Penguin Random House wants you to get off your phone and read a book for once

Its latest campaign seeks to curb tech addictions, even if just a little.
article cover

Penguin Random House

· 3 min read

Welcome to 2022, when even our work computers tell us we’re getting too much screen time. And while it can be harder to cut back on medium screen, people seem to be more mindful about their small-screen time—some are even using flip phones.

As concern mounts over our collective tech habits and the potential damage of absorbing too much bad news—aka doomscrolling—publisher Penguin Random House saw an opportunity to get people reading with its new campaign, “Slow Down, Read a Book.”

“I think reading is positioned to help people escape and help people think more deeply, and help people relax. And it’s almost a foil to social media in that way,” Carly Gorga, director of creative strategy, brand marketing at Penguin Random House, told us.

Get lit(erary)

While Penguin Random House saw a spike in reading at the start of the pandemic, Gorga said the company’s consumer insights team found that four mindsets were primarily responsible for keeping people from reading these days: “Reading feels hard and boring,” “I’m not motivated to read,” “I don’t know where to start,” and “I spent too much time mindlessly scrolling social media.”

The fourth finding validated Gorga’s own struggle to read over the last two years. “I think so much of it is because of the anxiety that’s caused by the [state of the] world and caused by the ongoing flow of information at every turn,” she said.

To combat doomscrolling, Penguin Random House took inspiration from digital rest stops to create ads that remind people to scroll a little slower or stop altogether. It’s not the first time the publisher has focused its marketing efforts on mental health. In 2020, it also started a campaign called “Read to Sleep,” on the benefits of reading before bed.

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

The email newsletter guaranteed to bring you the latest stories shaping the marketing and advertising world, like only the Brew can.

The initial creative vision for the campaign involved using stop signs and neon lights, but Gorga said they ultimately landed on calmer imagery of slow-moving objects and animals. “It just felt really unexpected for publishing, you know. When you think about books, you don’t necessarily think they’re going to land on, like, a snail crawling across your screen,” she said.

On TikTok specifically, the team is running content featuring people taking breaks and plans to work with BookTokkers like @kimmybookss and @balloonbreath on future posts.


The target audience for the campaign, Gorga said, is light-to-moderate Gen Z and millennial readers, with ads running on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. When viewers click the ads, they’ll be prompted to sign up for a newsletter that will give them access to the first chapters of four of the season’s trending fiction books. Those selections include romance and fantasy picks, two genres the insights team found were likely to be preferred among mindless scrollers.

Gorga said newsletter sign-ups, as well as landing-page visits and social media engagement rates, will be the primary trackable metrics of the campaign.

But while getting people to engage is important, Gorga’s hope is that this campaign will serve more as a PSA. “I don’t care if you read the excerpts that we’re providing,” she said. “If you have a book that’s nearby [and] this reminder motivates you to pick that book up and start reading it instead of just continuing to scroll, that’s a win for me.”

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

The email newsletter guaranteed to bring you the latest stories shaping the marketing and advertising world, like only the Brew can.