Friday, November 18, 2011

"I'm a Mormon" Ad Campaign

The New York Times published the following article yesterday:
Mormons' Ad Campaign May Play Out in the '12 Campaign Trail

From the article:

Brandon Burton, president and general manager of Bonneville Communications, an advertising agency owned by the church, said that the church’s previous, long-running media campaign promoted the church’s doctrine, providing a toll-free number to call for a free Bible or Book of Mormon. However, this new campaign introduces doctrine only if a viewer seeks out the Web site

“What we found was that in order for people to have a desire to understand doctrinally what the church stands for, it was necessary for us to overcome the stigmas that existed,” said Mr. Burton in an interview. The biggest stigma, said those involved in the campaign, is the belief that Mormons are not Christians.

I feel somewhat guilty saying this, but I have some concerns about these new ads. When they first began a year ago, I was pretty excited. I loved them. Gosh, I write about being a Mormon on my blog more times than I can count! But something about the way Mormons are represented lately bothers me. And it's this: Mormons are all about being "cool" these days. They want to show the world that they are "just like everyone else."

Stephen B. Allen, managing director of the church's missionary department, is in charge of the ad campaign, and the Times quotes him as saying, "We're not secretive, and we're not scared of what people think of us."

I only partly believe him. I think he is right in saying that Mormons are not secretive. If they don't share a particular belief with someone who is not a Mormon, I'd say it's largely because they don't quite know how to answer a question with the proper context, tone, and clarity. That's an issue for anyone who tries to explain their faith to a non-believer.

I do think, however, that Mormons are generally scared -- well, anxious -- about what people think of them. To me, this campaign is trying to sell the idea that Mormons are cool. They do cool things in cool clothes and have cool jobs. That may be true. A lot of Mormons around the world do lots of interesting things, but a lot of them -- and I'd wager to say "most" of them -- do average things. And it's sometimes extremely difficult for people to live the standards of the church or understand the doctrine and principles, which are peculiar.

I, for one, like to embrace that peculiarity. I like the old Mormon ads that promoted the church's doctrine. Those were straightforward and cute. (Take this one, for example: Daddy, will you read me a story?)

On the other hand, I really like the new ads. They are visually great, and I love hearing people talk about themselves. I suppose my conflict with them is closely tied to the many articles I've read over the last few months. All this "Mormon mania" stuff is really interesting to me . . . It feels like Mormons are trying too hard to be like everyone else. Maybe it's not a bad thing. (Maybe in writing this post, I've just convinced myself that it's not.) But I'm just wondering . . .

What do you think, readers?
By all means, leave a comment!

Thing I'm thankful for: perfect weather. :)


Blogger cardlady said...

Fantastic viewpoint, as usual. You are extremely talented, as a writer and other ways. Love YOU MOM

6:43 PM  
Blogger jackie said...

I think the campaign is great because if anything it peaks interest. I can't count how many people I've known who have never even heard of our church. Not one thing about it. Not even the word Mormon.

Maybe one of these people will see a ad and decide to find out more. What they do with the information they receive is up to them, but at least they're being exposed.

Also, whether or not someone is "cool" is totally subjective.

8:31 AM  
Blogger Rob and Schaefer Bell said...

I'm with Jackie- Cool is subjective. I can see your point of view and how it looks though Sara. Keep in mind this is a national effort, and also international. I think on that large of a scale it really needs to be general "peak the interest" campaign like Jackie said. I think we can remain unique and yet campaign that we are a lot like everyone else. With the amount of polygamy related things making a big splash all over TV, it is really good for the church to separate themselves from that. Maybe in the end that makes us more like the general public and less like them... Random thought. Now I'm preaching. Anyway, point is- In a large scale, very general way, we need to help people see we are everyday people with everyday problems. They will be interested then realize we are Christians. Which is, in the South one of our greatest battles. I'm done. Sorry :)

9:11 AM  
Blogger Saule Cogneur said...

Many commenters on articles like the NYT one say something of the effect of, "You're covering an onion with carmel and selling it as a carmel apple." I too feel the ads are a bit disingenuous. The people in them are great but very vague about the Church itself, which is precisely why people like me are automatically skeptical.

That said, I do still feel the ads are more like Ammon's "serve first, preach later" approach than that of the greasy salesman who refuses to tell you what he actually sells. Overall, I think the proclamation of normality/coolness will be good for the Church's image.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Amanda said...

I also think the campaign is a great missionary tool and a way to challenge the stereotypical view that all members of the Church are polygamous. Most members of the church are normal people. The Church influences everything in my life, but being a member is only one facet of who I am, and I think that's the point of the campaign.

There are hipster members, and "cool" members, and socially awkward members, famous members, stay-at-home mom and dad members...the list goes on. Showing people who we are is likely to get us further than just preaching. I like the Ammon analogy someone else used. :) Great blog, Sara!

12:11 PM  
Blogger Janelle Joy said...

Amen to that Sara....the biggest thing that bothers me about the ad is word "Mormon". I believe several of our church leaders have requested that we refer to ourselves as Latter-Day-Saints, or LDS. I'm sure that the people use Mormon because the world knows us as that, but I think it's time that they know our proper name. :) Anyways, that's my two cents.

9:52 AM  

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