Written by Daniel Hazard
UCC advertisements will take to cyberspace this month - not the airwaves - as the denomination launches its most ambitious online advertising campaign to date.
In October, the Executive Council approved a $50,000 web-based ad buy for December and early January, with the hope that additional gifts from churches and individuals will enable an even larger ad buy, perhaps as much as $85,000.
By comparison, the church saw impressive returns on its web-ad investment last year, when it purchased only $10,000 in internet ads in March 2005. It upped that amount to $20,000 when internet ads accompanied the "Ejector" TV spots in April 2006.
This month's campaign debut represents the largest investment by the church in internet advertising. Church leaders say it's a good use of resources, since it provides new uses for existing ads and promotes them in a cost- effective way to new audiences.
Young people now spend more time in front of computer screens than TV screens, research indicates. Dubbed the "All the People" campaign, the Advent run will prominently feature the warm-and-touching "All the People" (or "Steeple") ad which, until now, has aired only briefly during a limited run on TV in March 2005.
The internet campaign also will incorporate use of the edgier "Bouncer," "Ejector," and the Spanish-version "Eyector" ads, especially in reaching out to targeted audiences.
The UCC ads will be placed on various internet sites and blogs, with the hope of reaching general audiences in addition to targeted groups, such as youth, young families with children, gays and lesbians, social justice advocates, and the Spanish-speaking community.
"The most common expression will be the 'Steeple' ad," says the Rev. Robert Chase, the UCC's communications director. "It will be an interactive, web-based campaign that will tie in nicely with the Advent and Christmas seasons. It's intended to be spiritual, worship-related and include social action."
Chase refers to the web-based effort as "God is still speaking 2.0," because it is designed to be "a series of engagements" where people are invited to "participate in the campaign, not just watch it."
For example, viewers will asked to click through and sign a pledge promising to pray for "all the people" during Advent. In return, e-mail invitations will be sent, asking participants to attend a UCC Christmas Eve service. And, spiritually-enriching "gifts" will be offered. "It's a way to up the level of engagement," he says.
Marilyn Dubasak, coordinator of the Stillspeaking Initiative, says one of the greatest learnings throughout the Stillspeaking campaign has been the benefit of raising the level of engagement for current members, in addition to reaching out to potential members.
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