The big game is this weekend. I forget, are we allowed to say Super Bowl? Is that some sort of copyright infringement?
The Super Bowl is now much more than just a game. It is an event… nearly a national holiday. Outside of the game, there are the parties and the shows and, of course, the ads.
This Sunday there will be two ads with a message that is perhaps new to the game. There will be two ads for Jesus. The He Gets Us campaign will debut two new ads, paying the big bucks for the most prestigious airtime in the marketing world.
Allow me to state my position. I am a fan. I am in favor and supportive of the He Gets Us campaign. When I first saw the ads, I was a bit skeptical, mostly because of the anonymity of the money behind the effort. But I came around. Endorsements by key leaders confirmed and sealed my support… people including Doug Clay (leader of the Assemblies of God, my archbishop I suppose), Nona Jones (author, preacher, and business leader), and Ed Stetzer (trusted Evangelical missiologist and supernerd). I was especially glad to know that Ed Stetzer is engaged in the project, including having a hand in the theological vetting of the content of the ads.
I am also glad to know that there is a coordinated effort to engage churches and Christians in leveraging the campaign, tools to share the Gospel and lead people to faith using the ads as catalysts for conversation. I’ll be in a leadership meeting with some of my tribe, the Assemblies of God, next week; the He Gets Us campaign is on the agenda, and I will do all I can to support our efforts together.
The best place to get started, if you haven’t yet, to find tools to leverage the campaign, is their partner website: hegetsuspartners.com. You’ll find a rich set of resources to help us engage conversations, take the conversations deeper, and follow up.
I hope that these efforts play a part in bringing many to faith. I don’t expect people to drop to their knees and get saved when they see an ad during the Super Bowl. But an ad can lead to a conversation. An ad can lead to further exploration. An ad can lead someone to pick up a Bible. An ad can urge someone to give church a try, again, or perhaps for the first time. An ad can lead someone to seek out a Christian friend for connection. An ad can play a small part, be one of many ingredients, that results in people believing Jesus. I hope the ads work.
I have another hope, too… and a closely related concern.
My hope is that the ads can play a role in refocusing believers, the Church, on Jesus.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I’m a marketing expert. But I am a student, having earned a graduate degree in the field. I also have decades of experience as a practitioner, specifically in advertising with a Christian message, having led marketing in Christian Higher Education for schools across the country; I’ve done some church advertising too. I have spent a lot of Kingdom money on ads, direct, local, and national.
Marketing folk know that, while usually targeted at potential and current customers, there is a vitally important, secondary target for marketing efforts; the organization’s own personnel, especially those in the sales force, are impacted. That is particularly the case with brand advertising.
Most of the Super-Bowl ads will be brand advertising, rather than specific product advertising. We won’t likely see an ad during the Super Bowl selling a specific product with a specific price at a specific location. The car dealer leasing Camrys for $299 a month on the outskirts of town can’t afford the airtime.
He Gets Us is brand advertising… and the brand is the He in He Gets Us; the brand is Jesus. What a brand! A unique brand for all sorts of reasons. One of the ways this brand is differentiated from all the other brands is that this brand lacks typical business structure.
If Toyota ran Super-Bowl ads this Sunday (they usually do, but apparently Toyota is skipping it this year) the corporate heads would control the brand message and control every aspect of the brand throughout the process. They would coordinate the product specs, manufacturing, sales and delivery. The impact to the bottom line would not merely be the impact of an ad, but more likely a result of the tightly controlled integration of the entire process, from design to delivery.
Not so with He Gets Us; there is no tight control from headquarters or a comprehensive coordinated campaign that runs all the way through to sales and delivery. The He Gets Us folk are on their own. Organizations, denominations, and networks are on their own. Individual churches are pretty much on their own. And individual Christians are on our own. The only real control and coordination we have is in God’s Hands; perhaps the Holy Spirit is better than a corporate campaign plan. I suppose we will see.
Now, back to my hope that the campaign will impact personnel.
When a corporation like Toyota does a campaign, they expect the sales force to adopt the brand language. The brand campaign identifies priorities and shapes the way personnel think about and talk about the brand.
I hope we get some of this with the He Gets Us campaign. Sometimes we forget the main thing; churches forget that Jesus is the main thing. The campaign could help us refocus on Jesus. We also forget that Jesus is for everyone, not merely our cliques. The campaign could help us remember that Jesus is relevant… that with a little effort, we can connect Jesus to today’s needs in today’s circumstances, even with today’s language.
I hope that the campaign reaches people, and I hope it invigorates the brand’s personnel, believers in our churches.
That leads me to my related concern.
There is an adage that goes something like this: the quickest, most effective way to kill a business is with great advertising.
It isn’t that great advertising kills a business. Great advertising is great for a great business. But great advertising can be really bad for a bad business.
Grizzled marketing practitioners have stories. One might go like this. A new restaurant opens to a packed house, even long lines because the advertising was so great. But customers find that the restaurant really wasn’t ready. They were overwhelmed. There was chaos resulting in bad service and crummy food. Word spread and the great advertising was quickly undone by the trusted word of mouth. The ads did not match the reality… at least not yet. Business never recovered and the doors were closed.
An early mentor of mine would often say, “Bad is worse than good is good.” Raising expectations but then leaving them unfulfilled does damage, sometimes irreparable damage.
Should we be concerned that the way Jesus is portrayed in the He Gets Us campaign does not match the way Jesus is portrayed in churches?
The campaign obviously casts a wide net. The message, the words, the music, the images… everything aligns with an inclusive message culminated in the simple, last words that tag every ad: All of us. The ads appear to purposefully challenge what the prevailing culture may think about church, especially affluent evangelical churches. The ads are edgy. One might come away from the ads thinking that Jesus gets us, all of us, regardless of race, class, background, wealth, politics, or even sexual preference.
What if someone found themselves in our church but found that all of us does not include them? Does all of us include a rebel or a liberal. Does all of us include people who are poor or gay? Do we look like an all-of-us people, multi-ethnic, multi-generational?
Let’s ask ourselves if we are ready to receive people who expect an all-of-us welcome. Are our churches and Christian organizations ready? Are you and I ready for a conversation with someone with all-of-us expectations. Can we ready ourselves? Shouldn’t we ready ourselves?
Sadly, I’m sure that my concern is well founded in some cases. There will be people who, change their minds, give Jesus a chance, respond to the all-of-us message in the ads, but find themselves in churches, or in conversations with Christians, who are not welcoming to all of us.
Apart from the miraculous, some will end up worse off.
But it is a risk worth taking because there are lots of us all-of-us Christians in lots of all-of-us churches. Perhaps the ads will even nudge a few more of us into the all-of-us category. God help us.
If you would like to continue the conversation, perhaps with some coaching or consulting, reach out today. It could be that Greatifiers has some tools and approaches that would help make your good thing great.