Main Character Energy

//  07.11.23

Keep reading, not following, Kobo urges

The subscription e-reader adds some “main character energy” as it builds upon last year’s successful brand platform

E-reader brand Rakuten Kobo knows that there’s nothing better than a good sequel, which is why it’s bringing back its “Be a reader, not a follower” campaign following its successful 2022 debut.

Kobo has built upon and elevated the campaign to a brand platform for 2023, while retaining the good-natured humour that characterized last year’s campaign. The work is once again by Toronto agency The Garden.

This year, the brand is urging readers to unleash their “main character energy”, a nod to the growing phenomenon of people living their life as if they are the hero/protagonist of their own grand plot.

The campaign’s (quite literally) hero spot opens on a woman listening to an audiobook, which is a new feature of Kobo’s unlimited subscription packages. It’s a steamy romance novel, detailing a chance meeting between a woman and a hunky man named Sebastian Steele, and she is thoroughly and brazenly engrossed in the story during her morning commute.

The spot humorously juxtaposes the audiobook’s content with events as they actually unfold: In real life, the “passenger car” in the book is a city bus, while Steele, who, viewers are told, has a “body like a god,” is actually a bespectacled, slightly nerdy guy. As the two abruptly come together, the man ends up holding the woman’s Kobo device, and sees that she’s been listening to a book called “Bus Lust.”

“Ebooks and audiobooks allow people to escape into their own fantasy land. Instead of going a traditional route and altering the world around her to reflect that, we wanted to show our hero unabashedly living her own lore, regardless of the “cover judgers” on the bus giving her side-eye.” said Lindsay Eady, Creative Director at The Garden. “Because it’s a reader’s world and everyone else is just living in it.”

The rest of the campaign sees Kobo taking a stand against those who would just people by their book covers, urging them to embrace their book-induced fantasies, whether they’re spooky, fantastical, or even slightly smutty.

Out-of-home ads reference some of the genres that are popular among Kobo subscribers, such as Sci-fi and Murder Mystery. The ads feature pictures of readers, accompanied by headlines such as “Consider your plot thickened,” and “Give reality a fantasy check.”

Those are being supported by contextually relevant audio running across Spotify’s free tier, as well as podcasts, social and display, and a cinema takeover that will see the spot running accompanied by digital boards. The campaign is running until Sept. 4.

“We really believe that all reading should be a pleasure. And that’s what’s at the heart of this platform and Kobo Plus’ subscription service,” said Lindsay Gray, Director, Brand & Product Marketing, Rakuten Kobo. “There’s no need to power through a book you’re not loving just because of the shame of a DNF (did not finish). We have unlimited titles and genres you can explore and enjoy that bring the joy of reading back to the centre of the experience.”



Brand: Rakuten Kobo
Chief Marketing Officer: Marianne Hamilton
Vice President, Communications: Tracy Nesdoly
Brand Strategist, Product Marketing Director and Creative Services Lead: Lindsay Gray
Senior Manager, Brand & Product Marketing: Christine Ampagoumian

Agency: The Garden
Chief Creative Officer: Shane Ogilvie
Chief Strategy Officer: Shari Walczak
Creative Director: Lindsay Eady
Head of Art: Rob Dean
Copywriter: Nuala Murray
Art Director: Mriga Suchdeva
Strategy Director: Jenn Kittmer
Business Lead: Reuben Greenspoon
Project Lead: Soraya Benbada
Executive Producer: Melanie Lambertsen

Production Company: Someplace Nice
Director: Pete Henderson
Director of Photography: Luke McCutcheon
Executive Producer: Chilo Fletcher
Line Producer: Tony Schulz
Production Designer: Jason McIsaac
Location Manager: Jerry Abramowitz

Audio: Berkeley Inc
Executive Producer: Tyna Maerzke
Creative Director: Jared Kuemper

Editorial Company: Rooster Post Production
Editor: Chris Parkins
Executive Producer: Melissa Kahn
Assistant Editor: Brigitte Haynes

Post Production / VFX: Royal Muster, Yogico
Producer: Thatcher Peterson
Colourist: Roslyn DiSisto

Media Agency: Cairns Oneil
Communications Director: Jennifer Blenkhorn
Communications Manager: Anam Tariq
Communications Coordinator: Kaitlin Irving