A Study in Advertising
By Robert L. Boothby
We are living in the age to which the children of God all through the centuries have looked with longing desire,— the time when prophecy meets fulfillment in the daily current events. It is a time not alone of intense interest, but one freighted with grave responsibility. The cities of the world are fast becoming like Sodom and Gomorrah, and the inhabitants of city, town, and hamlet have well-nigh forgotten God, and are plunging on to perdition. In the midst of this situation the Lord has established " a peculiar people " intrusted with Heaven's life-saving message, whose mission it is to " shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life." Phil. 2:15, 16.
One of the vital problems which must receive serious consideration by the ambassadors of the heavenly kingdom while in the realm of " the god of this world," is how most effectively and most appropriately to reach the minds of the multitude engrossed in the frivolities of modern life, and attract attention to the message which God is sending them as the last and final appeal to accept His Son Jesus Christ as Saviour, Redeemer, present Keeper, and Guide out of the maze of sin's destruction into the peace and harmony of surrender which petitions, " Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven."
In facing this problem, we are aware of the fundamental fact that all success in carrying forward our mission depends upon the power of the Holy Spirit guiding and operating in human channels. Without this, nothing can be accomplished in the spiritual realm. And yet our King has given to us a mind with which to grapple with the problems which present themselves iimbi a world of progress, and He expects u to study methods which are commensurate with the present need in effectively reaching the multitudes with the word of truth.
For our guidance at this particular time, we have this instruction:
"In the cities of to-day, where there is so much to attract and please, the people can be interested by no ordinary efforts. Ministers of God's appointment will find it necessary to put forth extraordinary efforts in order to arrest the attention of the multitudes. And when they succeed in bringing together a large number of people, they must bear messages of a character so out of the usual order, that the people will be aroused and warned. They must make use of every means that can possibly be devised for causing the truth to stand out clearly and distinctly."—"Testimonies," Vol. IX, p. 109.
One of the principal factors in the " extraordinary efforts " needed to " arrest the attention of the multitudes," is the matter of advertising; and in this advertising there must ever be maintained the dignity of the message, while at the same time producing A" striking and attractive effect. We a appropriately warned against sensational methods of advertising, but progress does not necessarily mean sensationalism; and " dignified " methods do not restrict to those which, though good, have become obsolete through the changing conditions in the world. It is not my purpose here to set forth any certain method of advertising which adequately meets the needs of the hour, for it is imperative that each minister give study to this question from the viewpoint of conditions in his particular field and adaptation to his own personality; but there are a few general principles governing modern methods of publicity in our day which may be worthy of some consideration in all places and under all circumstances.
1. Subject Titles.—First of all
p would mention the matter of subject titles. There is danger of becoming stereotyped in the phraseology of titles of subjects, and herein lies a large contributing factor to greatest success or apparent failure. We are on the stage of action where rapidity and intensity control. Things are happening—quickly, vividly, and on a large and venturesome scale. The running " to and fro " and the increase of knowledge so apparent in our day are pictured in the prophetic scrolls of inspiration; therefore we must conclude that it is expected that the children of God will keep abreast of the times, and use wisdom in announcing messages of truth which will not be out of order in the stirring issues of the day. This may involve dispensing with some of the " canned " sermons which have become stale and musty — not in substance, but in conveyance; it may mean that some of the sermon outlines of bygone days will need to be revised, and give way to added life and fervor in presentation of the subject. But caution is necessary, that in the endeavor to evolve new and modern titles for Biblical subjects, there is no resort to the exaggerated or the unreal. We must not advertise to furnish something which we do not have; we must not raise questions which we cannot answer in a clear Biblical manner. In other words, we should not stretch beyond our measure in order to attract attention, and make dashing statements which tend to deceive people, so that when they go away from the service they feel that they have not been furnished with what they were promised through the advertisement.
