Self-Derogatory Advertising


When considering how to market the Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels, it occurred to the team at Panda Books Australia that traditional positive messages of conventional advertising would not only be inappropriate, but border on fraud. Although the titles have a tendency toward a self-derogatory narrative, the release of the first Wrong Book—a parody about writing the Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels—has a derogatory narrative that borders on defamatory. As a result, the derogatory nature of the Dooven Books means that a traditional approach to marketing them is simply not plausible. Conventional marketing slogans are simply untrue when applied to the Dooven Books, Moreover, they are blasé and tired. There's been such of this persuasion across all advertising markets that the public have become immune. As a result, a new approach is required to excite the browsing public.


Self-Derogatory Advertising (SDA) uses deprecation to promote. It is an extrapolation of Content Marketing, where messages are tailored to an audience, rather than the broad shotgun onslaught of Mass Marketing. In addition, SDA has an originality by using demotion as a means of promotion. A further extrapolation is known as Absent Marketing, which takes a very minimalist approach to promotion by not marketing at all, though its results are too few at this stage to draw any sensible conclusions from. Content Marketing requires the creation of engaging and original content that’s designed for broadcast across numerous platforms, including Social Media, in particular. The difference with SDA is that it highlights the worst, rather than the best aspect of a product.

The idea of SDA arose in the marketing department of Panda Books Australia when trying to determine how to best market the Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels, which have no redeeming features, whatsoever. It is very difficult to highlight a product’s positive traits when there are none. With the Dooven Books, there was no choice but to consider negatives. As a result, SDA not only highlights how dreadful the books are, but does so in a derogatory and highly critical manner. This affords the books a certain robustness, because it’s hard for the market to be critical of something that’s already being heavily criticised. Indeed, it’s almost impossible to dismiss a product that’s already been dismissed by those who make it. As a consequence, the audience’s psychological tendency to criticise, or resist positive-promotion is rendered ineffective, and it’s this uncertainty that forces consideration.


This psychological limbo is particularly important when considering any advertising audience’s growing immunity to traditional marketing techniques, especially over recent decades. Constant bombardment of positive-promotion has become tired, predictable and increasingly ineffective. Although Content Marketing aims to counter this through personalisation, it doesn’t address the underlying message that encourages engagement, and audiences of today are more cynical and experienced for it to be effective.

In the diagram above, the difference attention spans for various platforms of positive-promotion are shown, though this doesn’t take content into account. It can be seen that mobile content consumption is the highest, with more traditional formats becoming irrelevant—and this refers to browsing, and not conversion into sales, which is even lower.


SDA works by gaining an audience’s attention because they expect one thing (positive promotion), but receiving another (derogatory demotion). Moreover, it’s also much harder to deride SDA, a behaviour that is an audience’s learned defence against chronic positive-promotion bombardment, because SDA’s derision is the advertising.


A combination of reverse-promotion and reader-related commentary for the Dooven Books has been an effective means of gaining market share in the emerging fiction genre market. Content Marketing insists that a call-to-action be implemented. In contrast, SDA does not, as burning the books is the only legitimate one. As a result, the audience is left suspended, with curiosity spurring further investigation. Audience confusion is an unfamiliar experience, as traditional advertising specialties in simple, often patronising messages, and that in itself is a deliberative result; that is, one where the audience pays attention to the message through forced consideration, rather than instinctive dismissal.


Here are some traditional examples of book promotion commentary, all of which contain shared elements. Firstly, they are all affirmative and positive. Secondly, they are colourful. Thirdly, they are source-ambiguous. Who’s making the comments? Reader or promoter? And is there a difference. Fourthly – and arguably most importantly – they are tired and clichéd.

“Romantic, absurd and light-hearted...”
“Any hope for predictable adventure is turned on its head. A funny, feisty, and irreverent exploration of the bizarre...”
“A gripping tale of intrigue, deception, blackmail and greed...”
“More exciting and deeply imaginative novels in the increasingly endearing Velvet Paw of Asquith novels.”

In contrast, here are some SDA examples. The difference is marked. Firstly, they’re derogatory. Secondly, they have humour, which hints at sarcasm. Thirdly, they're consumer motivated. Fourthly, they are original and not clichéd, and therefore worthy of attention.

“What a senseless waste of an ISBN.” - Gavin Hagar, Regional Sports Technician.
“His genius is like a poorly addressed letter: no one gets it.” - Kurt Stano, Editor, Kascon.
“These books left me feeling intellectually violated.” - P Sampson, EBR Australia.

Implementing SDA for the Velvet Paw of Asquith Novels has not only been effective, but has resulted in a culture of comments from readers in the form of short SDA reviews, which are demonstrated on the books official site at velvetpawofasquith.com. It's delightful to see affection for the books demonstrated via such ridicule.


Simon Collington, for Panda Books Australia.