DC’s in-story ads only to destroy comics for a month…so far


The instant internet revulsion at DC’s new half-page ad placements united the people as few things can—perhaps only revulsion for Game of Thrones and love for #NationalBiscuitDay. We can now see that this throwback to an older, more popular time for comics, when sales in the six figures were average, may not jibe with today’s love for a smooth, unfettered artistic comics reading experience.

Fortunately, I’m told that thus far, the ghastly Twix ad is the only one booked for this “half page” placement. However that’s not to say that some enterprising salesperson at DC couldn’t sell it again—unless the internet revulsion sends up a big red flag that this is perhaps not that great an idea.

As many have pointed out on Twitter and beyond, in-page ads are nothing new in comics. Tom Spurgeon found a tiny thumbnail of a comics page from the 70s, and I seem to recall that TEXT ADS were common at the bottom of 70s Marvel comics. The nü West Coast DC with its battalions of branding experts may have decided that ad revenue is a good thing and maybe the product is strong enough to withstand a disruptive—and from the twitter photos, horrible looking—ad like this. I suspect that internet outrage will dissipate fairly quickly however.

If you don’t like this, vote with your wallet people!

Comments

  1. says

    Marvel’s text ads were house ads — all pitching some book or other. I don’t remember seeing any for advertisers’ products. Harvey also ran at least one of these I remember, in 1974; again, a house ad.

    Quality ran in-story half pages in Doll Man and other titles in the early 1940s, so it started very early. Even when there weren’t ads, comics art would sometimes share pages with Statements of Ownership — this happened at DC in the 1960s, and all of Gold Key’s ran on comics pages. Those tended to appear on the last story page.

    A search of Heritage past auctions turns up quite a lot of half-page art; my sense has always been that those pages have been less desirable by collectors. I don’t remember seeing regular ad positions sold after the 1970s, though.

  2. says

    Reprising my comment from the previous story:

    As someone who once oversaw DC’s ad sales business and worked with the team there to nurse it back to relative good health, I applaud this effort. As the concept appears to be an extension of the well established “Left Twix / Right Twix” campaign, it’s a pretty smart strategy . And if the creative teams were advised in advance and given time to accommodate (or even make it work for them), the better. And if DC scored a PAID ad (rare these days for them), kudos to all involved.

    It should be obvious to anyone with a marketing sense and an understanding of brands that an initiative like this is not an indication of the establishment of a half-page ad unit. What it is is a vote of confidence by a national brand in the relevance of pop culture comics as a medium and the power of comics readers as a distinct demographic.

  3. Dean Hacker says

    I am on Team Comics, which means that whatever keeps the publishing model viable is a good thing. The Twix ad is ugly and the use of a photo is poor match with the content of the magazine. Still, more money flowing in the publishing end of DC is a win.

  4. Arch Stanton says

    Well, speaking as someone with marketing sense and an understanding of brands, I think you’re missing the point.

    If the ad is divisive and produces alienation in the target demographic (deserved or undeserved) then it can’t be said to be an effective promotion of the product. It’s failed to do its job. Whether or not this initiative is a massive “vote of confidence” from a “national brand” is ultimately irrelevant in the face the response it has received… which thus far has ranged from bemused indifference to anger. Hardly a positive reception, and unlikely to meet its basic function in selling candy. Smart advertising strategies ought to be eye-catching, compelling, but unobtrusive. Why do you think people hate pop-ups?

    I don’t think that any reasonable person expects ad-free comics. But I think that it’s a terrible idea to insert advertising material onto the same page as comics material. Nobody looked at this and thought that it was a clever allusion to the “Left Twix/ Right Twix” campaign, they just saw a disruption to the story they were reading. This was many of the many reasons why the use of the half-page ad unit was dropped decades ago, and its return indicates a failure of marketers to understand the demographic. It’s very hard to accept that this was a good move on the part of DC or the marketers of Twix. It’s a plainly an ill-conceived campaign.

  5. AwesomeDude says

    ARCH – calm down and stop lying to yourself.
    To quote you:

    “Nobody looked at this and thought that it was a clever allusion to the “Left Twix/ Right Twix” campaign, they just saw a disruption to the story they were reading. ”

    These comics are literally not out yet. No-one, (I repeat No-one) has read this story. You’re working yourself up into a frenzy and lying to yourself.

    Chill out.

