Last week during bowl games the Southern Baptist Convention aired commercials attempting to polish their image. The ads focused on the relief work of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Cooperative Program, highlighting programs fighting AIDS, helping rehabilitate prisoners and feeding Katrina victims. While Southern Baptists are often better known for what they’re against, these ads try to portray what the Southern Baptists are for.
Critics are quick to point out that it’s a classic bait and switch:
Dr. Ammerman, the Boston College sociologist, said a visit to the Web site could undo some of the image-shifting that the ad is trying to accomplish.
“You don’t have to go very far into the links to find the SBC most people think of,” she said. A couple of clicks, for example, take a visitor to a page of testimonials, including one from a “former homosexual” and one from a “former Muslim.” Other linked pages focus on abortion and “Christmas under siege.”
I think it’s interesting that the Southern Baptists are being accused of a bait and switch for not telling everything about their denomination in a 30 second TV spot. They focus on one thing and send people to their web site for more. You may disagree with the rest of what their denomination believes, but they’re not hiding anything. They two messages are not mutually exclusive.
A more important question may be what happens when we film our good deeds and use them to promote ourselves? This is the bigger question, and one most opponents of church marketing raise. Is it prideful to show people the work we’re doing? Is it OK for the Red Cross to use results-oriented marketing but wrong for the church? Would Jesus have put together a 30-second spot touting his miracles? They’re not all fair questions, and I won’t pretend to have any answers to them, but this is where a lot of the church marketing issues bring us.
And so the debate continues.