Shock new Jesus ads look like winners

Jeremy Halcrow

This may come as a shock - but the 'Jesus All About Life' (JAAL) adverts have been dumped.

Not the Bible Society's plan for statewide mass media advertising blitz in September and October promoting Jesus.

Rather the well-known existing advertising creative.

JAAL spokesman Karl Faase flagged this in a video released late last week.

Support for JAAL has been strong amongst Sydney Anglicans with over 214 churches signing up.

There has been especially great anticipation amongst Wollongong's Anglican churches.

The Wollongong churches have raised $120,000 to run the media campaign in the Illawarra. This has been raised largely through asking individual churches to donate to the campaign, although the region's official Anglican body, the Wollongong Regional Council, donated $8,000 to the campaign.

How will these churches react to the changes?

Changes win over JAAL critic

In April McCrindle research reported on focus groups with the main target audience in Sydney: those with some previous affiliation with the churches.

The results were devastating for the old concept.

"There was a strong push back on those adverts," said Bible Society NSW CEO Daniel Willis. "They found it was too passive in its call to action, people found them too cheesy and staged. the advert didn't touch their hearts and minds."

Mr Willis said the Bible Society always expected the six-year-old campaign originally designed for Adelaide would need to be revised for Sydney. However the research clarified their concerns: the existing adverts were out-dated, too waspish and North Shore.

"We knew there wasn't enough ethnic mix," said Mr Willis. "But Sydney is much more fragmented and multicultural. Sydney is very cynical and street-wise; pragmatic rather than self-reflective."

As a result, a new advertising agency - 303 Creative - was engaged.

For mine, the results are far more edgy and sassy, built around a far more confrontational tagline: "Jesus has answers".

The initial teaser may sound a bit weak.

"Jesus, thanks for the sunshine. but what about sunburn?: Jesus has answers"

But this teaser needs to be seen in the context of the overall campaign.

This advert will be quickly followed by a full-frontal attack on materialism.

How come the more you spend. the more you want?: Jesus has answers

And then a brilliant exposé on the lack of community and increasing isolation of contemporary life.

Picture: Two young people sitting on computers using Facebook

Voice over: We've got more friends. but less friendship: Jesus has answers

Dominic Steele from Christians in the Media, who had been a vocal critic of the old JAAL adverts, told me he feels very positive about this last advert because it pushes the viewer towards a central issue for the gospel: your relationship with God.

Concern at changes

But given the response when the changes were presented at an information night on Tuesday, some churches are going to be upset that the original 'all about life' concept is no more.

Is this response just a natural aversion to change rather than thought-out critique?

A number of Sydney Anglican leaders expressed nervousness about what they perceive as 'last minute changes' although they are happy to take a 'wait and see' attitude.

"We've signed up for one thing and now it's changed. we'll have to take it on trust," said one.

However, as a media professional, I think the flexibility of this new approach is very smart.

In churches we are used to planning preaching programs and outreach campaigns a year out. But modern media doesn't work that way.

This was similar to the advice the advertising agency gave the Bible Society: you need to have enough flexibility to react to last minute changes in the news cycle.

It would be insane to launch a campaign with an advert thanking Jesus "for sunshine" if there is suddenly a terrorist attack in Sydney.

Daniel Willis says: "Churches need to learn how to use the media. We haven't used the media effectively."

The Rev Greg Burke from St Anne's, Ryde - and Sydney Diocese's representative on the JAAL working group along with Evangelism Ministries’ Jim Ramsay - says he wants to encourage Sydney Anglicans to 'get on board' the new campaign and be actively involved.

"As a reputable Christian organisation the Bible Society has organised a campaign that, among other things, will spend around $2 million on prime-time ads promoting the name of Jesus. This has to be a good thing.

"Any church registered can advertise any event they are running on the JAAL website. The TV ad will refer people to the site and some will at least consider their local Anglican Church as a ‘next step’ option.

"What we make of it is up to us.”

What do you think?

Latest News

Related Reading