Friday, September 28, 2007

New UUA Commercial

Ummm... Wow.

I don't hate it, but hm... one of the things I want in a marketing campaign is that I'd like it to attract the sort of people I actually want to attend church with, and I'm not sure that will.

It's a little angry almost, and I think San Francisco is a weird market for an ad that is really obviously directed at people who have a very polarized view of God. San Franciscans, whatever my other complaints about them might be, seem hip to the idea that people have lots of views of God.

My guess is that commercial would get us more members in a market like Atlanta or Austin, where sophisticated people live surrounded by those who have a more polarized view of God. People who think "Mango thoughts in a meatloaf town," as Meg Barnhouse put it.

Such people are often still pretty angry, though.

That said, I've only ever even seen one commercial for a church that made me want to attend that church. The Methodists made it. Though oddly it isn't on YouTube, you can view it here by scrolling about halfway down the page and looking to the left.

who realize how upper middle class and snobbish parts of her reaction are, but feels like honoring her upper middle class snobbishness in this instance because upper middle class snobs are a pretty reasonable marketing segment for us.

(The below started out as a response to Joel's comment, but I'm posting it with the rest of the message because I'm thinking the original message didn't get my point across.)

(((Joel Monka said...
The Mormons make good commercials, too. But those churches have the advantage of a uniform creedo accepted in every congregation within their denominations. What could we possibly say in a commercial that would be true of every UU congregation other than what was said in that commercial?

Don't judge the Methodist commercial by its denomination.

Watch it first.

Or if you can't, know that the commercial features a woman driving around town leaving packages in public places, most notably in what looks like a more run-down area, as non-descript music plays in the background.

She pulls into her own driveway, and a package just like the ones she has been leaving around is waiting for her on the porch of her very nice-looking house. She looks around, surprised and pleased as the picture fades into the methodist logo.

The voiceover says:

"If you're searching for your ways to share your gifts with others, and possibly even recieve something in return, our hearts, our minds, and our doors are always open. The people of the United Methodist Church."

There's not a bit of creed in there, and nothing our commercials couldn't say or do. I see God acting through that woman, but the commercial doesn't dwell on the point in any way that would be offensive to even the most sensitive athiests.

It's slightly on the sappy side, but I find a lot of things slightly on the sappy side.

Mostly, I think it's brilliant. It makes me want to join that church in doing good, not join a church in sneering other churches.

And, I should mention, it came out in 2003, and I never forgot it.



Robin Edgar said...

No kidding. . .

Joel Monka said...

The Mormons make good commercials, too. But those churches have the advantage of a uniform creedo accepted in every congregation within their denominations. What could we possibly say in a commercial that would be true of every UU congregation other than what was said in that commercial? Had they added one more sentence, it would have been too controversial to be accepted by many UU congregations.

Comrade Kevin said...

To echo Joel's comments, UUism is often so loathe to offend anyone's sensibilities that forming any uniform position is impossible. Instead, all that is left is the lowest common denominator. Anything meaty or substantive has been stripped away, and all that is left is the lightweight framework.

As it stands, that commercial passes UU muster, but what does it really say, Chalice Chick? The commercial invites a million questions--the most obvious is..."I know now a little bit of what you don't believe, so now please tell me what DO you believe in?"

Chalicechick said...

One more time, I think the Methodist commercial I reference later on in the post does a very fine job of making a religious message that means something without turning non-theists off.

If you don't believe me that such a commercial could exist would you please WATCH THE METHODIST COMMERCIAL I ASK YOU TO WATCH or read the summary I went to the trouble of writing before telling me that what I say it does is impossible to do?

If you want to watch it and say "No, CC, that Methodist commercial was stupid and I think UUs would hate it because presents remind people of Christmas and we all know UUs hate Santa" or give me another rationale that suggests you've watched it, I'm open to that, though I hope you can do better rationale-wise than what I just made up.

But I'm not defending the UU commercial, particularly, "I'm saying, the methodist commercial is something that does a better job and gets across a better message, and still wouldn't offend non-theists."


Robin Edgar said...