2. Use of Guts.—It is stated on good authority that 90 per cent of what we learn is imparted through visual education. Schools are now recognizing this principle, and much instruction formerly secured from books is now portrayed in pictures. That this is a true scientific principle, is revealed by the fact that the Bible contains many prophetic cartoons. There is a great deal of printed advertising put out to-day which is not read, but a picture in connection with it will catch the eye and rivet the attention. It has proved to be a decided advantage to use a striking cut in connection with display advertising in the newspapers, for folders, handbills, etc.
3. Newspaper Advertising.— One of the greatest mediums for advertising is the newspaper. Display advertising, accompanied by a good illustration, is very effective. Success does not depend so much upon the amount of space occupied, as upon the nature and the brevity of the composition and the approprialeness of the cut used. For newspaper write-ups, a few clear-cut comments will be accepted by the editor more quickly than a long article. The copy should be typewritten, double spaced, and the first page should begin about halfway down on the page, to leave room for the editor to indicate the heading. The most striking sentences should come first, and the necessary details follow. The condition in which the copy is presented has much to do with the editor's opinion as to whether the cause represented is worthy of newspaper publicity. It pays to make a friend of the editor, and to take special pains to let him know that his co-operation is always appreciated.
I have found it a good plan to have at least two or three newspaper articles appear before the beginning of a series of meetings, and after the meetings begin I furnish the editor with a short write-up of each Sunday night service, which is usually printed without charge. I prefer to begin the newspaper publicity on the Monday preceding the first Sunday of the meetings, as by this method I safeguard against any unfavorable propaganda which the local ministers might feel inclined to begin from their pulpits before I get started. Not all newspaper advertising has to be paid for. Properly prepared news write-ups will be welcomed by editors. I usually depend on the " paid " advertising to help create a favorable impression on the editors leading to the acceptance of further reports.
Posters.—Placing attractive posters in street cars is quite a satisfactory method, and this privilege is usually granted free. A large framed poster carried by hand up and down the business streets on Saturday evenings is also effective.
In gospel advertising, it is the message, not the messenger, which is to be made known. It is true that the human medium for giving the message must be in evidence; but the principle always applies — advertise the message more and the man less.
Fellow workers, the third angel's message is the biggest thing in the world, and may the Lord help us to realize the importance of exalting it in a holy manner, that the multitudes of earth's perishing millions, may be attracted by it.
By J. L. Shuler
Among the further factors which contribute to success in an evangelistic effort, are 5. Proper Location.— The location of the tent or auditorium should be in the most strategic and favorable point for securing an audience. We should make a study of the strategy of location, and note the divine strategy in the location of ancient Israel in Palestine at the crossroads of empire, the meeting place of the East and the West, or in the midst of the nations, as expressed in Ezekiel 5:5.
6. Order and Neatness.— The meeting place, whether indoors or outdoors, should be neat and attractive, and in keeping with the truths we have to present. An ill-kept tent or untidy meeting place is out of keeping with our work. People will judge the message we bear by the kind of place in which we preach and by the kind of efforts we put forth to make the message known.
7. Advertising.— The advertising should be ample, well planned, and of a dignified nature. Let the emphasis in advertising be placed on the message, not on the messenger. In cities of medium size, and in smaller places, newspaper advertising has proved to be the most effective method of publicity. Special study should be given to sermon titles, that they may have strong pulling power in getting an audience. To give a concrete example: Two evangelists began tent efforts in two different cities of about equal size in the same State, but about one hundred miles apart. Both men began their series of meetings with Daniel 2, but one speaker had three times as large an audience as the other. Both men had excellent locations, both hadditil good equipment. There was no difference in either of these features, except that the man who drew the larger crowd had the smaller tent. The names of the men had no special significance to the people of either city. Both advertised to the same extent, using the same mediums — newspaper, window cards, et cetera. What caused the difference in the size of the audience? It is attributed solely to the drawing title given to the subject by one of the evangelists, and failure to give special attention to an attractive title by the other. It is a demonstrated fact that the same amount of money spent in advertising will, in one case, result in a small audience, and in another case in an audience three or four times the size, depending on whether the wording of the advertisement is weak and commonplace, or such as will attract and grip the attention. This matter of " catchy " or " pulling " titles needs the most intensive and wide-awake study by the successful evangelist.
