Church Advertising in the UK

September 15, 2005 by

There’s an odd flux of church advertising in the UK making the news this week, from secular firm Fallon to the Alpha program to Che Guevara.

Che Guevara
The Churches Advertising Network (CAN) released their 2005 Christmas campaign, complete with Che Guevara-like poster and radio spots. The goal behind the Guevara poster is to show a powerful Christ and dispel the idea of Jesus as a “wimp in a white nightie.” CAN has been doing ads since 1991 and you can check out the archive on their site for some edgy ideas (What would love do now?, Christians make better lovers, etc.).

Then the producers of a TV documentary asked international ad agency Fallon to come up with a campaign to reignite interest in the Church of England. The simple black and white ads tout slogans like:

  • “Church. It isn’t as churchy as you think.”
  • “More dances are held in church halls than dance halls. And yes, the lord does move in mysterious ways.”
  • “Apparently there’s stuff going on here all week. Even Sundays.”
  • “Why go to India to find yourself? You might be just round the corner.”
  • “The church educates millions of children. ‘And not in a what does Psalm 17 tell us’ kind of way.”

The ads were supposedly sent to 50 Anglican bishops in the UK and their initial response was positive. But since the ads were created for a TV show and not commissioned by the Church of England there’s no indication if the ads will actually be used.

Finally, cinema ads featuring mountaineer Bear Grylls, Portsmouth soccer player Linvoy Primus and model Kim Johnson invite moviegoers to Alpha, a course that introduces people to Christianity. The ad campaign has each of the three UK pop icons asking, “Is there more to life than this?”

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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18 Responses to “Church Advertising in the UK”

  • Anthony D. Coppedge
    September 15, 2005

    I get the attempted “he’s not wimp” reference to Che Guevara, a known brutal renegade from Cuba – but am not confident this was the right image to use.
    There are other “non-wimpy” people that could have been referenced that were not brutal communist renegades.
    Or maybe I’m missing the point all together.

  • Jacob
    September 15, 2005

    I agree the Che was basicly a well funded thug, but since he is so revered as a symbol for freedom I think it is appropriate.
    The freedom we have in Christ is true freedom, as opposed to the false freedom Che offered.

  • Wp
    September 15, 2005

    Granted, Che was all kinds of a mess, but the counterculture message he represents can be a great allegory for the sounterculture message of Christ.
    … sans the violence, of course.
    I think the ad, in itself, is absolutely brilliant.

  • brand1m
    September 15, 2005

    I love it. I think it speaks at a lot of different levels. This renegade is born kind of thought is definitely a take on Christ that I have not seen before. It makes you look twice and search for the deeper meaning. Can we really ask for more than that?

  • brand1m
    September 15, 2005

    Some of the Fallon lines are interesting, but honestly, I expect better than that from them.

  • Greg Marquez
    September 15, 2005

    Well I think it’s fantastic.
    The point is that Jesus came to start a revolution. Imagine that! God becomes man, is killed, rises from the dead and it starts a revolution, who’d of imagined that? Sure beats the namby pamby, blue eyed, white bread, sissy Jesus.

  • flip
    September 16, 2005

    Personally I think the Ché ad falls in the “ads that make christians feel good about themselves” category. It’s witty and yes, the point it makes is valod, but I seriously doubt it will reach the target audience: non-christians. Piggy back riding on well known icons seems to be a popular aproach in Christian circles, but what God and the church has to offer isn’t a spoof or a copy… it’s original new and living. That should be reflected in how we present ourselves. Sorry… I’m starting to rant here. ;)

  • Michael Rew
    September 16, 2005

    I like the ad as an ad, but I agree with more with flip’s comment. A local young adults ministry spoofed the X-Files in their radio spot some years ago, and I went, thinking perhaps the local police officer scheduled to speak would have some interesting tales to tell. No…the oddest yarn he spun had something to do with a drunk, I think. I was disappointed. Worse, I felt like I had been deceived. But this police officer also was the youth pastor of the church, and I saw how some of the youth crowded around him, obviously fond of him. He never would be the postmodern emergent whatever you want to call it kind of leader, contemporary and relevant, because he looked and acted too much like a nerd. But the youth loved him, and I saw he had the greatest opportunity to minister to them without having to be a cultural icon.

