I noticed on Audrey Driscoll’s blog that she has a widget that lets readers see a preview of the first book in her Herbert West series. I thought this was cool, and decided to do something similar with my book. So now, instead of just the cover image linking to the Amazon page, there’s a clickable preview of The Directorate embedded on the sidebar.

Now, based on the data I’ve gathered on sidebars and whether or not anyone looks at them, my hypothesis is that it will make absolutely no difference whatsoever to the number of clicks–let alone sales–that I get as a result of that widget.

But if my hypothesis is incorrect, that would be interesting to know, and possibly helpful not just to me, but to readers who have published ebooks of their own. If anything interesting comes of it, I’ll let you know.

Football season is starting, and that means, among other things, a lot of commercials that I’ll have to mute in order to better ignore them.  Many of these commercials will be for beer and, since I am a teetotaler, will be wasted on me.  Of course, the commercials rarely show much of the drink they’re supposed to be selling.  Generally, the drink is only a background element to the key motifs of these ads, which are

  1. Women in swimsuits
  2. A bunch of “cool dudes” hanging out together.

See my post about whether advertising is a waste of money.

But the types of beer advertising are many and varied. Yesterday I discovered one that seemed calculated to attract even my attention–of course, it was almost 50 years old.  It was a book of lyrics, written to Gilbert and Sullivan tunes, in praise of Guinness beer. (The G&S Archive has it here.) To quote from the Archive’s description: “In the 1960s, Guinness produced a series of books adver5tising [sic] their products to be put in doctors’ surgeries (on the basis that ‘Guinness is good for you’)”

This makes it especially amusing to me that the first page of the book features an illustration of Jack Point, one of only two Gilbert and Sullivan characters to “die” onstage, holding a glass of Guinness.  Come to think of it, why didn’t they include the other one, John Wellington Wells?  Did they feel that the character of a dishonest seller of magical potions and diabolical brews wasn’t quite right for the ads?

I laugh at it, but the truth is that this is a far more creative and ingenious bit of advertising craft than the “get a model in a bikini and have her tell people to buy our product” method.    Still not sure about the “Guinness is good for you” business, especially the song about the Heavy Dragoon who builds muscle by drinking beer, but still, an “A” for effort.

I think the English/Irish beer advertising seems to be very creative.  There was a television ad for Whitbread Beer (which I’ve never even heard of otherwise) that featured a parody of the song “Abdul Abulbul Amir“. It’s the catchiest advertising jingle I’ve ever heard.

P.M. Prescott’s comment on this post reminded me of an issue I’ve wanted to write about on here for a while: TV commercials.  Are they worth it?

I almost always mute commercials when they come on, unless they’re for something I am already interested in.  I can’t think of any time in my life when I’ve decided to buy something just because I saw a commercial for it.  I generally research any major purchases first.

And then there are the commercials for small things, like soft drinks.  Maybe other people are different, but I don’t see those commercials and go “well, I’ve just got to go buy a [X soft drink] right now.”  My soft drink purchase decisions are made purely on the basis of what’s most convenient; I don’t care about brands enough to spend extra time hunting down a particular drink.

Some say that commercials work subliminally.  Well, maybe.  But how effective can the ads be when they produce no noticeable change in my behavior?  Even if it’s subliminal, I would notice that I suddenly had a desire to go out and buy particular things.

Especially interesting to me are political ads. (With which we are about to be deluged, incidentally)  Is anybody really going to vote based on what a TV ad said?  I just assume that all political ads are telling half-truths at best, and so I tune them out automatically.

Given all that, I have to think that companies are overpaying for ads.  The return on it can’t be that much, can it?   I think a company gets more benefit from announcing at the beginning of a program that they are sponsoring the whole thing without commercial interruption than they do from advertising during it.  Because, in general, commercials annoy the viewer who is just trying to watch something.