Church Advertising Campaign Uses New Forms of Media
December 05, 2008
Pittsburgh United Methodist Churches Roll Out the Welcome Mat
PITTSBURGH: The United Methodist Church is going mobile with the "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors" welcoming and advertising campaign.
United Methodist Communications, the global communications agency for the 11.5-million member United Methodist Church, has chosen the Pittsburgh area to test a new mobile advertising strategy from now until Christmas Eve. The two-fold strategy incorporates text messaging along with outdoor advertising.
More than 40 billboards and transit shelter ads—aimed at reaching thousands of commuters and pedestrians—are going up in the Pittsburgh area this week. Other ads will be delivered to content subscribers of 4INFO, an ad-supported text message information service.
The ads feature messages of hope and prompt those who see the ads to text a keyword such as "BELIEVE" to a designated number. In response, they receive a longer message inviting them to attend a United Methodist Church at Christmas and giving them an opportunity to reply with their zip code to find a church in their area or get more information at UnitedMethodist.org.
Some of the text message ads incorporate text shorthand. For example: "God is F2T. CW2CU Xmas." (God is free to talk. Can’t wait to see you Christmas.)
"Christmas has been one of our peak advertising times since the beginning of the campaign—and in these dim economic times, it is especially important to give people hope and invite them to be part of our faith family," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications. "Now with new media, we can be more interactive and actually provide addresses of churches in their area."
The campaign is being delivered in partnership with the Western Pennsylvania regional conference of The United Methodist Church.
"We especially hope to bring more young people into our churches, and that means reaching out in new and innovative ways that are relevant to our target audience," said Bishop Thomas Bickerton. "We are pleased that the Pittsburgh area was chosen to test this new strategy."
The United Methodist Church began its welcoming and advertising campaign in 2001. The campaign has been successful in increasing attendance and raising awareness of the denomination.
The focus of the national campaign has primarily been cable television commercials aired each year around Lent, Advent, and the back-to-school season. In 2006, a large-scale outdoor advertising strategy was incorporated in 15 test markets. In 2007, the denomination ventured into online advertising with interactive ads incorporating poll questions and video.
In 2009, United Methodist Communications will be creating the next evolution of the "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors." campaign by seeking to redefine the traditional church experience as one that extends beyond the doors of the church and seeks to transform the world. The target audience will shift to a younger demographic: audiences between the ages of 18 and 34, as opposed to 25 to 54-year olds.
To reach a younger audience, other more contemporary, less traditional advertising channels— such as iTunes, YouTube, and other digital media—will be added to the mix over the coming year.