I’ve been seeing Billy Graham’s face on some of the web sites I regularly visit: ChristianityToday.com and Crosswalk.com. Both are Christian sites and both are carrying ads for a Billy Graham TV special.
Let me get this straight: They’re doing a TV special to present the gospel (what else does Billy do?), so they advertise on sites with primarily Christian audiences? And there’s no ‘invite a friend’ spin to the ads, it’s just ‘watch Billy’. Seems like the BGEA is off the mark this time.
Usually they’re right on the money: Earlier this year I saw ads on the homepage of CNN.com hyping a TV special featuring Franklin Graham. At last year’s L.A. crusade the organization spent $1.4 million on advertising, most of it in non-English media and they backed it up with 12,000 volunteers trained in 19 foreign languages, along with 17,000 translation radios for the event itself. A few years ago ads for BillyGraham.org appeared on spiritual-related sites, all pointing to the organization’s online spiritual help section (Full Disclosure: I worked for the BGEA from 2001-2003).
The lesson? Spend advertising dollars actually reaching your target audience. If you want non-Christians to come to your church, don’t advertise in the local Christian paper, advertise in the alternative weeklies. Otherwise you’re just preaching to the choir.
Update (Feb. 15, 2005): The inside scoop on this story is that thanks to sweeps month the BGEA was unable to buy time slots on any national networks, so they went with several Christian cable and satellite networks. Since Billy Graham would be appearing on Christian TV, they decided to advertise on Christian sites with more of an awareness campaign (though I can’t help but wonder how much awareness Billy Graham needs). More than awareness, it seems the BGEA should be mobilizing people with the ‘invite a friend’ angle they’re usually so good at. Watching with a non-Christian friend may be the obvious next step for a Christian, but you can’t spend advertising dollars hoping people will make that mental step. The lesson still stands: spend your advertising dollars reaching your target audience with your target message.