Written by Daniel Hazard
New TV spot likely to debut in late March
The UCC's newest television ad appears heading for a late March premiere, according to General Minister and President John H. Thomas.
"The expectation is that we will run the ad at Eastertime, in plenty of time to invite prospective visitors to our Palm Sunday and Easter services," Thomas told United Church News on Jan. 17.
Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, falls on April 9 this year.
As of press time, specific air dates and times had not been finalized. But, as Thomas indicated, "The leadership of the church is fully expecting that this will happen."
The content of the commercial is still under wraps, but Ron Buford, coordinator of the UCC's Stillspeaking Initiative, describes the newest 30-second spot as "funny and whimsical, while still being able to drive home our consistent message of extravagant welcome."
In late 2005, contributors gave $1.5 million to support the airing of a new TV commercial, expecting it to air in Advent. However, church leaders deferred that ad buy for at least three months until some complicated financial issues could be resolved. Now, Thomas says, the ad will get its much-anticipated launch.
"This has given us time to complete the necessary fundraising and prepare our churches for the launch of the new ad," Thomas said.
A $2 million ad buy is planned, with the commercial running prominently on more than 20 cable networks and "reaching 60 to 70 percent of the population," Buford said.
While Buford conceded that it "doesn't look promising" that broadcast networks will agree to run the ad, he still believes the UCC's message will get a broad hearing.
"With most people watching cable so much these days, it's possible to do a major ad buy on cable networks only," Buford said, noting that Gotham Inc., the UCC's advertising agency, has consistently urged the church to proceed with a cable-only run, arguing it's just as effective and more cost-efficient. But church leaders have long maintained that access to traditional networks is a justice issue, because broadcast channels reach those who cannot afford cable.
"We're going to focus this time on some Spanish-speaking channels," Buford added. The new commercial is being produced in English and Spanish versions, and the Stillspeaking website is translating critical pieces of its web content into Spanish, he said.
Buford said still-outstanding pledges of $115,000 from individuals and commitments of $114,000 from churches need to be honored before the ad airs.
"Now is the time to come forward to fulfill those commitments so we can be successful," said Buford, who fears that some may have withheld or diverted contributions when the ad didn't run in December, as previously expected.