Knovvmads Magazine

Library Rashomon? If you can find something better. Read it.

In 1950, Japanese Director Akira Kurosawa dazzled critics around the world with his movie, Rashomon. The story about a rape and murder in the woods became, under the brilliant eye of the director, a story related by the four voices of witnesses to the event. So much so in fact, that a new term was coined: the Rashomon Effect, or how it is that different individuals can describe the same event, and influenced by their point of view and subjectivity, can provide differing accounts without any of them being qualified as false.

We are not going to provide any libraries with a crime (although the way in which libraries are treated by some politicians can be qualified as a crime), but this Rashomon Effect is a perfectly appropriate perspective from which to take on differing interpretations regarding the same institution, that can vary between different segments of the population.

What would be the closest thing to a library Rashomon? The first answer is obvious: a study of users.

But, on this occasion, we are not interested so much in the user’s expectations regarding the libraries they frequent, so much as their differences in terms of age, gender, education, and social class which affect their desires regarding the same. Which translated into the ambit of advertising would be denominated as the target or market objective: the ideal customer destination for a product or service.

Who forms the ideal target audience for a library? That is the question. It is the whole population. Let us dress the men elegantly with suits and ties, and the women with heels and skirts, smoke like there is no tomorrow and serve drinks from the mini bar. We now sit at Don Draper’s desk (Mad men) at a reunion of creative types and our clients are everyone.

How do we design a campaign sufficiently attractive to seduce them? If libraries have assimilated so much from the world of business, why not it’s publicity campaigns as well? 

It was 1960 when Volkswagen’s revolutionary advertising campaign launched in the United States: Think Small. The DDB advertising agency was facing a great challenge: convincing American contemporaries of Don Drapper to consider small cars, despite the obsession for large cars at the time. How did they achieve this? They were honest and emphasized the characteristics that made them different: their size.

What can be drawn from this campaign for libraries? We should not sell them for what they are not. They are kinder gardens. They are not educational centers. They are not museums. They are not art galleries. They are not movie theaters. They are not video clubs. They are not comic book stores. They are not cyber cafes. They are not social centers. They are all these things and much more. Let us forget for a moment that they encourage reading, and defend the fact that they foment culture on a grand scale. A possible slogan that may allay the fears of those who will not come near one: you need not adapt to the library, the library will adapt to you.

New generations will not remember the Marlboro Man. In the 21st century it is unthinkable to see a cigarette commercial on television, or an advertising campaign that presents the typical John Wayne cowboy as a model to imitate. In light of metrosexuals, ubersexuals, the androgynous, techno-sexuals or any other label they want to invent to sell, it is (fortunately) difficult for the stereotype of virility to continue to be patterned on proper western figures. But in 1955, when the campaign was launched, the image of the classic man continued to be in vogue, even though the ears of women’s liberation, that would affect everything, were insinuated on the horizon. 

The idea was clear: the strong man, free, independent and adventurous. Can we rescue something from this campaign for the 21st century? Without a doubt, some foolish ideas have been renewed in version 2.0. For example: the lack of affinity for reading that is evident in the percentage of library non-users that are men. According to the report published by the Orange County Board of Education, young men read the least, and their reading deficits affect their grades, in complete opposition of young girls.

Then, what lesson can we draw for the library from the Marlboro man campaign? In idealizing a lifestyle, a route of seduction for young men could be to convince them that reading is the greatest act of rebellion, that as things stand there is no greater counter-cultural act than reading. Something like convincing them that James Dean, of Rebel Without A Cause in the 21st century, would visit a library. 

On the other end, for the men that do remember the Marlboro man:  insinuating with a great deal of tact, that culture is the only thing that can provide them a measure of dignity when the body is bent on taking it from them, that it will provide you a benefit that will keep anyone from treating you like a child, and no one will call you grandfather without being your grandson or daughter.

 In more recent years, in 2004, the Dove campaign’s slogan “Real Beauty,” has been viewed as one of the greatest ad campaigns of all time. It is emblematic of a type of publicity that, since then, has not ceased to be exploited: detecting an especially sensitive theme for a specific target, addressing it openly and turning it around. 

The great Peggy Olson, Don Drapper’s pupil, and the only female creative of the Mad men agency would have been excited about this campaign (well, all the women of the women of Sterling Cooper, as was the name of the agency). The proud vindication of the feminine form outside of imposed canons and authoritarian corsets of the fashion industry, was a bonbon to seduce women.

What have we learned to sell the library to a feminine target? Well it appears a little irrelevant, if ever there was a public that supports libraries, uses them and celebrates them, As per the polls: it is women. It is just a matter of persevering with the strategy that has been successful and continues betting on the same bar of soap, the natural. 

In this case, it is only necessary to persist in empowering feminism; but, always going beyond that. For example, seeking the support of women not just as users, but as active agents promoting libraries among the opposite sex. This is the lesson we can derive from the jocular advertising ad campaign for Old Spice masculine hygiene and bath products, one of the most successful campaigns in recent years.

How do you get men to use Old Spice? Seducing their women, who carry out much of shopping for bath gels. For this reason, there are more than 180 videos on social media sites with handsome and gallant male protagonists titled: “Your man could smell like him,” with ever more entertaining versions that end up seducing men and women.

Would a campaign in which famous authors starred like Jen Lapidus, Paul Auster, Andrew Sean Greer o Richard Mason: be as successful? Surely among women readers, and little by little the sex appeal of the literati would filter in to the masculine gender.

Would a campaign in which famous authors starred like Jen Lapidus, Paul Auster, Andrew Sean Greer o Richard Mason: be as successful? Surely among women readers, and little by little the sex appeal of the literati would filter in to the masculine gender.

The possibilities for publicity are endless. (The ultimate reading machine. Library gives you wings. Think differently. Come to the Library. The wonderful everyday: the library) but let us pause there for a moment, not without first drinking from the publicity wisdom of Don Drapper.

On the web page for the web positioning company Optamizaclick, they dedicated an article to summing up the 7 great lessons that Mad men left as legacy for the world of marketing. You only need to read them while keeping libraries in mind, to see how they adjust themselves like a glove to the objectives of these institutions. Who knows? If a Don Drapper existed currently, perhaps he would be a librarian.

  1. Take as reference the needs of the client.
  2. Learn from your errors.
  3. Captivate your clients constantly.
  4. Tighten the screws on your campaign.
  5. Please with ideas through emotions.
  6. Evaluate your work and draw from personal experience.
  7. Individuality does not exist, only the work of the team.

“What you call love was invented by men like me to sell socks.”

Don Drapper

“What you call culture was reinvented by librarians to sell their services.”