Philpott Church’s College Outreach Ad

September 26, 2005 by

A Canadian church (hey, we’ve gone international!) offers an ad for a campus directory—give your feedback in this week’s peer review.


Philpott Church
Hamilton, Ontario
created by Jason Silver
Philpott Church is 111-year-old church located in the downtown of a steel town and averages around 500 people each Sunday. They’ve recently launched a contemporary service and a college-aged ministry. Two years ago the college ministry, oXyGEN, had about 35 students and last year about 75.

They are running a 5″x8″ black and white ad in the 2005 campus directory at McMaster University to promote their oXyGEN college ministry. They’ve been offered free ad space in the directory. Their main demographic is first and second year students. They’re hoping to reach three groups:

  • Those passionate about Jesus and looking for a church.
  • Those who grew up in church and feel the need to attend out of obligation.
  • Those who are curious about Christianity and might come to investigate.


  • What do you like about their approach?
  • What’s working with the ad?
  • What do you think of the visual elements?
  • What do you think of the copy?
  • What would you improve?
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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20 Responses to “Philpott Church’s College Outreach Ad”

  • Kem Meyer
    September 26, 2005

    A few initial reactions 1) Logo overload; 4 in any ad, especially a 5×8 is too much. How is this helpful to the audience? All they need to know is about OXYGEN at Philpott church. So put the OXYGEN logo with a Philpott church tagline. That’s it. Remove the clutter. It’s like extra information in a story problem that gets you all confused. 2) I understand the people in the ad are to demonstrate the relief of fresh air. But, sometimes when we are too literal, it comes across hokey. This is one of those times. The idea is to capture someones attention with a visual that is inviting. These visuals are not inviting to me. Especially if I’m a college freshman/sophomore. As a matter of fact, they scare me. I don’t want to be around that guy doing the move from Flashdance or the girl who looks like she’s riding on the front of the Titanic. Take the goofy people out so I can focus on what is important to me and not get distracted by what isn’t. 3) web addresses don’t need the http://www. Just the is fine. It looks like someone who doesn’t use the web wrote the ad. 4) Amount of copy is good. Nice use of white space.
    OXYGEN’S continued growth won’t be b/c of this ad. There’s something else that’s working for them. Congrats on that thing.

  • Michelle
    September 26, 2005

    I love it. I think it looks great. There are two things that I would change. I don’t like the forward slant font. And I DO NOT ever like the word “fellowship”. Do we ever use that word in a context other than church?

  • Kem Meyer
    September 26, 2005

    BTW, Kevin, what exactly is a “steal” town? :)

  • kevin
    September 26, 2005

    A “steal” town is what happens when you’ve been working all day and then try to blog in the evening and you can’t seem to type anymore. ;-)
    Thanks for the correction.

  • ashley
    September 26, 2005

    As both a 22 year old college student and a graphic designer, this ad does not appeal to me. I think Kem makes a very good point about logo overload. There are too many logos fighting for the readers attention. It would work better if you focused the logo attention to oxygen because that is the event that is trying to be advertised. The rest of the logos (with the exception of the church’s logo) are unnecessary. The graphics are not very inviting to a college student especially since part of the target audience includes people who are seeking. The graphics just seem to be directed at an older audience. I think that the font used for the oxygen logo is a little edgy and going with something along those lines would help you reach your demographic.

  • Michael
    September 26, 2005

    I think Ashley hit the nail on the head. Nice critique.
    In addition to her comments, the copy font needs to be changed to something with the primary purpose of readibility.
    Also along with the name Oxygen with the images, this is a little too femine I think.
    What I would recommend is a drive out to a nearby college campus, walk around, talk to the students, find out what makes them tick…then translate that into a marketing piece.
    Hey Sara…what do you think? :)

  • brand1m
    September 26, 2005

    Hmm, where to start. As stated previously, the ad is in logo overload–unless you are going for the NASCAR effect. The font selection doesn’t add anything to the piece, in fact, I think it makes the ad read choppy, and that isn’t a breath of fresh air. The people (I thought they were both women at first) make me think of the kind of celebration that we can only enjoy in women’s hygene TV ads. Second on the HTTP think–dump it. I have never once looked for a community of grace. It seems like the ad is trying to promote everything related to oxygen (I refuse to cap the x and the gen). I know that in church work, we are sometimes forced to this,but I would choose the event/meeting that you want them to come to most/first and go with that.
    So lets take it apart: Dump the people, the logos, the font and now edit. Here’s the nitty: If you want to convey the idea of fresh air, maybe you show a really dingy, cramped and dirty (obviously) dorm room with the fresh air headline (I think we could come up with a better head). Maybe the copy could read something like this: With a busy schedule, sometimes you just need a break. Join us for food and conversation that matters this Sunday at 11:15 am.
    Then dump your address, web address, and oxygen logo together at the bottom.
    Some may disagree with my thoughts and thats fine. Afterall, I only make postcards so what do I know. ;)

  • Josh
    September 27, 2005

    brand1m, you’re right on target. With that lady at the bottom, my first thought was… “Is this an ad for the women’s channel?”
    Best advice I’ve ever been given: K.I.S.S., “Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

  • Stu Mcgregor
    September 27, 2005

    I must admit that it takes a hell of a lot of courage to put your design up for review…i’m a tad scared to do it myself :). Big ups to all you brave souls.
    I like brand1m’s comment.
    i think at the heart of it this ad isn’t cynical enough to catch their attention. ‘oxygen’ is a good strong logo and works well, i think, but the whole ad looks more like something i would expect to see for asthma control.
    what it’s lacking is solidity. it’s overall colour is too light and my feeling is that it would be too similar to the colour of the text in the publication so won’t standout. go dark. reduce your copy right down. look at the other gen-x advertising which shows your targets don’t want to read, they want to feel.
    the logos on their side are fighting a losing battle and are separated from the rest of the ad by that vertical line. it doesn’t seem that they are important and so could drop to the bottom (as previously mentioned) much smaller in size and achieve the same result as having them on their side, and screened out as they are now.
    stronger font. sans serif will do nicely and with less copy will have far more impact.

