Rolling Stone Rejects Bible Ad

January 18, 2005 by

The largest publisher of Bible’s in America, Zondervan, is rolling out a new and more modern translation of the Bible, Today’s New International Version. But, according to a story in yesterday’s USA Today, although the language has been updated, apparently the message itself isn’t hip enough for the music industry magazine Rollilng Stone, which rejected an ad for the new publication.

Of course Rolling Stone is free to pick and choose the products and services it will and won’t allow in its advertising. The strange thing to note, though, is that it initially accepted the advertising buy back in July for a February ad. What did they think an ad from a Bible publisher would be about? New leather covers? Neon bookmarks? As someone who has designed ad strategies and media plans, learning that a major buy isn’t going to happen this late in the game isn’t just a minor irritation–it’s a huge blow to possible sales projections and revenue forecasts. For a major media oulet like Rolling Stone to pull an ad based on, what I feel, are pretty flimsly, unwritten guidelines seems incredibly unprofessional.

This is a problem that, I imagine, many churches will run into when planning and executing advertising. Media outlets that are skittish about placing religious advertising. And even though we may feel hurt or outraged–as I do about Rolling Stone‘s decision–we have to be prepared to be as “wise as serpents and gentle as doves” when it comes to our marketing. How can you do that? Here are some suggestions:

  • When you make a media buy, be very specific with your ad rep about the fact that you are a religious institution and that your ad will be about your church.
  • If possible, share an ad sample before you make the buy and get written approval for the design and ad copy before signing anything.
  • Get a copy of the publication’s advertising guidelines and requirements before entering into a contract.
  • Keep an eye on other ads in the publications in which you advertise. As you see ads that “push the envelope” in terms of propriety, use of colorful language or imagery, use of religious or political language, etc., keep a copy in a folder. That way, if you ever get called out on an ad you want to run, you have examples of pieces that were run in the past.

It’s always best for everyone involved in your ads to be happy–the client, the designers, the agency and the media outlet. But that’s not always possible. Protect yourself as much as you can by being smart and knowing what you’re getting into with your ad buys.

Post By:

Andy Havens


Andy Havens brings 15 years of experience to the table and is the founder and president of the marketing firm Sanestorm, as well as a number of different blogs. He lives in Columbus, Ohio, with his wife, Christina, and his son, Daniel.
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4 Responses to “Rolling Stone Rejects Bible Ad”

  • Johannes Kleske
    January 18, 2005

    There reason for this is George Bush. I’m not kidding. I got some friends at 24-7prayer.com. Rolling Stone has written a major article about that prayer movement and the things that these guys did in Ibiza. But that story never got printed. And the guys from Rolling Stone said that it was because of George Bush and the election. They said that their readers are so mad at everything with the label christian because these christians made George W. stay president.
    You can find more about the article here: http://jonahndwhale.typepad.com/idigme/2004/12/were_in_the_pre.html


  • mikeyUneek
    January 20, 2005

    RS did Z a HUGE favor!
    Stone might of messed with their original plan, but they also gave them a HUGE bump in their marketing plans with articles on this situation all over the press, including USAT.
    Not bad. And they saved $$ in the process…


  • Church Marketing Sucks
    January 27, 2005

    Rolling Stone Accepts Bible Ad

    After tons of media attention Rolling Stone has reversed their decision and agreed to run the Zondervan Bible ad they originally rejected. It doesn’t always work out this nicely, but the media frenzy gave Zondervan much more publicity than they would h…


  • Church Advertising
    December 13, 2009

    Sad to say but I know where they are coming from here. They are into the business of advertising too. They have to keep things in their ads that match their audience. Most of their audience does not want to even see a bible judging from this.
    This is something I am afraid of though. Our job is to reach those people, not our own. So for this to happen makes me afraid of our future advertisements being limited to our own flock. It is just like Satan though. Lay a blockade against a city and let them starve for outside people to come in.



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