United Church of Christ begins ambitious on-line ad campaign

Launching an ambitious online advertising campaign just before for the  holidays, the 1.2-million-member United Church of Christ  (UCC) is hoping new technology will boost the mainline denomination’s outreach to even-broader
audiences with its message of “extravagant welcome.”

Nashville has four UCC affliated churches. They include Holy Trinity Community Church UCC; Nashville Howard Congregational UCC; Nashville First United Church UCC and Nashville Brookmeade Congregational UCC.

The “All the People” campaign launched on November 22, the day before Thanksgiving. View the campaign here.

The church could spend as much as $85,000 on the six-week Advent, Christmas and New Year effort and is hoping to increase its investment with financial support from individuals and local churches. The viral initiative will include blog and website ads, as well as a supporter-driven e-mail outreach.

The UCC, which has invested as much as $5 million in TV advertising during the past four years, ran successful-yet-experimental internet campaigns in March 2005 and April 2006, spending just $10,000 for ads on the top 100 most-read blogs to accompany its controversial “Bouncer” TV campaign and, then, about $20,000 on web-based ads to showcase the premiere of its “Ejector” TV spot.

Although the church’s initial web-based efforts were limited in scope, click-through data showed that much of the dramatic increase in traffic for the church’s primary national websites www.ucc.org and www.stillspeaking.com was
generated by the online ads, leading church leaders to believe that web-based advertising could be a cost-effective way to reach new audiences.

Young people now spend more time in front of computer screens than TV screens, research indicates.

The online ads will prominently feature the warm-and-touching "All the People" (or "Steeple“) ad which, until now, has aired only briefly during a limited test run on TV in March 2005.

The internet campaign also will incorporate use of the edgier "Bouncer," "Ejector," and the Spanish-version "Eyector" ads, especially in reaching out to targeted audiences.

The UCC ads will be placed on various internet sites and blogs, with the hope of reaching general audiences in addition to targeted groups, such as youth, young families with children, gays and lesbians, social justice advocates, and the Spanish-speaking community.

"The most common expression will be the 'Steeple' ad," says the Rev. Robert Chase, the UCC's communications director. "It will be an interactive, web-based campaign that will tie in nicely with the Advent and Christmas seasons.
It's intended to be spiritual, worship-related and include social action."

Chase refers to the web-based effort as "God is still speaking 2.0," because it is designed to be "a series of engagements" where people are invited to "participate in the campaign, not just watch it."

For example, viewers will asked to click through and sign a pledge promising to pray for "all the people" during Advent. In return, e-mail invitations will be sent, asking participants to attend a UCC Christmas Eve service. And,
spiritually-enriching "gifts" will be offered. "It's a way to up the level of engagement," he says.

Also during Advent, television and radio spots will air in 26 U.S. cities, as a result of a national-local matching grants program sponsored by the UCC’s Stillspeaking Initiative.

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