  • jason
    September 27, 2005

    whew. that was hard. ;)
    But GREAT advice. I wish that Kevin had been able to get this ad online before we submitted it. I would have taken a lot of your suggestions.
    The logo overload was an attempt to draw people to a few of the other sites/etc. that we offer at our church. Bad idea, I agree.
    I think the characters do look too much like an asthma commercial. funny I didn’t clue into that when i was working on it.
    I like the idea of the dingy dorm-room the best.
    Thanks for the input everyone. I guess our church marketing really does suck! (haha!)
    ~Jason Silver

  • kevin
    September 27, 2005

    I’d echo Stu’s comments–it takes a lot of guts to do this. Thanks for being gutsy, Jason. I hope everyone keeps that in mind when they give their feedback. We’re going for constructive criticism here, not the best zinger.
    Unfortunately we do have a backlog of peer review entries. We’ve been trying to run one per week (this one was a few days late) so we don’t overload you guys and then get minimal feedback. Though 10 comments in under 12 hours seems pretty good. Maybe we should try running more than one per week–what do you guys think?
    The only problem with that is having time for us to do it, so I can’t promise we can make it. But if there’s demand, we can at least try to meet it.

  • Steve
    September 27, 2005

    When I was in college, on our flyers and posters, we’d go for big visuals. One campaign I did was pretty random in retrospect, but for that I went through old photo books, and got these pictures of wild west portraits and stuff like that, and just cheaply photocopied them and I don’t even remember what the headline on the thing was, but big visuals was the key to get people to look and laugh and not just throw the thing away.
    I’ll give this group credit for trying to do soemthing like this. Obviously they put some time and effort into it.
    Ultimately what I learned in college ministry, it wasn’t so much who had the coolest flyers, but who you knew. I can only remember a handful of people ever showing up for something just because they’d seen a handout. Most came because of a personal contact they had.

  • Michael
    September 27, 2005

    Jason, congrats for putting your foot out there…it’s tough hearing the critiques sometimes, but hopefully you’re better for it.
    Designing for the church isn’t easy, you typically are trying please an entire pastoral staff and board – a whole lot of chiefs to make happy. I will say on the bright side, no one said ‘this looks too churchy’, there was no clipart and you did have a concept and followed it through. Well done.
    Keep at it!

  • Ron
    September 27, 2005

    I think the site could handle more than one peer review per week. I always look at them, but never comment as most of what I would have to say is already taken. There are probably several others out there like this, so I wouldn’t be too worried about a lack of feedback. (Plus I have some stuff I’d like

  • Ron
    September 27, 2005

    oops. I was saying…plus I have some stuff I’d like to put up for review in the near future.
    Sorry for being that guy who isn’t paying attention and has to leave two back to back posts.

  • Brian Behm
    September 27, 2005

    I’m in agreement with the others Kevin, I’d love to see the critiques happen a little more frequently. I’d also echo the other comments about the ad design… it’s quite busy, but I also think that it’s just not oriented towards college people.
    Lose the people, lose the logos. The dingy dorm sounds like a great idea, an oxygen cannister maybe? Or a bottle of Febreeze with “Looking for some fresh air?” as a headline?
    You can never go wrong with digging through Communication Arts every issue seeing what’s happening in the design world. Browsing the old issues and annuals has sparked more than a few ideas when I’ve had jobs to get done.

  • Stu Mcgregor
    September 27, 2005

    i too would like to see more of this. i’m honing my own skills by critiquing. so much design is done intuitively and then it goes to print without critique…I wonder if you could prioritise the review subjects according to print deadlines? that way we might reward the courageous before they spend their money!
    can someone else do these? can it become a subsection of the site that someone else is in charge of?
    just some thoughts…

  • Jason Silver
    September 27, 2005

    I agree. In fact, consider starting a message board or something where we can upload our own images, or link to them, and get review instantaneously.
    I know I’d use it, and if I had something to say, I would say it– keeping that whole gutsy thing in mind, of course.
    Re: the oxygen canisters. This is a big medical school, and all of my previous ideas were met with disdain by the med students. I had oxygen canisters a couple of years back, last year, a kid with an oxygen mask, and the hose coming down from the sky. They said it made them think of sick people… they wanted students to think of happy and healthy… that’s where I got off track a bit with the whole asthma thing.
    Also, they insist on the oXyGEN upper case/lower case thing… I’ve tried to talk them out of it, but no-go. ;) Med students aren’t always the most creative of types.
    Anyway, thanks all for the great feedback. I especially loved the dorm room idea. And I’ll cut back on the logo overload next time, for sure.

  • Michael
    September 28, 2005

    I too am in favor of more critques and maybe even a seperate section for them. It’s one thing to talk about how bad church marketing sucks, but much better to work on making it stronger.
    Let me know if I can help!

  • Samuel - Emo Boys
    January 12, 2009

    personally i like the design. it’s very simple but definitely captures the attention of the target audience.. the style of the ad, the pics and the types used fit perfectly the message of the ad..

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