Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bark and bite

In all the jobs I've had, I'm sorry (but not that sorry) to say I've never had much time for the marketing department.

Exhibit A, the marketing team for a small Scottish legal publisher who regularly rushed out leaflets without consulting the legal editors, with resultant howlers like "an excellent guide for practicioners" and "a vade mecum for the tyro" (who even knows what that means? They certainly didn't).*

Exhibit B, the same team, when asked to produce a cover for a book on medical negligence. Their suggestion? A picture of a wheelchair.

Exhibit C, the much larger marketing team for a major London-based publisher. Said publisher's offices near Canary Wharf had been blown up by the IRA and all but destroyed. Two people lost their lives. So when, not long after, we published a book on buildings insurance, what did an inspired marketing team come up with as cover art? Why, a photograph of the bombed-out building.

Exhibit D, any marketing person asked to produce promotional materials for the legal services market. The gavel is not in use by judges in any jurisdiction I've ever worked in. In fact, it's not in use anywhere except in some courts in the US. So what always appears on marketing literature in every jurisdiction? It's a gavel!

Exhibit E, the trailer for a US show on FX called Terriers.

What does the name, and the above picture, which was on billboards promoting the show, tell you? It might be about dogfighting. It might be about... dog shows? It's definitely not a comedy drama with noir undertones, about two mismatched, likeable private detectives. Which it, in fact, was. No matter, the show has now been cancelled after its first season because it didn't get the viewing numbers, presumably, and at least in part, because of the terrible marketing campaign.

In any case, the show's theme song, by Robert Duncan, turns out to be much better than the series, which starts well but peters out somewhat, and is certainly no Breaking Bad (if you have never seen the latter, do yourself a favour and find a way to see it). But the marketing department torpedoed any chance of it finding an audience and finding its way, thus proving that my wild prejudices are in some small way justified.

* "An indispensible beginners' guide" would have sufficed.

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