Would you buy a guidebook from this obnoxious man in a tank top? Rough Guides hopes so


Jan 24, 2013 8:56 am

Skift Take

It’s disconcerting that Rough Guides’ last shot at keeping the brand alive is in the hands of this man.

— Jason Clampet

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Beleaguered British travel guide publisher Rough Guides emerged from this fall’s shut-down scare with a new website and an ad campaign that it hopes will get UK TV watchers and cinema-goers to drop their remote or popcorn and buy a book, or at least visit its website.

The campaign uses a boorish man in a tank top to point out the value of quality travel information over the opinions of the unwashed masses — in this case literal. This living embodiment of TripAdvisor (according to guidebook publishers, of course) tells viewers to stick to home or, if failing that, at least remember to wear underpants beneath their togas when in Rome.

Rough Guides recently relaunched its website www.roughguides.com to focus entirely on travel, as opposed to travel and reference titles. The imprint ceased publishing the vast majority of its non-travel reference titles following a shake-up at parent company Penguin this fall. It’s earlier site included ads served by Travora, but the new site skips the ads for what RG described in a statement as a “focus on building brand presence and consumer engagement.”

The new Rough Guides website covers 40 destinations, much fewer than the previous site. The series has always been hampered in its digital efforts by not holding the copyright to the majority of its guidebook content. Publishers and editors at the series are currently working through a title-by-title negotiation process to buy back rights from authors.

The future of Rough Guides, DK Travel, Fodor’s, and a host of other guidebook brands is still in flux following the merger of Random House and Penguin in November. Stuart Applebaum, Executive VP, Communications at Random told Skift, “Please know that it is way premature for us to discuss our plans with the new combined company.”

Disclaimer: Jason Clampet is the author of the Rough Guide to Baja California, which is seven years out of date yet still available on Amazon for prices ranging up to $999.

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