Heidi MacDonald reports on the WEBTOON advertising blitz:
I don’t take the subway very often here in NYC, but other local Beat staffers (and a smattering of other social media postings) have noted that Webtoon has launched a pretty prominent subway advertising campaign around town.
I witnessed these Webtoon subway ads myself last Friday night at the Bedford L stop – a complete takeover of the station, generally known as the “hippest” subway stop in NYC, the “Gateway to Williamsburg.”
These Webtoon subway ads are all part of a program to make Webtoon a prominent content studio worldwide, and this splashy campaign – complete with timely catchphrases about doom scrolling and so on – is certainly one way to do that.
Well, maybe not the full story, that Beat report got noticed:
An advertisement from Webtoon, one of the largest online comic publishers, recently went viral for all the wrong reasons. The advertisement, which appeared in New York City’s subway stations, featured artwork from Lore Olympus with the text “Comics are literature’s fun side-hustle.” The advertisement soon gained notice by artists and creators who took to social media after the ad was posted on Twitter by Andy Bass creator Kennedy Homan, very unhappy that their work was being reduced to a “side-hustle”. Now, Webtoon has issued an apology for the controversial advertisement.
On Tuesday, the company posted an official statement to their Twitter apologizing to creators and promising to update the advertisements “as soon as possible”.
“To every creator in our community today: we apologize. We want the world to know that comics are for everyone. That everyone who loves great stories in any format will also love your comics. But our ad copy missed the mark,” the statement read. “We live and breathe comics every day. They aren’t a side hustle, a second choice, or an afterthought. They are what we live for…”
There’s a long, if not entirely proud, tradition of comics publishers struggling with just how to promote themselves through taglines that attempt to reposition the company for potential new readers. I’m old enough to remember both “DC Comics Aren’t Just For Kids” appearing on a regular basis in the mid-to-late 1980s …
… of course; there was that point in the 1960s when Stan Lee hit upon the idea of just renaming Marvel Comics as “Marvel Pop-Art Productions,” which remains a high-water mark for treading the fine line between pretension and internalized self-hatred in comics to this day.
All of this comes to mind when considering Webtoon’s recent ad campaign and promotional push … the approach for this particular campaign could best be described as “Self-Conscious Hipster.” Slogans for the campaign include “We basically invented doomscrolling,” “Oops 9PM turned into 3AM again” – because you’ve spent so long scrolling through the comics you’ve lost six hours, get it? – and, perhaps most dramatically, “Comics are literature’s fun side-hustle.”