The illusive secret of successful advertising, which is so much sought after, is well worth studying. Many of our wonderful truths have no appeal to the average person, because he thinks to himself, That may be all right for someone else, but not for me. He may have this complex for various reasons. He may have heard the topic discussed in his own church, and a false interpretation or dull preaching has emasculated its truth, He may be altogether unfamiliar with the topic and thus has no point of contact. He may be sure he knows all about the subject already, so does not need to waste time hearing the whole thing over again. Very likely he is bored with religion and does not find it interesting. All these and many other factors must be kept in mind when we are preparing advertising designed to convince the reader that we really have something which he needs.
The objective of advertising is to fill ,the seats in your hall with as many substantial, intelligent, truth-seeking people as possible. Empty chairs do not help the singing, the atmosphere, the inspiration, the preaching, or the offering. Therefore the advertising must be so constructed as to convince people that they must hear the discussion at your hall. This feature of the campaign must be "fetching," for these advertisements must bring people to your meeting.
Because one person cannot be reached in the same way as another, we should use every proper available means of advertising at our command. From personal experience I know that we often fail to reach people if we think that all the people need to know is that a series of meetings is in progress. A man may sit in a streetcar directly under your “Transitad" all the way home from work and never look up from his paper to see your excellent advertisement. Obviously, then, we need an announcement in his paper, too. But if he is one of those people who only glance at advertisements in the paper, it may take a handbill in his screen door to impress him when he gets home, or even a living voice over his radio or a personal invitation over the telephone before he will decide to attend the meetings and study the Word.
If our publications ought to be scattered like the leaves of autumn, certainly every method we can use to attract the people to our meetings should be employed. Since the three angels' messages are the last truths the world is to hear, they are the most important truths they will ever hear. Then let our advertising be in proportion to the importance of our message, that no soul in a community will go to his doom unwarned. We are to publish the invitations; God's Holy Spirit will make the heart appeal which will move men to action.
Some may ask how an unfamiliar truth is to be made important to the strang'er we wish to reach. That indeed is the question, and study, imagination, and skill are required to answer it properly with our announcements. But if that message is of supreme importance to you and me first, then we will find ways of making it important to those we seek. The messenger of the Lord says:
"They must make use of every means that can possibly be devised for causing the truth to stand out clearly and distinctly. The testing message for this time is to be borne so plainly and decidedly as to startle the hearers, and lead them to desire to study the Scriptures."—Gospel Workers, p. 346.
One word of caution is, however, not amiss. Do not scatter your power by attempting more means of advertisement than you can handle. If your budget will not cover all available methods, one or two well-chosen and well-executed plans will accomplish more in the end.
Adapted to the Times
One of the surest ways to make topics important to people is to have them adapted to the times in which we live. We have a message that is as up to the minute as is Big Ben. What a pity that at times we fail and let a topic become as old as the ark. This can be done by the statement of the subject or the use of archaic cuts, type, and setup.
Wide-awake people today are reading current events as fast as they can lay eyes upon them. Here is our chance to take a prophecy hundreds of years old and pack our halls, because it tells the outcome of the thing that is exercising minds now.
Advertising must be adapted not only to the times but also to the community. Conservative church towns, especially Lutheran centers, are interested in doctrinal topics, such as hell, heaven, the judgment, the seven last plagues, and especially those topics which have a flavor of Catholic belief about them, such as the antichrist, purgatory, 666, and the mark of the beast. In my opinion these topics, if presented kindly, cannot be surpassed for advertising appeal in such a locality. Care must be exercised, however, in the placement of these topics in your series.
Let the form of your advertisement be arresting. It may be something that will cause people to stop, look, and read—without being sensational. But when everything today bids for attention, we must be wise if we are to stop the public long enough to deliver our message. Men may be hardened in sin, but they can be reached.
A notorious prisoner, a Missouri criminal by the name of Valentine Burke, who for twenty years was one of the worst characters known to the police, sat in the St. Louis jail. He had been given a copy of a city paper which published a sermon by Mr. Moody, who was then preaching in the town. The headline for the sermon read, "How the Jailer at Philippi Was Caught." Burke thought the reference was to the town of Philippi, West Virginia, a place known to him, and he began to read What he supposed to be jail news. He reasoned, "The jailer has often caught me ; now we'll see who caught him." He finally saw his mistake, but his interest had been caught, and he read on. Nine times in the sermon he came upon the text, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." It impressed him so deeply that in the cell that night Burke prayed for the first time. It was not long before he believed. You say it was the sermon that converted him. True, but it was the headline, the advertisement, that arrested him.
The announcement must be compelling. Once it has stopped a person in his mad rush, it must compel him to turn around and go in another direction. It must appeal to his head or his heart or something that causes him to move toward your hall. Therefore, let your advertisement show that you have first done some thinking. If a man believes you think, he may come to hear you. Let the announcement show diligent effort, study, and work. People will then believe that the meeting is worthwhile, because it is going in a definite direction and was not a mere afterthought dashed off between supper and the evening paper.
Color is both arresting and compelling. Use it—but use it artistically. Let the handbills or cards be of good quality. Cheap paper and poor printing stamp your meeting with the Pentecostal or Rutherford flavor, which will be devastating to your success. Let the quality and dignity of your announcements be representive of your message. Play up the message, not the man.
Advertising must be continual. A steep hill under a sled may give you a good start, but it will not keep you going very far after you reach level ground. That takes power.
An old circus man once said to me at a well-attended meeting, "Take a tip, young man, from an old trouper who has been on the road for many years. Once you've got a head of steam up, keep piling on the wood. The devil may pass you up while you blow your brains out trying to start a new fire."
I am convinced that the newspaper is the best and most inexpensive advertising in our smaller towns. It is well thought of and gives your meetings standing.
Handbills are next in efficiency. A good opening handbill is also an asset to your advertisement in the newspaper. Fold and mail them to the box holders on all the mail routes out of your town. Window placards catch favorable attention if done in color. Your hall signs must be large, attractive, and well made. Let the hall front be light, dignified, and inviting. Street banners, as well as billboards, are for catching attention. Tickets distributed by interested listeners bring good results.
The meeting itself ought to be its best advertisement after the first night. Charts, action, variety, pictures, and spiritual power will call the people back.