8. Personal Work.— There can be no real success without personal work on the part of the evangelist as well as of the other workers in the company. It is heart-to-heart work in the home that counts more than anything else. We read, " He who does faithful work outside of the pulpit, will accomplish tenfold more than he who confines his labors to the desk."—" Testimonies," Vol. IX, p. 124. It is worth while ever to bear in mind that there will be ten times better results where the proper personal work is done than where it is neglected. To open the way for personal work, it is a good plan to distribute cards on the second Sunday night of the meeting, inviting those who are interested in receiving free literature on the subjects presented, to write their names and addresses on the cards. This will enable the workers to begin personal work in the homes of the people at the beginning of the second week of the effort. The call for names should be repeated on several occasions during the series of meetings.
9. Self-Support.— A successful evangelistic effort should be self-supporting. Sometimes this is not possible where high rent for hall or auditorium is required, but a tent effort should always be self-supporting, and can be made so if the one in charge will really work to that end. Five suggestions on making an evangelistic effort self-supporting may be helpful:
a. Set your mind on doing it.
b. Take an offering every night.
c. Take the public into your confidence, explaining the expense involved and your plan for meeting it.
d. Make the third and fifth Sunday nights " dollar night," distributing special envelopes for the offering, on the order of the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering.
e. Call for a " thank offering " at the close of the series. By following this plan, I have seen the donation record, in four successive efforts, run as follows: $721.67; $663; $768.79; $1,370.10.
10. Effective Preaching.— In considering this point, let us first inquire, What is preaching? A definition which appeals to me, is this: " To be like Christ, to stand in His stead and speak in His behalf, sensible of a divine commission, persuaded that we are His ambassadors, not by infallible sacerdotal selection, not by the market law of demand and supply, but by the immediate, internal, and effectual call of God; and thus persuaded, to take the truths of the Holy Scripture, and unfold, illustrate, amplify them for the enlightenment and persuasion; and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to have them intensified by profound personal conviction fused in the fires of one's own soul, poured upon waiting ears and hearts from lips touched with God's altar fire, and accompanied by every possible adjunct of effective posture and gesture and voice this is preaching."
Five suggestions for effective preaching are as follows:
a. Preach the message,— the message of Revelation 14; not fanciful theories, not points of minor consequence or of. theoretical difference, not popular and pleasing lectures, not irrelevant anecdotes, not sensational stories. Bring to the people " those things which most concern their present and eternal good."—" Gospel Workers," p. 147. It takes the preaching of the third angel's message to make Seventh-day Adventists. The men who preach on the great testing truths for this time in a straightforward, earnest, sincere, and winsome manner are the men who get results.
b. Preach the message with Christ as the center,— the all and in all, the Alpha and the Omega, and all between. " If those who to-day are teaching the word of God, would uplift the cross of Christ higher and still higher, their ministry would be far more successful." —" The Acts of the Apostles," p. 209. Our success in the past has been limited, because we have often failed to preach Christ as we should. Christ as Creator, Christ as man's substitute, Christ our mediator, Christ as coming King in the light of the threefold message of. Revelation 14,— this should be our theme.
c. Preach the message with Christ as the center in a positive, dignified, plain, gentle, and winsome manner. Always hold to the affirmative; let the devil have the negative. Speak the truth in love. Avoid rash statements, harsh, overbearing expressions, or egotistical, bombastic words. Avoid browbeating the public, or stabbing some imaginary opponent with " Bible proof." Avoid light, flippant, joking words. Speak humbly, gently, using plain, chaste, dignified language, with illustrations of like character. (See " Gospel Workers," pp. 166, 169.) " As the dew and the still showers fall upon the withering plants, so let words fall gently when seeking to win men from error."—" The Ministry of Healing," p. 157. The way in which we present the message is a deciding factor in the results. Note this solemn statement: " When the theory of the truth is repeated without its sacred influence being felt upon the soul of the speaker, it has no force upon the hearers, but is rejected as error, the speaker making himself responsible for the loss of souls."—" Testimonies," Vol. IX, p. 441.
