Rakuten wants readers to own their genre

The challenger in the eReader space is looking to carve a niche for so-called "guilty pleasure" readers.
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Rakuten is trying to show readers who use its eBook subscription service, Kobo Plus, that there is no such thing as a guilty pleasure when it comes to reading.

Its new “Be a Reader, Not a Follower” campaign, led by The Garden, includes a 30-second hero spot that follows a woman as she attempts to tell others of the eBook that she’s been enjoying on Kobo Plus: Love, Luck, and Clusterf*ck by Bree Dahlia. Not only is her mouth pixelated and censored when she reaches the expletive in the book’s title, she is also humorously drowned out by noises around her, such as a jackhammer and a well-timed school bell. In the end, she yells the book’s title, (censored) expletive and all, at an after-school pickup before informing the shocked onlookers she found the book on Kobo Plus.

The campaign has two goals: To show that there’s no shame in reading something that falls more into genre fiction than bestseller, but also to highlight Kobo Plus’ wide array of titles across genres, all of which are available for a monthly fee following the service’s one-month free trial.

The target audience of the campaign are avid readers who benefit from an unlimited subscription model like Kobo Plus, says Lindsay Gray, director, brand and product marketing at Rakuten Kobo. “Our audience reads for fun and pleasure. They’re dedicated genre-readers who would just as soon dive into a saucy series or a serial-killer thriller than pick up that “important” book dominating the book review pages,” she explains.

In addition to attracting eager readers, the campaign is also an effort to grow the platform’s clientele from an older, more saturated demographic and to attract new readers from younger generations, says Jenn Munoz, strategy director at The Garden. As the challenger brand in the space, the company also “needed to stand out not just as an eBook subscription service, but for what Kobo Plus could really own: Binge-worthy, guilty-pleasure paperbacks,” she adds. “We wanted to celebrate the readers who read for the love of it, not for the clout.”

The campaign launched last month and will run until September 4 on TV and OLV. It also includes digital and contextual OOH displays, particularly on transit, which is a hotspot for eReader use. The ad will also feature on Rakuten’s owned social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, and drive to the Kobo Plus subscription page.

Production was led by Someplace Nice, while Cairns O’Neil handled media buys.