Yes but I am pretty sure that I, Joel, and Kevin were all talking about the U*U commericial not the Methodist one CC. in fact my "no kidding" was in response to you saying -

"because upper middle class snobs are a pretty reasonable marketing segment for us."

Which was your parting shot before you added to your post. For the record I like the various Mormon ads that I have seen and they make U*U publicity look pretty lame by comparison. More later. . .

Chalicechick said...

I know that people are talking about the UU commercial, my point is that they keep saying it is impossible to do something that I think the other commercial I linked to just did.

What I don't get is why they don't bother to look at the Methodist ad that I think does a perfectly fine job of presenting religious ideas in a way that can be interpreted both theistically and non theistically, because if the methodists can do it, so can we.

As for you, I know you almost never agree with me unless I'm insulting UUism or complementing you, so I took that exactly the way you intended it.


Robin Edgar said...

I had no idea that you were insulting U*Uism when you said -

"because upper middle class snobs are a pretty reasonable marketing segment for us."

To borrow a phrase from Rev. Ray Drennan, I thought you were "just being honest. . ." ;-)

As far as the Methodist ad goes I have not yet bothered to look at it but, if my memory serves me well, the Mormon ads that I saw do a perfectly fine job of presenting religious ideas in a way that can be interpreted both theistically and non theistically too.

I will have more to say about the U*U ads after I have properly reviewed them but, so far. . . they look pretty lame.

Chalicechick said...

The Mormon ads in my town are too preachy for my taste, but the Canadian mormons may well have different ads.

But anyway, yes, you see my point that it is possible to do a moving ad that is not in any way dogmatic, but speaks to human values in an engaging way.

I certainly think something can be both insulting and true. Most of the insults that hurt my feelings the most are the ones that on some level I suspect are true.

Comrade Kevin said...

Chalice Chick,

To begin, let me tell you that I respect you. I enjoy reading your blog and I appreciate that you give me an opportunity to voice my opinion.

I want you to know that I watched the United Methodist commercial in its entirety before commenting. I want you to also know that as a recent convert to Christianity, I find it relieving rather than concerning to know that I can openly make reference to Jesus, God, Christmas, and other intrinsically Christian religious conceptions without fear of offending someone.

I'm glad I can state my position as a believer in God, without having to add a caveat that I'm not like THOSE believers at the Baptist church down the road.

I think you may have missed the point of my original comment. If UUs wanted to take the United Methodist commercial at its word, then everyone's spiritual gift would be welcome and appreciated for enriching the community as a whole.

This is a circumstance where UU doctrine is superseded by UU reality. UUism claims that it respects the inherent worth and dignity of all people. It claims to be a faith that worships difference of belief.

In reality, so long as a person's spiritual gift is not anything remotely objectionable to anyone--so long as their unique gift doesn't remind anyone of their own negative religious experience---then they are allowed to proclaim it without being criticized.

Put this way, UUs sound like a bunch of touchy, freshly wounded victims of some sort of communal emotional abuse. In my opinion, it's a serious fallacy for any faith tradition to even attempt to to be everything for everyone. Where is it decreed in life, to say nothing of religion, that I or you or anyone can have everything exactly the way we want it? It may not be fair, but that's how it goes.

I don't agree with everyone Christianity stands for or has stood for in times past. I take some parts of scripture and some church doctrines with a serious grain of salt. Here's the main idea: I do not think that there will ever be any sort of institutionalized perfect faith.

UUism can exist as a singular exercise by one person in a vacuum. But because every person has a different conception of what faith means to them, as well as what they want out of it, as well as their own view of what they DO NOT want it to be, seeking to find a faith which appeals to everyone equally in the same way is a fool's task.

For every person you add, you can be sure that more and more layers of meaning and substance are effectively stripped away.

UUism will work when the human race either becomes perfect or thinks in total lock-step, like robots.

In the meantime, it is nice to be belong to a faith tradition with a backbone. UUism, in my humble opinion, has so effectively and resolutely defined what it is NOT that it cannot easily define what it IS.

Robin Edgar said...

"I certainly think something can be both insulting and true. Most of the insults that hurt my feelings the most are the ones that on some level I suspect are true."