d. Preach the message with Christ as the center, in a positive, dignified, plain, gentle, and winsome manner, in well-arranged, short, pointed sermons. It is the well-arranged sermon which is remembered. Each successive fact should be bigger, weightier, more persuasive than the preceding, and all tend to the vital conclusion. Each additional point should be like the successive blows of the hammer that drives the nail in place. The gist of every really good sermon can be stated in one sentence. Until you can put your sermon into one complete sentence, you have not mastered your subject; you are lacking the essential central idea. The successive subjects in a series of sermons on the message should be like links in a chain. Observe how the " continued stories " appearing in the popular magazines, always stop at the most interesting point, leaving the reader anxiously anticipating the next installment. This is a principle which should be studied and applied in connection with holding the interest of an audience from night to night.
e. Preach the message with Christ as the center, in a positive, dignified, plain, gentle, and winsome manner, in well-arranged, short, pointed sermons, with a warm heart appeal in every discourse. " Never should he [the minister] preach a sermon that does not help his hearers to see more plainly what they must do to be saved."-- " Gospel Workers," p. 153. Every sermon should convey a practical application of the truth of the gospel; every discourse should have its heart appeal. Herein lies one of the secrets for bringing the people to a decision for acceptance of the message. The man who preaches night after night for six weeks, and thinks that by a few solemn appeals at the close of the series he will succeed in bringing the people over the line, is making a mistake. The mighty oak will not yield to one sharp stroke of the ax. It is the continual drip of water that wears away the stone. There must be heart appeal in every discourse, from the beginning to the end, in order to bring the people over the line of decision. Under this plan, the acceptance of the
Sabbath becomes an advance step into a deeper spiritual experience. The provision of an " inquiry room," to which to invite those who wish especially to seek God in connection with any service, is a good plan.
11. Proper Binding off and Follow-up Work.— We lose much by failure to bind off and follow up public efforts. Note this striking statement: " A minister might better not engage in the work unless he can bind it off thoroughly."—" Gospel Workers," p. 368. When the evangelist closes a series of meetings and goes to another place, he should leave behind him full-fledged, rounded-out Seventh-day Adventists. No person should be baptized or added to the church until fully instructed on all points. A special baptismal class will aid in the accomplishment of this, also the placing of our truth-filled literature in the homes of the new converts. The taking of people into the church who are not fully instructed and properly prepared for such a step, lies at the root of the large number of apostasies revealed in our annual statements. Such members prove a source of weakness in the church, and of discouragement to those outside the church. We have very definite instruction regarding this:
"God would be better pleased to have six thoroughly converted to the truth than to have sixty make a profession and yet not be fully converted."—" Gospel Workers," p. 370. "How much better it would be for the cause if the messenger of truth had faithfully and thoroughly educated these converts in regard to all these essential matters, even if there were fewer whom he could number as having been added to the church under his labors."—Id., p. 99, edition of 1892.
It should also be borne in mind that even though the new members have been thoroughly instructed, they must be carefully looked after. Quoting again from " Gospel Workers," we read: " After individuals have been converted to the truth, they need to be looked after. The zeal of many ministers seems to fail as soon as a measure of success attends their efforts. They do not realize that these newly converted ones need nursing,— watchful attention, help, and encouragement. These should not be left alone, a prey to Satan's most powerful temptations; they need to be educated in regard to their duties, to be kindly dealt with, to be led along, and to be visited and prayed with."— Id., p. 322, edition of 1892.
All this means hard, wearing work; it also means joy and satisfaction, for " no joy can equal the assurance of being an instrument in the hand of God for saving souls." There is also an eternal reward set forth in the Scriptures: " He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him." Ps. 126:6. " They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever." Dan. 12:3.
Brevard, N. C.