The lad was only three years old, but he bore ample testimony to effective advertising, as we heard him shout : "Look, Daddy, there's another one ! They're all over town !" He had pointed to a large billboard advertising a great "Crusade for Christ and the Bible" being held in Trenton, New Jersey. In this city we used twenty-three full-sized billboaids, twelve of which were illuminated until one o'clock in the morning. These were rented en bloc, and were evenly scattered throughout the city and environs. We were fortunate in having one of these billboards on the main corner in the heart of the city. Thousands of people waiting for busses could not help seeing it.
Three fourths of the board bore a permanent spread, and one fourth was reserved for advertising the subject titles as the meetings progressed. Two Sunday night subjects were placed on the quarter space panel, thus necessitating a change only twice a month.
Rental of these twenty-three spots throughout Trenton was $75 a week. The original posting cost $6 a billboard. The change of subject panels every two weeks cost $33 for the entire block of posters. These prices included art work, designing, and silk screening. The large companies usually furnish artists and layout men who are glad to take your ideas and work with you for the best layout. This is part of the company's service to its advertisers.
One month is the shortest period of billboard rental. In our case, we used the boards for three months at the beginning of a second series of meetings in the city, in order to gain new interest.
Frequent information polls taken in the meetings revealed that billboard advertising ranked at the top of our publicity items, newspapers came second, then radio broadcasting, bus advertising, personal invitations, and on down the line, ending with handbills. This order of effectiveness perhaps would not apply to every city. Different localities need different types of advertising, yet all places need the use of every possible effective publicity idea.
Newspaper publicity.—I wish to cite a method or two on newspaper advertising not frequently used. One small advertisement may be lost in the maze of display advertising. We cannot use large ads very often, for the budget will not permit.
We have found that a run-of-the-paper of four or six or eight identical two-or three-inch ads is very effective for these reasons : (I) The very small ads usually ride at the top of the big ads, in with the newsprint. (2) Instead of the one chance of one ad being seen there are six or eight chances, for if one is missed, another is seen. (3) After one is seen, then another, and another, and another, it makes a deeper impression on the mind of the reader.
We have had a number of experienced newspaper men comment favorably on this form of advertising. One point to remember with the small advertisement—it is always best to use the same trademark, such as a small cut of the speaker. Your ad is thus easily spotted.
News Write-ups are very effective. By all means take advantage of all the free news space available. Most papers, even in the larger cities, are favorable to receiving short, well-written, news-type write-ups. I find that an interest-arousing news story before the meeting is worth many times more than a report of the lecture after it has been delivered. When the public lectures are in progress, the object is to arrest the attention of the people to attend the meetings. In the prelecture write-up, questions are proposed and just enough information given to cause the reader to want to hear the lectures. When the postlecture write-up method is used exclusively, the people soon get the idea they can ascertain the high spots of the topic without attending.
Voice of Prophecy Invitation.—A crop of good prospects—cultivated, pruned, nourished, and ripe for harvest is already awaiting a reaper who links up with the Voice of Prophecy, Incorporated. They invite and urge the evangelist to reap the fruit of their labors.
They will mail your opening handbill, with a Voice of Prophecy letter, introducing the speaker to their students in his area, and inviting each one to attend. Upon request they will let you know how many students they have in your territory, and how many handbills they can use. The charge is ten cents for each letter mailed. This covers labor, postage, and stationery. (A sample of the letter written may be found in THE MINISTRY of June, 1944.)
Where could ten cents be invested more profitably than in extending this personal invitation to those known to be interested in Bible study? We have baptized a number of Voice of Prophecy students as a direct result of this special invitation: Many of the local conference Bible correspondence schools offer a similar service, oftentimes without charge to the evangelistic group.
Formal Invitation.—We have used the formal invitation to good advantage in the large cities. This is printed on a good-grade white card similar to a formal announcement card in size and layout, and mailed to a special list of names. It reads as follows:
This is an effective form of invitation for the business and professional people of the city, and is also used by the church members for very special friends. A small neat handbill should be enclosed with this formal invitation, giving the subject titles and dates.
The card and handbill are mailed at least a week and a half before the opening meeting. In one city the man from whom we rented our auditorium put his exclusive list of three thousand names at our disposal. These were the names of people who had signed with him that they wished to be informed of the events coming to his auditorium.
Handbills.—In large metropolitan areas a handbill is often but a drop in the publicity sea, because there are too many homes and not enough church members to deliver them. However, it is usually well to have a good handbill or two to launch the series. One method we have found effective in large cities is a ticket-sized card (1 x 3 or 4 inches) which may be printed inexpensively by the thousands, and distributed like the leaves of autumn—handed out on the streets to the multitudes, placed in the side windows of cars, left on bus and streetcar seats, and used wherever possible. One of these tickets is shown here.
Large cities usually have a shopping-news service. This is a small advertising newspaper delivered free to the residential areas. A large advertisement in this paper is usually not expensive, and the religious advertisement is so different in its composition that it stands out from the ordinary advertisement.
Conclusion.—Remember, all the effedtive advertising a man may have will avail nothing after the opening night if he does not preach an interesting, Spirit-filled sermon. Effective beyond computation is the winning of your audience with a gripping Bible message. A person whose heart has been reached and whose mind has been awakened will go forth and enthusiastically tell others what he has heard. He will soon feel it is his very own evangelistic series, and desire to have a part in its success.
It is well known in the world of music and entertainment that many a skilled performance of real merit has failed because of improper or poor publicity, whereas some ordinary endeavor has done exceptionally well at the hand of a skilled advertiser. We have the greatest drama of the ages to present to a world desperately in need of light and hope. This is the age to which prophets, kings, and the pioneers of our movement looked with great anticipation. What an hour in which to work for God r Let us wisely use the publicity means at our command, shunning the sensational and spectacular, yet taking advantage of every proper method to herald this important message to every city, town, and hamlet.