No kidding again CC. . .

You really hit the nail on the head here. That is precisely why I have repeatedly told U*Us that as long as they keep telling insulting and slanderous lies about me, I will be telling some rather unpleasant truths about U*Us. . .

The truth hurts a hell of alot morev than lies.

Robin Edgar said...

And yes.

I will most certainly be telling some rather unpleasant truths about the highly misleading, if not outright fraudulent, false advertising of the UUA's brand spanking new national marketing campaign.

Bill Baar said...

I think the Methodist ad could easily have been made a UU ad; certainly for my Church. One big reason we belong is the opportunity to give something to the community, and we have received, sometimes unexpectedly, in return.

I'm not sure UU's in the habit of thinking of Church as an exchange of gifts so we wouldn't be inclined to advertize it although I think it's why many of us belong.

I didn't think the UU ad bad. Not great either... Frankly I'd rather see something more like the Marines too: The few, the proud, the UU's... Instead of saying were a faith for those who can't find homes in other Churches, turn it around and say were not a Faith for everyone... if you get my drift here.

Chris said...

The Methodist ad is great. I love all the good things that it implies in a very focused, memorable message. Thanks for the link.

(From a relatively new UU who works on his church's website and marketing.)

Chalicechick said...


I think part of the reason you and I talk past each other so often is that I go to a large urban UU church where we do have Christians and nobody treats it as an especially big deal.

Indeed, we have an interim minister who identifies as a Christian UU. Some of my minister buddies from the internet also identify as Christian and the Christian services and meetings at GA are always quite full.

So intellectually I understand that you didn't feel comfortable talking about Jesus as a UU, but I know so many UUs who talk about Jesus quite a bit that I do have trouble getting my head around your difficulty.

I've never attended a UU church that didn't have lots of theists. I am a theist with a very non-interventionist view of God, so paradoxically less theistic services work better for me because theistic services are always talking about God doing things that I don't believe God does.

I don't believe a person's spiritual gift has to be something I personally believe in. I've learned a lot from Joel Monka, for example, who is a pagan and believes in lot of things I don't. I've learned a lot from my aunt, who has done a fair amount of theological writing but denominiationally a quaker-influenced Presbyterian. I've written recently that watching Jewish friends wrestle with atonement during the high holy days has taught me a lot, too.

I retain lots of stuff I learned from the Presbyterians, though I no longer view it the same way I once did.

I did once give a lay sermon that a lady in the congregation found to theistic. She chided me about it, I argued back and we went out for Chinese food.

So yeah, it does sound like you've been to some really screwed-up UU churches, and I'm sorry about that, but not all churches are like that.


Anonymous said...

CC, I like that Methodist ad too. Thanks for pointing it out to us. I agree that it could work equally well for UUs. I don't find the Bay Area ad fully satisfactory, but I do want to give them props for trying, since so few UUs engage in this type of marketing. In fact, given how rare it is, I'd be surprised if they'd gotten it right the first time and didn't have more to learn.

I also have to echo your thoughts about Christianity in UUism. I grew up UU and was never given an inhibition about talking about God, Jesus, the Bible, Christmas, Easter, etc. All of these were part of the explicit life of my church, from our yearly Christmas pageant to the Gospel verse on the outside of the church to Bible study in Sunday School to the stained-glass Sermon on the Mount that dominated the pulpit. As I've grown I've discovered that UU churches vary widely in their local culture, and Kevin's church sounds very different from mine, where theism is normal (though not universal) and Protestantism (though not in a dogmatic mode) is still the primary influence and touchstone. That said, I haven't often encountered UU churches where I thought I'd be unwelcome if I discussed God, but again, churches vary and I can believe that Kevin's experiences in other places were different and necessitated a denominational switch.

Chalicechick said...

Thanks Jeff!

I should probably clarify that I DO understand "I need to be someplace where I'm surrounded by people who believe the Christiany things about God that I do. I worship best that way."

I don't feel that way myself, but I get it.

What I don't get is "I can't possibly even MENTION God or Jesus or what I believe! Surely I would be pilloried for it!"

