WE HAVE just finished the Five-Day Plan in the Ford Auditorium in Detroit. One thousand smokers took the course. We have also made some significant discoveries in Detroit that may well alter the entire future of the Five-Day Plan. Here is the Detroit story.
One year ago the General Conference recommended a Five-Day Plan for Detroit prior to the General Conference session, to create a favorable impression on the public mind for the coming session.
We rented the Ford Auditorium, an $8 million marble building, home of the Detroit symphony orchestra and scene of the finest cultural programs in the city, and available for a rental fee of $350 a night for the main floor, which seats approximately 1,800 people. A Five-Day Plan of this size sounds presumptuous until you realize that there are more than 4 million people in the greater Detroit area.
Our setup team consisted of J. P. Winston, Gorden Engen, A. K. Phillips, E. N. Wendth, E. H. Atchley, and R. D. Moon, in concert with local Adventist pastors in the city. Church members distributed 30,000 brochures. The Detroit Council of Churches sent announcements and brochures to nearly 800 local churches. The film One in 20,000 was shown to more than 13,000 high school students, and brochures were distributed so that they could invite their parents.
Working closely with a Detroit public relations firm, we had a field day with radio, television, and the newspapers. We were interviewed on numerous TV programs, spent three and a half hours on one popular radio interview program, and held a successful news conference at the Capital Press Club, which was covered by television, newspapers, and radio stations.
The Wayne Council on Smoking and Health threw its weight behind the program, distributing tens of thousands of brochures via the American Cancer Society and the American Heart and Tuberculosis societies, with mailings made to prominent physicians throughout the city. Teams of Adventist ladies manned multiple phones for registrations, because we were charging $1.50 per person to cover the cost of materials used.
Dr. Ellsworth Wareham, professor of surgery at Loma Linda University, who attained national prominence with his heart-surgery team in India and Pakistan sponsored by the U.S. State Department, arrived to lecture on the medical aspects of the program. Dr. Alton Ochsner of New Orleans was slated to appear on the program as well. Our publicity campaign ran well. We were cordially received by all news media. Brethren Winston and Atchley made a dramatic impact upon the public school system. They moved from high school to high school showing the film One in 20,000 on a tight schedule, earning the gratitude and praise of high school officials throughout the city.
We Hit a "First"
There was only one thing wrong. In spite of the daily barrage of newspapers, TV, and radio, people were not responding! In Detroit we hit a "first" by appearing on the front page of the Detroit News with its 1 million circulation, in a preprogram story. When I was introduced to the city editor he said, "Mr. Folkenberg, I have been waiting a long time for you."
He went on to say that when we held the program in Battle Creek, a friend of his took the course and wrote a story for the Battle Creek newspaper which he had read with great interest. He said to himself at the time, "If that program ever comes to Detroit, I'm going to publicize it."
That city editor was a man of his word! We remained on the front page during Wednesday (before the Saturday evening program) through all six editions of that great newspaper. But still there was only a trickle of registrations coming in.
Here were the problems we faced:
- The prestige of the denomination rode on this program in the city of Detroit. It was to be preparation for the coming General Conference session.
- In an auditorium seating 1,800 people on the lower floor, how would 350 people appear huddled in the first five rows?
- Drs. Ochsner and Wareham were interrupting their heavy schedules to participate in the Plan.
- Major health agencies of the city had thrown themselves wholeheartedly into this program. How would it look with only a handful of people to show for our efforts?
- How would newspapers and television react to such a small attendance?
- By Thursday evening (prior to the program beginning on Saturday evening), we still had only a few hundred people registered.
I had not been involved in a Five-Day Plan for nearly a year. I had been out of touch with a possibly diminished public interest in programs to help people stop smoking. In my travels round the field I had heard many pastors describe the presence of a spirit of fatalism pervading the minds of people who still smoked. I realized that millions of people had stopped smoking following the Surgeon General's report, and those who had not been able to stop may have developed a fatalistic attitude. But I had not come up against this problem for nearly a year. But believe me, I found myself eyeball to eyeball with the problem in Detroit, with only twenty-four hours to go until program time, with only a bare handful of registrations. Suddenly it was the "testing time."
