, designed by agency Droga5, isn't limited to Manhattan: Similar displays will show up in Los Angeles, London and New Orleans over the next few weeks until Decoded's Nov. 16 release date.
Scavenger Hunt Will Lure Jay-Z Fans to Bing
If you think this marketing campaign veers radically from what publishing houses normally come up with, you're right: Random House has partnered with Microsoft's (MSFT) search engine Bing, which is hosting an online scavenger hunt for the pages, and satellite radio service Clear Channel, which is serving as a media partner. Bing is footing the bill, which hasn't been released but will clearly run well into seven-figure territory, a far cry from what publishers spend even for their biggest and best-selling authors.
The benefits for Microsoft are obvious: Though Bing debuted with a tremendous marketing splash, which included sponsoring TV shows like the now-canceled Jay Leno prime-time show on NBC last fall, users aren't gravitating to the search engine. ComScore reported that for September, 11.2% of total searches were through Bing, compared to 16.7% through Yahoo (YHOO) and 66.1% through Google (GOOG). So for those who take part in the scavenger hunt, via Bing directly or through Facebook and Twitter, eligibility for prizes like a signed copy of Decoded or tickets to see Jay-Z perform live in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve also means being exposed to Bing advertising in a big way.
Spiegel & Grau also benefits from outsourcing the bulk of its marketing efforts for Decoded. The publisher doesn't incur the heaviest costs, but stands a chance of selling a great many copies. The imprint could use a big hit: It paid seven-figure advances for novels such as Yann Martel's Beatrice and Virgil and Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, neither of which sold to expectations based on their previous books for different publishers.
Should Jay-Z's book underperform, so to speak, it would be another in a series of disappointments that keeps the rumor mill swirling about Spiegel & Grau's future within a company that's already shown itself to be consolidation-happy since Markus Dohle took over as CEO in 2008.
Clearly, the Decoded marketing campaign is far more than just an entertaining scavenger hunt for Jay-Z fans.