Penguin ad campaign for new Community Manager: a creative search for creativity
Impress A Penguin

The confluence of a “gutted” job aspirant who applied too late, an impressive pun and a Steinbeck character’s heartbreaking love of rabbits helped forge an instantly classic job advertisement at Penguin books.

Entitled “Impress a Penguin” – a pun on the name of the Penguin Press imprint – the interactive ad for a new Community Manager at Penguin Press in the U.K. aims to find out what job applicants can do rather than only where they’ve been.

It was an immediate online hit. Launched in late August, the animated campaign to find a new Community Manager generated 1,500 tweets on Twitter and 30,000 site visits on Day 1 alone – and the number keeps climbing. Tweets sharing the new ad campaign have ranged from “rather fab job advert from Penguin” to “GENIUS recruitment!” to “this is the best way to advertise a job in the history of ever.”

The Impress a Penguin job-application site opens with a downcast Penguin who shrugs his shoulders, with the caption: “This Penguin is feeling a little lonely.” While he loves his job publishing the likes of Charles Dickens, Malcolm Gladwell and Albert Camus, Penguins are also sociable animals who “like to surround themselves with large groups of book-lovers.”

So the campaign seeks a new Community Manager who can galvanize fans and followers of such books and authors – through social media, video and other creative channels. It asks aspirants to “Impress the Penguin” – and to do this by sharing “your ideas, your voice and your feeling for our books, however you want to share that,” whether through blueprints, videos or whatever.

A nonfiction human touch

little book
The Missed Oppurtunity by Matthew Young

To add a nonfiction human touch, the online advertisement refers to “someone once made us a little book about how much they wanted to design covers here, and now they do.” That’s the tale of the crestfallen job applicant who applied too late for a junior cover designer’s job, only to save the day by submitting that “little book” – a booklet so creative that it spoke volumes about his imagination. And he eventually got the job.

“The deadline had passed and I was gutted because I loved the sound of the job, so I tried to impress them by creating this little book,” says Matt Young, 23, now a cover designer at Penguin in London, in his “first proper job.” The 36-page illustrated book, entitled “The Missed Opportunity,” explained how Mr. Young in late 2010 found out too late about a new opening at Penguin.

So the booklet outlined how he learned about the opening, his disappointment about finding out too late – and it begged for another chance at what the little book describes as the “ideal job opportunity.” The booklet’s first page was addressed “Dear Mr. Jim Stoddart,” the art director at Penguin in London.

“This booklet involved die cutting, in which holes are cut in the design, and it was incredibly impressive,” recalls Mr. Stoddart. “Given the wit and the quality of the finish and the ideas involved, we just had to interview Matt. He really went the extra mile.”

Mr. Young has since helped design such diverse Penguin Press covers as Joshua Foer’s “Moonwalking with Einstein” (a psychedelic splash of a cover) and Cullen Murphy’s “God’s Jury” (very sober).

‘More than just a plain CV’

Mr. Young’s resourcefulness worked to open doors for him, and the new Community Manager job-application campaign aims to inspire similar flights of fancy. “It doesn’t have to be exactly the same as what I did, but Penguin Press wants some more creative applications – more than just a plain CV on a sheet of paper,” says Mr. Young.

The idea for the online scenario of the glum Penguin who needs cheering up through finding new friends came from Alan Trotter, a freelance copywriter and designer who had worked previously at Penguin writing book synopses for cover jackets.

“I met with people from Penguin over lunch, and we came up with the idea and the ‘Impress a Penguin’ name right then,” says Mr. Trotter. “It seemed like a nice idea to use the character of the Penguin because it’s so loved, and it’s always nice to use puns.”

Illustration for the online campaign was done by Australian illustrator Isobel Knowles, who had animated the Penguin in a previous marketing campaign. “I get a lot of odd commissions but this is the first time I’ve designed a call for applications,” she says. “I think it’s a very inventive idea: it’s nice to try and impress the people you are asking to impress you in return.”

Inspiration from Steinbeck

Of Mice and Men
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

For Mr. Trotter, his favourite illustration done by Ms. Knowles is the ad campaign’s third panel, which shows the Penguin, a tear welling in his eye, surrounded by rabbits with twitching ears as he reads John Steinbeck’s novelette “Of Mice and Men.”

“It’s the image I love the most, because one of the books I worked on at Penguin was ‘Of Mice and Men’ – it was one of the first books I wrote the jacket copy for. That assignment got me very excited, because it’s a book I’d always loved – a small book that packs a lot of emotion.” The rabbits and tearful Penguin reflects the book’s sad ending for character Lennie, the lumbering, gentle idiot who dreams of tending rabbits because “I like to pet nice things.”

So far, creative ways of applying for the job have ranged from cartoon strips with original stories to dramatic videos whose soundtracks include the rousing and the enchanting.

The deadline for applications is late September, so there’s still time to play a part in the story of Penguin Press's search for its first-ever Community Manager in the U.K.