Evangelistic Advertising

EVANGELISM: Evangelistic Advertising

The author uses real-life examples to demonstrate how Evangelistic ads work

Assistant Secretary, General Conference Bureau of Press Relations

New York City, with a population almost as great as that of the entire State of California, presented some serious problems to the advertising committee of the Carnegie Hall evangelistic campaign when the promotional plans were being made late last summer. The greatest problem surely was not one .of media, for there are more means of mass communication in New York than in any other city in the world; the great problem was cost.

The cost of newspaper advertising, foundation of most evangelistic advertising campaigns, reaches staggering proportions in New York. Church rates range from about $14 to $37 per column inch—and New Yorkers read seven great daily newspapers, in addition to scores of foreign-language and suburban papers. As another example, a regular showing of advertising cards on the subways costs about $7,000 at the noncommercial rate.

Considering all this and our somewhat less than pretentious budget, plans were made to concentrate for the opening night on a direct- mail campaign designed to reach friends of the church, including interests of the Voice of Prophecy, Faith for Today, correspondence courses, and magazines. To a list of 20,000 names turned in by church members was sent a formal invitation card, together with a return card for reserved-seat requests. To the other special lists, totaling about 25,000, was sent a form letter from the various editors, speakers, and correspondence course directors, along with a two-color folder and a return card. Our initial expenditure for newspaper advertising was to be based upon the response to this mailing.

When requests for more than 5,500 reserved seats were received, and the many Adventists expected to attend were taken into account, along with the 2,760 seating capacity of Carnegie Hall, it was decided to hold a double session and to cancel further advertising. No one was certain as to just what would happen, but it was felt that the reserved-seat requests would have to be honored even in view of a strong possibility of many cancellations. We did not feel free to take the chance, even remote, of crowding out these preferred people with additional advertising.

As it turned out, moderate newspaper advertising could have been used, for at neither session was the top balcony completely filled.

However, with the direct-mail advertising alone, and with no advertising of the special afternoon session at all except an explanation sent with the substitute tickets, more than 3,700 people 2,500 non-Adventists came to Car negie Hall and heard the opening message by R. A. Anderson.

This was nearly 1,000 more than could possibly have been crowded into one meeting. It was felt that the double session was extremely worthwhile even though it deprived us of the questionable honor of reporting "hundreds turned away on the opening night," which would have been the case had we not chosen to hold a double session in order to get the people in to hear the message.

Because of the time element, the direct-mail campaign was used only for the opening night. For the second meeting advertisements were placed in four of the metropolitan newspapers, and modest newspaper advertisements have been used each week ever since. The suburban and foreign-language papers were tried for two weeks, but a poll taken in Carnegie Hall indicated that the results were not worth the investment, and with a few exceptions they were dropped.

Reaching the Wealthy

During the second and third weeks a "top- wealth" program was conducted under the guidance of R. E. Craw- ford, of the Canadian Watchman Press. A special edition of Prophecy Speaks was sent to 14,- 000 influential people in New York City, and in a separate mailing a formal invitation and a reply card were sent. Requests for about two hundred box seats were received from this influential group. Many of them have been attend ing regularly and have made themselves known to us.

Along with newspaper advertising during the first four weeks, handbills, cards, and "complimentary tickets" were distributed by church members. All these things were considered valuable in bringing people to the meetings.

Because of previously scheduled engagements in Carnegie Hall, it was not possible to continue the double session. Therefore, even though it certainly meant a somewhat smaller attendance, it was necessary to have, beginning with October, only one Sunday night program. More than two thou sand have been attending this single session on Sunday nights.

Two of the most effective promotional media have been the Faith for Today television program and the local radio program conducted by F. E. J. Harder. As many persons have been attending from the influence of these two programs as from advertisements in any two of the metropolitan newspapers. 

Sensing the inadequacy of our publicity, we launched an expansion of our advertising campaign, beginning with the fifth week. This included the mailing of 20,000 attractive postal cards weekly for four weeks to apartments in the vicinity of Carnegie Hall, and the first week 25,000 to friends of church members! In addition to this mailing, bus cards were placed for one month on the principal lines running near Carnegie Hall.

Other advertising means used include large, attractive posters in front of Carnegie Hall and the other auditoriums where programs are presented. These have brought a surprising number of people in from the street. They have been produced by Joseph Barnes, of Boston, now connected with the campaign.

Because of our limited budget in New York, most of the art work for the advertising has been done in the evangelistic office, as well as much of the actual printing, produced on a Multilith offset press purchased by the conference at the beginning of the effort.

After the ninth week, when it became clear that the variable evangelistic audience had become essentially a regular congregation, the newspaper advertising was cut considerably. The circulation of handbill-type cards by our members has been increased, however, since. these can be produced inexpensively in our own office. Attendance has held steady, with little variation from the two-thousand figure set at the beginning of the single session.

The results of advertising polls taken at Carnegie Hall have conformed to a familiar pattern. Of the advertising media used after the opening night, five newspapers combined brought out about twice as many people as any other means. However, personal invitations by the church members brought out far more than any one of the other methods or media used. Next came the post card, then radio and television, bus cards, and posters, in that order. Of course, it is recognized that there are many imponderables in judging the effectiveness of various kinds of advertising and in evaluating the cumulative effect of multiple impressions on the minds of the public.

Considering any advertising budget, the Carnegie Hall results to date have been gratifying enough. Considering the rather limited campaign dictated by our limited resources, the results have been remarkable, and we can only attribute it to a deep longing in the hearts of thousands of people to grasp something that is steadfast and sure in the shifting sands of present-day developments.

Readers of THE MINISTRY may be interested to know that complete kits of advertising materials used in this campaign, and copies of sermons and studies given, will be available at a nominal cost at the close of the effort. Further announcement will be made of this in the February issue.

We are also pleased to announce that full rights of reproduction have been given us for the unusual photograph used on several of our advertising pieces, one of which is shown with this article. This photograph has been used twice for special occasions on the cover of This Week magazine, and we are fortunate to obtain these rights. Electrotypes of the two-color cover of the first folder used in the campaign will be made available through the General Conference Bureau of Press Relations at $12.50 per set if orders are received from ten or more evangelists to make this special price possible.

 

 

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Assistant Secretary, General Conference Bureau of Press Relations

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