A Rapid Survey
Realizing that something was seriously wrong and that we had only a matter of hours to correct it, I dashed out of the Statler-Hilton and down the street and began rapid survey on the main streets of Detroit. Spotting a hapless smoker on the street I would ask, "Have you heard about the Five-Day Plan in the Ford Auditorium tomorrow evening?" He would usually reply, "Yes, I've heard of it. It's all over the newspapers, radio, and television." My next question was, "Have you thought about attending?" About eight out of ten smokers replied, "I'd like to stop smoking, but I'll just gain weight." At least 80 per cent of the smokers declared they simply couldn't overcome tobacco and battle obesity at the same time. It was too much of a struggle. One man said, "What's the difference if I die of lung cancer, emphysema, or a heart condition caused by overweight?" Smoking is being looked upon today as one of the most effective ways to control weight.
A Crash Publicity Program
When the impact of these replies hit me, I realized we would have to move rapidly if we were to salvage the Detroit Five-Day Plan. We immediately moved in on radio, television, and the newspapers with the following story: "In view of the fact that so many people who stop smoking begin to gain weight, you will be interested to know that during each evening of the Five-Day Plan in Ford Auditorium, a weight-control program will be presented entitled 'Weighing What You Want to Weigh.' This will be a part of each evening's program during the Five-Day Plan. It will show you how to make proper weight a normal way of life, without the need for crash programs or special diets."
Newspaper, television, and radio people immediately pricked up their ears and said, "Now, that really makes sense." But time was running out fast! There are often significant delays between placing an announcement and its appearance on TV or in the newspapers. What happened?
When news of the weight program began to reach the Detroit public (a small segment in view of the lateness of the hour), there was an immediate reaction. Telephones suddenly came to life. The whole idea made sense to people. It answered the questions they were asking. It removed fears or objections to the program, and the results were very apparent. At curtain time we walked on stage before one thousand of Detroit's finest citizens, eager, expectant, and as warm an audience as I have ever addressed. They were there for dual help on smoking and obesity, and were seemingly twice as receptive to everything we said. And I will here make a prediction. If we had featured the weight-control program on the 100,000 brochures that were distributed, and if we had publicized it from the very start, we could have jammed that auditorium with three thousand people who were looking for help in the two vital areas of smoking and obesity.
The weight-control program we presented each night in Detroit not only rescued the Five-Day Plan but helped to make it a huge success!
I had taken to Detroit a copy of the new, single-concept film series Weighing What You Want to Weigh in the 16 mm. size, which was actually a proof print of the series. I had intended to use only a few parts of it during the fifth night as a visual aid to the lecture Dr. Wareham would present. But after counseling together, we decided to show two segments of the film each evening, discussing it publicly and reviewing its various points on the blackboard after each showing. It was an overwhelming success. The audience was delighted over the weight-control aspects of the Five-Day Plan, and the film generated as much interest and questions as the Five-Day Plan.
By the time you read this the new film series, Weighing What You Want to Weigh, will be distributed to key points throughout the field, for use in the new projector which shows instant movies. We were projecting a distance of nearly 160 feet onto a 20-foot-square screen, and consequently used the huge arc-light projection equipment in the Ford Auditorium.
You can readily see that the new series, Weighing What You Want to Weigh, has a warm spot in my heart. It did wonders for our Detroit Five-Day Plan in a dramatic way. It helps to answer the questions people are asking. It can be shown independently as a series on its own or in connection with the Five-Day Plan. It is timely because obesity is America's number one health problem, according to the U.S. Public Health Service.
Results in Detroit
Into that beautiful auditorium every night poured a thousand people who were so warm and receptive that they accorded us a standing ovation at one point in the program. The physical arrangements of registration were smoothly handled by Brother Phillips, temperance secretary of the Michigan Conference. Every night that audience experienced a changing image of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. They read in their daily papers accounts of marvelous deliverance from tobacco and obesity as written by one of the top writers for the Detroit News. There were no complaints about the $1.50 registration fee for materials used. Their $1.50 registration was of double value because the program dealt with both smoking and obesity. Each participant received the little weight-control pamphlet entitled "Participant's Guide to Weighing What You Want to Weigh." Never have we received such warm audience appreciation for a program. I can only say that the new weight-control program has added fascinating, thrilling dimensions to the Five-Day Plan, and makes a double impact upon people wherever it is shown.
This is the Detroit story. We thank God for another arrow in the quiver of medical missionary action. We rejoice because this new series on weight control is a sophisticated tool, beautifully photographed, yet simple in its message. The Lord is wonderfully blessing in the preparation of tools we can use to answer questions people are asking.
I thought you would be gratified to hear the Detroit story because of the implications it has in your own field of labor.