Monday, May 26, 2008

Book Review: Murder Must Advertise by Dorothy L. Sayers

“You’ll soon find that the biggest obstacle to good advertising is the client.” A lot has changed about advertising since this book was published in 1933, but considering this quote, obviously a lot has remained the same as well.

I read Murder Must Advertise as the first of my ten books for the 1% challenge – it’s one of the 1001 Books to Read before you Die. I’ll be totally honest though – I didn’t have that much fun reading it.

Plus points: Set in an advertising agency, fun facts about advertising in the 1930s (most ads were in newspapers, smoking was a big ad money maker), main characters were copywriters (or pretending to be copywriters), crime was actually pretty ingenious.

Minus points: Too many characters to keep track of or care about, pacing is very slow and some scenes are too long and drawn out (especially a scene near the end where the agency plays cricket for an entire chapter) and none of it seems terribly urgent.

I’d only really recommend this to patient readers who work in advertising or who just love old school mysteries.

The quote I used to start this review got me thinking about one of my favorite German commercials that could have been:

The TV spot features a father and son on a hike. They see a goat licking some moss covered stones. The boy asks his father why goats do this and his father tells him “It’s to get the minerals he needs to be a healthy goat”. The boy asks the father, “Should I lick stones to get the minerals I need?”

Now, in my ideal world (mind you, I do tend toward the absurd), the spot would have ended with the father telling the boy “Yes”and the boy licking the stones while the father winks and drinks the mineral water being advertised. But alas, the client (this is speculation since I don’t know anything about the making of this campaign) decided to take the conservative route and end the spot with the father saying “no” and them taking big swigs of the mineral water from the bottle.

What a perfect crime!


Anonymous said...

Uhhh this would have been a hillarious ending for that commercial!

Katherine said...

I'm reading this book as my June selection for the same challenge. I'm a fan of the Lord Peter Wimsey series, but I'd never read Murder Must Advertise. So far I like what I'm reading, though.