How the New York Public Library helped patrons ‘escape’ the pandemic

The organization made sure its Black Friday content wasn’t tone deaf.

How the New York Public Library helped patrons ‘escape’ the pandemic

Campaign: Black Friday Travel Deal
Company: New York Public Library
Duration: November 26, 2020

To celebrate Black Friday, the New York Public Library unveiled a tongue-in-cheek “travel deal,” including all-inclusive packages, such as a special “Escape to New York” offering. Important to note that the trips offered all took place via reading.

In 2018, the New York Public Library launched its inaugural Black Friday campaign. In that first iteration, it captured attention by spoofing traditional Black Friday deals; and in 2019, it mimicked electronic Black Friday ads.

In 2020, the NYPL continued the tradition with a nod to the current reality: due to COVID-19, traditional plans to visit family or go on a winter vacation were put on pause.

“We thought we could play off the idea of an escape,” said Angela Montefinise, the NYPL’s senior director of public relations, communications and marketing. “Even though you can’t physically get on a plane and go on a vacation, a library card could be your passport for traveling all over the world— or to other worlds— through reading.”

The NYPL celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2020, which meant it was a busy year for the organization’s communication staff. Planning for the Black Friday campaign began in late October.

“We wanted to feel out how the world and city were doing,” Montefinise said. The organization aimed to serve up Black Friday content that was relevant without being tone deaf. The entire campaign, including all assets, animations, and press outreach, was done in-house.

The NYPL ran a full-page Black Friday ad in The New York Times, a component made possible by an anonymous donation from one of the library’s trustees. It also sent out an email to its 1.1 million subscribers detailing the campaign.

“This year we heard a lot of, ‘We wait for this ad to hit our inbox,’” Montefinise said. “People are realizing it’s tradition.”

On social media, the response was as engaged as it was in 2018, when the Black Friday campaign was brand-new and unexpected.

On Black Friday, 543 virtual library card applications were submitted, up 84% above the NYPL’s daily average for the fiscal year. Donations to the library also skyrocketed: the library received 130 donations, up from 78 during the previous year’s campaign.

Both metrics serve as “a nice barometer for how many people we reached and moved to take action,” Montefinise said.

On social media, the campaign generated more than 3,200 likes and comments and the email campaign’s open rate was 11%.

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