I just don't get that. When I posted on beliefnet, I had the rather cynical habit of figuring out what churches the people who said things like that attended, almost invariably, I would go to that church's website, pull up the calendar and see that the bible was taught in RE and they had Christmas pageants and such. Sometimes even a bible discussion group. But those people felt persecuted anyway.

I'm not saying that this is true of you, Kevin, and again, if your concerns are more about being surrounded by people who believe as you do, I totally get that, but it is a bit of cognitive dissonance to hear what you say when I'm doing a series on the bible for YRUU and listening to sermons inspired by Elaine Pagels books.


Anonymous said...

That's a good distinction to make, CC, between wanting to be surrounded only (more or less) by people who believe and worship in the way that you do, and the feeling that you can't believe or worship in the way you do because others in your church would somehow actively harass you for it. The former is valid and if that's what someone wants (and it is indeed what many people want), more power to them and I hope they find the right environment.

On the other hand, I hear stories about people feeling theologically oppressed, yet never seem to experience it myself. I have been to a lot of UU churches at this point, in different parts of the country (and outside the USA). They varied considerably at times, but I never felt like I'd get attacked if I talked about God, Jesus, Bible, etc. Of course, I didn't conduct rigorous experiments to determine if this impression was true, though certainly there were times when I engaged in discussion of God etc. I don't know if this feeling that people have is based on actual attacks they have experienced (as opposed to urban legends), or comes from some sort of assumption of possible attack based on other factors. If they have experienced actual direct attacks, to the degree that they felt driven from the church, that is deplorable and should not be tolerated. But personally, I have never actually witnessed such behavior in a UU setting. So maybe it's actually more of the first attitude of wanting relatively uniform corporate belief and worship that is in operation.

Chalicechick said...

Exactly. The weird thing is, I DO hear people say snide things about Republicans, so I know it's not that I'm just not paying attention to anti-Christian stuff, from the pulpit or otherwise.

A YRUU will sometimes snidely say something anti-Christian, but usually another YRUU will jump in and say "hey, that's not cool" before I even get a chance.


Steve Caldwell said...


Maybe it's my military service influencing my opinion here, but is it really responsible to go around town leaving unmarked gift packages? All you're doing is making a lot of extra work for the police bomb disposal squad.

Seriously -- how about the "bouncer" ad created by the United Church of Christ? Would a UU version of that (with minor changes in script to reflect that we're not uniformly Christian or uniformly theist) be OK for us?

Finding a way to say radical hospitality and something about our mostly-implicit theology in a 30 second soundbite is damned hard.

Chalicechick said...

(((Maybe it's my military service influencing my opinion here, but is it really responsible to go around town leaving unmarked gift packages? All you're doing is making a lot of extra work for the police bomb disposal squad.)))

That was funny. CC laughed out loud.


Catherine said...

I've been going to my local UU church since last spring so the reasons I was/am drawn to UUism are pretty fresh for me. I'd like to see a commercial that mentions the study program for kids - especially the bit about exploring various faith traditions and emphasizing personal spiritual integrity. People who don't think they need a spiritual practice for themselves will still see the value in that. In fact, that's pretty much all I said when talking to a friend yesterday about the church and she's bringing her family to check it out next week.

I thought the ad was ok, but the kid in the beginning looked like he was being forced. I hope they polish it up before they bring it to Seattle.

Robin Edgar said...

Bill Barr said: "Frankly I'd rather see something more like the Marines too: The few, the proud, the UU's..."

I think U*Us would do well to lay off their over-weaning pride aka "the hubris of the U*Us" for a few years or even a few decades. . . Are U*Us proud of |this?

Joel Monka said...

Well, come to think of it, it IS better than that Star King Seminary video ad.

Rev NDM said...

I know the Methodist commercials you're talking about, and I've always loved them (they've been around for some time now in different forms). I swear at the end if they asked me to drink the kool-aid I'd do it...they are welcoming, inviting, they demonstrate diversity without making a big banner that says "hey, we need more brown skinned people to make us white folks feel less guilty), there's a clear "social justice" aspect...just brilliant (and ditto the UCC ad).