Postscripts

Hitting the Airwaves

Book People has plans to end its radio ad campaign next week, according to Valera Stroup, the new marketing director at Book People. Stroup says that "the focus of the ads was to personalize the store"; although she senses the ads were effective in achieving that goal, she says "readers read newspapers" and thus intends on concentrating the store's marketing budget in that arena. In New Orleans, however, eight independent bookstores have recently pooled resources to create a 30-second TV spot in which, miraculously, all eight stores are featured. With Austin's relative wealth of independent stores, a "group" ad might be viable, though Stroup's statement that "with a limited budget, it's sometimes hard to do broadcasting" might be a stumbling block.

Lee Sucherman, a senior account executive at WDSU, New Orleans' NBC affiliate, first thought of the idea behind the ad while sitting at a coffeehouse reading a cover story about New Orleans' chain and independent bookstores in Gambit Weekly, an alternative newsweekly, Sucherman had more than just a creative moment. "I was reading this and I was thinking, 'You know, that's really a shame ... that these people who have really poured their hearts and souls and savings into their passion, which is selling books, that potentially that's threatened."

At the time, Sucherman was "next door" to independent bookstore Maple Street Books, so he walked into the store, asked a bookseller there what she thought about his idea to create TV ads that would feature New Orleans' independent bookstores (the criteria being that the stores should primarily sell new books, not used). She referred him to her boss, who then referred him to Mary Price Robinson Dunbar, the owner of Beaucoup Books. Dunbar and Sucherman sorted through the list of New Orleans' independent bookstores and came up with eight stores. "Basically, we were able to get every independent in town," Dunbar says.

The ads began running in late September; set to run over a five-month period, the ad has a price tag of $10,800 (divided by eight stores, that's $225 each store pays over a six-month pay period). The ad airs during The Today Show (7-9am), the station's midday local news hour (11am-noon), and the Saturday and Sunday editions of The Today Show. Dunbar explains that "we run them every other week because apparently in television land they say it stays with people for a week and then you run another week and you get skipped every other week and that has more impact apparently for your money." She categorizes the ad's text as being "general," with exhortations to viewers to "discover books, we are your independent booksellers, we live in New Orleans, we support and care about the people who live here." Britton Trice, owner of The Garden District Bookshop, acknowledges that he "wanted to come out with a little stronger statement than what the actual ad came out with. Stronger anti-chain message. I was out for a little more blood." In fact, the ad is entirely pro-independent, not anti-chain. Sucherman says that "we wanted to do it in a very tasteful way, that we're not challenging the mega-stores, at all, but there's a place for both. Britton Trice was the one who suggested we put somewhere on [the ads] 'Support your local bookstores,' and we used that as our end graphic."

Each store's front is featured for three seconds. "We shot the exteriors with the owners because I wanted to give the commercial personality," Sucherman says.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Readings, Signings, Claiborne Smith, Clay Smith

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