The Book on Mullen

Mullen this week breaks ads to introduce the fourth edition of Houghton Mifflin’s American Heritage Dictionary, a publication the company deemed its most significant re-lease of the year. The budget is in the mid-seven figures.

Four conceptual color ads feature the headline, “Upgrade your language.” One ad contains a road sign that reads, “Slippery When Aqueous.” In another execution, a “Don’t Walk” sign reads “Don’t Ambulate.”

“If you look at all the advertising in the category, they’re black-and-white photos of dictionaries,” said Mullen group creative director Rob Rich, adding that most of Houghton Mifflin’s competitors, which include Oxford, Merriam Webster and Random House, focus on new words. “It’s wallpaper. There is no advertising that I would imagine is very effective, unless you’re in the mood to buy a dictionary,” Rich said of competitors’ ads.

“The idea is to show accessibility and color for the first time,” said Nancy Grant, vice president and director of reference and guidebook marketing at Houghton Mifflin, Boston.

The assignment for Mullen, Wenham, Mass., also includes planning, public relations, design of the jacket and hardcover portion of the book, point-of-purchase displays and a sales brochure.

Ads are running through December in national and regional publications such as The New Yorker, New York Times Book Review, USA Today, Offspring, Los Angeles Magazine and Washingtonian Magazine.