Barnes & Noble drops new ads doubling down on brick and mortar

'Because finding the perfect book doesn't happen with a faceless algorithm': Havas snagged creative and media rights after winning a crowded pitch in September, Campaign US can reveal.

Barnes & Noble has launched its first major campaign in years after Havas North America won a competitive pitch to own creative and media duties.

The work, entitled "Nobody Knows Books Like We Do," is the brand’s reminder of the joy and discovery bookstores can bring us in a world dominated by digital.

"Our biggest challenge is that people are busy and don’t have the same amount of time they once had to read," Tim Mantel, Barnes & Noble’s chief merchandising officer told Campaign US. "We’re competing with how busy people are in their own lives, as well as all the entertainment and information they can get right in the palm of their hand."

He explained: "Barnes & Noble has always been an incredible place of discovery, whether it’s for people shopping for themselves, or looking for a thoughtful gift for someone they care about. This campaign gives us the chance to remind our customers around the country of what a special place our stores are, and how amazing it is to come into a Barnes & Noble to find just the right book or gift during the holidays."

The brand’s 23,000 booksellers live at the heart of this campaign. It is these people who are the key point of differentiation between Barnes & Noble and digital giants like Amazon, "because they can help customers find the perfect book in a way that can’t happen online."

Mantel said the bookseller is leveraging its brick and mortar status as community centers, whether its attending a book club, bringing a child to a Storytime, or dropping by for a cup of coffee.

"As the campaign shows, going to your local Barnes & Noble is not just about discovering life-changing books and gifts, but interacting with people and communities in a way that can’t happen in front of a computer," he added.

Havas fought off competition from big-name agencies to win the creative and media review which was launched in June this year and concluded in September.

The brief was to reignite love for the brand and demonstrate what’s truly unique about shopping at the chain. In a landscape that’s becoming evermore fragmented and transactional, Barnes & Noble wants to reaffirm itself as a place in communities across the country that is cherished and real.

Barnes & Noble has never had an agency of record. The pitch was to create a seasonal campaign on a project basis with the view to work on a post-holiday drive.

Harry Bernstein, chief creative officer at Havas New York, said, "Barnes & Noble is not a bookstore, it’s an institution that’s been helping to shape the lives and imaginations of people across the country for decades.

"Barnes & Noble booksellers are catalysts for curiosity and are as knowledgeable and passionate about the things you’re into, because they’re into the same exact things. With ‘Nobody Knows Books Like We Do,’ we wanted to celebrate this shared passion and what makes the shopping experience at Barnes so unique -- because finding the perfect book or gift doesn’t happen with a faceless algorithm, it requires genuine human interaction."  

Thirty-second commercials "Anthem" and "Spells," along with the "Bookseller" series of 15-second commercials, were directed by Matt Smukler with Community Films.

The 30-second commercials will air from November 9 in Regal and AMC theaters in 14 major media markets including Boston, New York, San Diego and St. Louis.

A few days later, the spots will begin airing nationally on cable across networks including CNN, TLC, HGTV and Bravo during top-rated shows like Access Hollywood, Dateline, Extra, Jeopardy and Inside Edition. The "Bookseller" commercials will also run on streaming services such as Hulu and YouTube. All will be available across Barnes & Noble’s digital channels -- including YouTube -- from today.

The media strategy was developed by Havas Media. It is designed to ensure Barnes & Noble is top of mind across platforms that reflect the modern ways in which the brand’s audience consumes media. The campaign will run in programming across Discovery’s portfolio, streaming services including Hulu and YouTube, digital audio platforms like Pandora, co-viewing placements in cinema, social media, and localized digital out-of-home screens.

Kat Sudit, president at Havas Media New York, said creative and media operate as a fully integrated team.

"The creative approach to tell story through film drove us to access points where those stories are more likely to capture the audience’s attention; in cinema, at home, and during dwell times," she explained.

"Our stories are told in long and short formats so that media and message align to the viewers needs in whatever environment they are choosing in the moment. Content and context, where the shared fandom and passion of our booksellers intersect with our customers’. It’s that notion that underpinned our media decisions including pairing spell-themed creative prior to Fantastic Beast 2 film release in theaters, pairing cookbook creative to recipe videos, and Harry Potter creative to booktuber videos within Youtube placements."

It comes as the bookseller has been mired in controversy over a lawsuit in which representatives claimed the former CEO was fired -- in part -- on the grounds of sexual harassment and allegedly trying to "sabotage" a potential sale of the company, reports REUTERS.

Demos Parneros rejected Barnes & Noble’s accusations. In a statement, he said he never bullied anyone, called the sexual harassment claim "completely false," and  was "fully supportive of the sales process from the start."

It has since been reported by the Wall Street Journal that the mystery suitor was U.K. retailer WH Smith PLC.

Barnes & Noble declined to comment. 

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