Jay-Z + Bing = a marketing plan treasure hunt. Is this the future for books?
The institutionalized decadence of the pool area at the Delano Hotel last night seemed an odd setting for a Bing Crosby tribute sponsored by the Jaycees. Then an executive from Bing (“the decision engine!”) came out to introduce a nice man named “Jay-Z” and I realized my mistake.
I was at a launch party for Jay-Z’s memoir, Decoded. More precisely, it seems, I was at the launch party for the baroque marketing campaign for Decoded, which won’t actually be published until Nov. 20.
Once it was explained to me — and the other hundred or so guests gathered for the august event — I knew I had to apologize for mocking Philip Pullman the other day.
First of all Decoded, which I have not seen, is supposedly no mere memoir, but a collection of lyrics from Jay-Z’s phenomenally successful rap albums. along with meditations on their meanings that come together to tell “the story of a culture, an art form, a moment in history.”
What do you expect from a man whose self-chosen nickname is “Hova” — as in Jehovah? Please.
To publish and promote this masterpiece, Jay-Z has enlisted not only the help of a publishing company, Random House, but also a synergistic sponsor, Bing (Microsoft’s idea of a competitor for Google), and Droga5, a “creative agency” which has come up with a strenuously inventive strategy
In what amounts to possibly the most elaborate treasure hunt since Marie Antoinette’s last party for Louis XVI, 10 pages from Decoded will be plastered each day at places significant to Jay-Z’s story — Brooklyn, London, Manhattan, Miami, etc. Fans can go to Bing (“Decode Jay-Z with Bing!”) for clues to the location of each one.
If you’re first to find a page — plastered on the side of a building, say, — you enter a code into the Bing Jay-Z site. You win a signed copy of the page, and you get entered into a contest. Grand prize is a trip to Las Vegas for a New Year’s concert featuring Jay-Z and Coldplay.
Yeah, yeah, I see how some people might think this sort of thing is fun, and it certainly fulfills the marketing requirements of the day by being highly “interactive.” But last night the hand of corporate synergies being worked for all they’re worth lay so heavy on the proceedings the whole thing just made me tired.
Jay- is a huge star, which means his book will sell tens of thousands if not millions of copies no matter what. Why is it necessary to find a sponsor, and a creative agency (remember when “creative” meant something positive?), and flog the book with this wheezing machinery of 21st century marketing?
Smart business, I know. At least that’s how a mogul like Jay-Z, worth more than $150 million, with his own record label, clothing line, and a stake in the New Jersey Nets basketball team, will view it. To me it seems like overkill to the nth degree.
So now I must apologize to Philip Pullman, the acclaimed British children’s fantasy writer, who a few days ago complained of too many “daft celebrity memoirs” sucking up the attention and promotional resources of publishers, thereby sidelining “serious writers.”
I don’t know if Decoded is “daft” — not al celebrity memoirs are without value. But this promotional campaign certainly is.