In starting an evangelistic campaign in a new city, how can one convince the public that the projected series is not just another revival as disappointing as former ones? Over some radio stations the haranguings of various evangelists and churches are heard almost all day long. Turn to the pages of the newspaper and you become disgusted with the quack claims of self-centered would-be prophets. Some of their very subject titles are borrowed from representatives of the third angel's message. The public is tired of the sweeping boasts and wholesale promises found in the advertising of popular preachers today. Now how can we convince the public that the message we represent is something special ; that it points the way out; that we are truly interested in people rather than profits ?
I am convinced that one great answer to these perplexing questions is the use of large advertising billboards. Some of these billboards are 9 x 24 feet; others are To x 25 feet. They are large enough to make a real impression on passers-by. These billboards are not as yet patronized by cheap, sensational, transient evangelists. Billboards, except for regular commercial advertisements, are used to herald the coming to the city of some major event or some prominent visitor. The minister of God, bearing the last warning message to the world, has a right to just that publicity in arresting the attention of the throng.
When an evangelistic series is to begin in a city, that is the most important news in the world to that area, for many souls will be lost or saved according to decisions made. The billboard announcements of the starting of the meetings make the community feel that this event is of the greatest public importance ; and it should be that way.
Large billboards cause much more discussion and publicity than newspaper or radio advertising or handbills, though these are also essential in carrying detailed information to the public. But nothing is more effective in making the civic area feel that your meetings are of major importance and interest than large billboards. As you analyze your own reaction to billboard announcements, is it not true that you feel a coming event thus advertised is of major important public interest ?
What do billboards cost? In Kansas City, with a population of about 400,000, the billboard company supplied space for us on twenty-eight large boards for about half price—$225 for one month. This included putting up the signs and the rental on the billboards, but not the printing. Ten of the boards were lighted at night. Another company also cut its rates and produced the signs for $.115. This included a large drawing of the evangelist's face (about four and one-half feet high), laying out, and printing the signs. So the total cost for the twenty-eight large signs in strategic places was only $340.
In obtaining a price from these companies, you should tell them frankly that these are entirely nonprofit meetings, in the interest of public uplift in the community. If you are a local pastor, tell them that also. They are sympathetic toward events of public and local interest, especially if they are of a nonprofit nature. After giving you a special rate, the company will often leave your signs up long beyond your month's rent. That means just that much extra publicity without cost.
On a map of the city the billboard company will indicate to you where they have "showings" that are open for rental. Appeal to them to help you by giving you boards on the busiest thoroughfares. Be sure some of these are on streets traveled by the streetcars or buses of the city.
The point of first importance on the layout is to put just as little as possible on the boald. The second rule is, be sure to have a large picture on the board. The third is, make a few words so large that passers-by cannot help catching them. Next time they pass that way or see another of your boards, they will be curious to read more. It is possible by paying extra to have a "spot" ad up in one corner, changing the Sunday night topic each week.. These of course must be printed separately and pasted up weekly by the sign company.
What were the results ? On the opening night of my last series in Kansas City we took a census to learn how effective our various types of advertising had been. My weekly broadcast was on the best station in the city,. and the newspaper we used claimed to be the fourth strongest in the United States. The billboards had been up only three days, yet they accounted for just about as many people in attendance as the radio announcements. The number brought by the billboards also stood surprisingly high compared with the number brought by the newspaper ads, which cost for a day two thirds as much as the billboards did for a month. Therefore I would not hesitate at all to spend one fourth of my entire advertising budget for a good showing of billboard advertisements.
In connection with the "Sunday only" evangelistic meetings being conducted in Los Angeles by Elders Richards, Knox, and Spear, L. E. Folkenberg prepared an excellent billboard layout. The cosI in this metropolitan area is of course high. But these billboards have been very effective in this series.
In my present series in Glendale, where advertising medium:, are very weak, I have used 16 x 27 inch announcements on the outside of buses. These have proved quite effective. Cards on the inside of these same buses proved almost valueless. The copy for the cards on the outside of buses is similar to that for billboards.
If you choose to take a census in your meetings to guide you in spending your future advertising budgets, you will find it helpful to divide the information into two parts : (I) List all types of advertising used, including the name of each newspaper, the display ad, and the news story in the paper. Ask the attendants to check every item which brought the meeting to their attention. (2) Put this question at the bottom of the blank: Which of these advertising mediums would you say was the most effective in influencing you to come to these meetings ? This last information will be enlightening as you tabulate all the answers.