    A paid advert is a good thing, it means continued survival of the comics industry. Huzzah.

    And I agree with Steve – this ad split fits with Twix’s current Right/Left campaign. It may not be ‘clever’ but it’s also not haphazard. A global brand wanted to be in a comic book! AND designed an advert specifically to appear in a comic book! This is cause for celebration!

  6. Charlie Ryan says

    For those here proclaiming that this is some sort of trailblazing epiphany in innovative advertising, I seem to recall one of salesmanships basic tenets: advertising is supposed to entice, not repel. The overwhelming reaction to the news so far looks like it isn’t going to make DC comic book fans run out and buy Twix bars.

    Ad men might be high-fiving themselves over this, but maybe they don’t realize that comic fans are a very special audience and a very special breed of consumer. They take all aspects of their books very seriously — from the content to the physical package. You can’t just waddle into the middle of someone else’s house, make an unsightly mess and then have us all stare at it and say ‘thank you’.

  7. says

    I’ll bet you one crisp Canadian $5 bill that this will have a negligible effect on the amount of DC books purchased in the near future. I base this assumption based off the fact that every time a comic company has increased the price of a comic or decreased page count in the past eight years I’ve been working in the industry, I had maaaaaaaaybe a couple people raise a stink in store, and of those people, maaaaaaaaybe one of them actually didn’t buy the book on general principle.

    DC would have been stupid to not take this money. They might lose a few people, but I guarantee you the money they made by having the ad run more than offsets that. Just like losing a few people while gaining a dollar for every comic sold or gaining many dollars for every page cut makes sense. Of course, there is a point of diminishing returns, but this isn’t that.

  8. Jonathan Last says

    I never thought I would say this, but the two best books on my pull list these days are from Image: they’re both by Warren Ellis, which means they contain actual content; they’re beautifully drawn by artists who actually have some idea of how to tell a story in pictures; they cost $2.99 rather than the standard $3.99 for most everything else; and they HAVE NO ADS. AT ALL. How Image can afford to do this in comics with no superheroes in them is a mystery, particularly when one of the Big 2 now finds it necessary to interrupt not just the story but the PAGES in a story with advertising. It’s just inexcusable. I’m a DC guy from since childhood, and this past year I feel like I’m witnessing the death throes of something that doesn’t need to die. DC’s management needs to be replaced.

  9. VichusSmith says

    It’s a trial run that will not go over well. Of course, people will accept the change, but I can’t see a lot of people enjoying a half page comics. It will break up the flow of a lot of stories.

  10. Mark says

    Best thing to do: wait for the trades, or buy digital. (I assume digital comics don’t have ads?)
    The Twix “left / right” campaign is pretty stupid. Though not as stupid as those insipid Sonic commercials.

  11. Al@ says

    So what happens when these stories are reprinted as trades? A big blank panel in place of the ad?

  12. Glenn Simpson says

    At Al@ – they will put the two half-pages together as one page.

    As to what others are saying, what ticks off hardcore comics fans who visit comics websites tends to blow right by most comics readers with nary a problem.

  13. AwesomeDude says

    “As to what others are saying, what ticks off hardcore comics fans who visit comics websites tends to blow right by most comics readers with nary a problem.”

    HA! True that Glen. The # of fans who visit comic website is minuscule compared to the # who buy comics.

  14. says

    I suspect that the creators and marketers who made a big push for these new #1 books that are supposed to appeal to a broader audience (though that still seems to translate to “more spinoffs of Batman and Superman comics”) are probably less than entirely happy with the marketers who decided to roll this scheme out at exactly the same time.

    Speaking for myself, there are three DC comics I’d have bought yesterday if it weren’t for the obnoxious Twix ads; instead I wound up taking my $9 nextdoor and spending it on beer. (Well, and buying some comics published by Marvel, Image, and Dark Horse.)

    It’s entirely possible that other posters are correct and this won’t have a meaningful effect on sales; I know I’m not a representative member of the comics-buying audience. But it seems to me that it’s harder to isolate your variables if you simultaneously introduce a bunch of new #1 books AND a potentially-divisive ad campaign. Would the books have done better if they didn’t have the ads? Would they have done worse if they hadn’t been new series? I guess there are guys whose job it is to answer those questions; it just seems to me like it’s an inexact science and they’re making it harder for themselves.

    Still, I got to drink some pretty good beer.

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