Gruen’s Got It Right

The Gruen Transfer, aired last night on ABC1, has (in my opinion) hit the nail on the head (again).

The topic of discussion on last night’s show was religious advertising. Several ads were shown which really (again in my opinion) made Christianity look awful. One recurring comment by the panel of advertising experts was that Christian advertising is “out of touch” and simply “reaching the converted.”

I agree.

Have a look at this ad from Answers in Genesis in the U.S. The single line of voice-over says, “If you don’t matter to God, you don’t matter to anyone.” The aim of the organisation is to make people think that if we take away the Creator from the picture (i.e. embracing a non-literal view of Genesis 1), then we can expect more crime since human beings would not see other human beings as valued (made in God’s image).

But that isn’t stated, a disturbing image is used, and the symbols of innocence (white, child, rural setting) are used. Certainly this would only be understood by the initiated.

Russell Howcraft, one of the expert panelists commenting on this particular ad, said, “Fear is good at keeping people in. It’s not great at attracting people.” Together with a myriad of supporting evidence, it was concluded that churches and Christian organisations just don’t know how to reach everyday people. (To finalise this verdict, an entry into the “worst ad on TV” award was shown at the end of the show and, guess what? It’s a Christian Television Association ad that ran a number of years back using the song “I Got Three Pockets in my Overalls.”)

There is a wealth of creativity to be found in our churches and Christian organisations. There are also many intelligent, connected people who interact every day with people who aren’t into religion. Why can’t we channel that creativity and wisdom into producing high quality, believable advertising instead of settling for second-rate, cheesy, outdated offerings? Why aren’t we that in touch with the average Joe and Jane in our communities?

Or do we simply prefer agreement from our fellow Christians, the certainty and safety we experience when we “preach to the choir”?

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