  • brand1m
    September 16, 2005

    There is a fine line to walk when emulating something. I understand where flip is going with his statements, but I think an image like this falls as familiar, but not widely recognizable.
    For example, if my church were named Mitchell street Baptist and I made the M look like the all too familiar golden arches, that would scream cheesefest. I think you are giving the general public too much credit. I believe most would find it familiar but not be able to place from where. For those that do know, then they can complete the connection and get the payoff.
    I think this is a very new take on presenting Christ and find it refreshing – especially when placed beside Arian, Fabio Jesus. If you want to say that the ché is overdone, then I could agree with you, but it seems new to this type of audience.

  • Kristie
    September 16, 2005

    Yeah, it reminds of one of my favorite t-shirts I got of Martha Stewart when she went to jail. Only now they have revised it to putting “Free at Last” beneath a Che-esque Martha face.
    Martha makes a better Che because of her hair, whereas the baby is bald and it looks more like Mao as a toddler.
    Where’s the hammer and sickle??

  • Kristie
    September 16, 2005

    Ooops, I’ve gotten rusty on my communist symbolism….I think for mao it would be a big star of some sort…

  • Dan
    September 18, 2005

    Yes, it made me think of Mao, not Che, because of the bald head.
    I like it because of the idea of revolution, which I think is startling to most people who think of Jesus as a milque-toastie pale face.

  • Kelvin Holdsworth
    September 19, 2005

    I don’t think that the Che ad can be properly understood without a look at the add that CAN produced in Easter 1999 –
    That was a more edgy image with the line: “Meek. Mild. As If.” The visual reference to Che was more explicit and worked better for me. If this one had been the follow up at Christmas 2000 it would have had more impact than it will this year.

  • Andrew Beeston
    September 19, 2005

    This may just be my opinion, but I’m not a fan. I’m not a fan because:
    1. The use of Che has been going on for a few years now and I am thinking it’s a little old. Creating new ideas should be where the church is at. Using pre-existing ideas is okay, and referencing old material is okay too, but I think this just misses the “wave of Che” and could be simply “oh look there’s another Che ripoff, not really interesting”. But that’s the risk you take with anything you reference, plus I could be wrong. I am in Australia too.
    2. I think the most powerful images are those which bring something new to the fore which we haven’t seen before. Do it very differently, create an iconic ‘something’ which people have never seen before. Break into new territory. It can be done, it is done quite well commercially with say… Apple.
    3. I just don’t like the whole Che thing. That’s me, and my understanding of history. Maybe it would be different for people if we put up a picture of Jesus in the form of Pol Pot, or Saddam (not that he’s dead).

    However on the same token as not liking it, I think it is a brave step away from the weak efforts that many put into the marketing of the church and I suppose I’m more critical because I think it’s a step in the right direction. That said, I would so gladly have someone write that about my work and make me re-think my efforts. :)

  • Neil
    October 21, 2005

    Well, this comment is a little late in the piece, though would like to add that when looking at using Che’s back to ride on to established an identy for Christianity and Christ in that arena is rather lame. People relate to Che because of his revolutionary stance, individualism, rebellion and art work which made him legendary. I dont see Che followers trying to ride on another band wagon. Christ has all the above attributes and more!!I feel Fallon has fallen short in the arena of originality and creating advertisement that draws attention for its individualistic quality rather than muted imaging which renders the viewer with confusion. Christ has his own icon status, it should be enhanced within! Breathing originality and all the qualites that make him the Christ and relevant for today!! I wonder where Christ will by in 6 months? Hey James Dean is the flavour of the month. He was a rebel, still appeals to millions 50 years on. mmmmmm…..are we loosing Christ in our fads?? Think Im gettng a bit cynical now. Better go.

  • Ben J Walker
    December 4, 2005

    Nice idea. Not sure about the application of it though.
    Doesn’t remind me too much of the classic Che image, and doesn’t strike me too much as being Jesus… more like you’re advertising some random baby!
    I’ve seen similar ideas done before… Hope City Church did a version I liked
    A clever, striking idea. But like most clever ideas, seen it before.

  • craig
    December 12, 2005

    By the way Christmas and Xmas are not appossed to each other. The letter X in the Greek is the first letter of the name “Christ” (Christos)

  • Ben Eash
    December 14, 2005

    I just think it’s hilarious how people are making these blatant ripoffs of the Western Territory of the Salvation Army’s Revolution stuff (done by Fulton Hawk) which keeps with the youth propaganda stuff that Shepherd Fairey (OBEY GIANT) and others are doing in the mainstream. Check out the Jesus Revolution

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