Church advertisement on the Super Bowl

Church advertisement on the Super Bowl February 6, 2010

A church might have a commercial on the Super Bowl. No, nothing like the pro-life ad from Focus on the Family. Nor a creative or moving proclamation of the Gospel. Rather, the church will be pitching Doritos:

Gabe Trevino found it funny that his grandpa wanted to be buried with beer and cigarettes.

So Trevino, who attends Pasadena’s Mosaic Church service on Sundays, had a good start when he sat down to write a commercial to be produced by Mosaic’s lead Pastor Erwin McManus.

Mosaic’s commercial is one of six finalists for the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl competition. The three entries with the most votes from Internet viewers will air Sunday during the big game.

Voting ended Jan. 31.

McManus, of Whittier, leads the church’s seven congregations in Pasadena, Whittier, downtown Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Redondo Beach, Chino and Berkeley.

The nondenominational Christian church emphasizes the arts during its services, said Kevin Willson, director of the commercial, which is titled “Casket.”

In the commercial, a man pretends to be dead so he can get his dying wish to be laid to rest in a casket full of Doritos. During his memorial service, the man eats chips and watches the Super Bowl in a television placed in the casket. But the casket tips and his ruse is discovered. After the topple, a friend attending the service stands up and declares that everyone has seen a miracle. . . .

The commercial got plenty of Internet views, and its makers think it has a good chance to be shown.

If it is rated the top overall commercial by the USA TODAY Ad Meter, the winners could get $1 million. If it makes second or third, it could garner $600,000 or $400,000.

If the commercial wins a cash prize, everyone who helped make the $3,000 film will get part of the money, Willson said.

“A big chunk of our budget was buying 70 bags of Doritos to fill the casket,” Willson said.

Although it – sort of – has somebody rising from the dead, the film didn’t have much to do with the Christian faith, Willson said.

“We didn’t really try to put in any theological implications,” Willson said. “We thought, `What’s the funniest story that will make Doritos look great.”

via Crunch time for Pasadena church that produced Doritos Super Bowl commercial – Whittier Daily News.

So is this a ministry activity or a triviality? Yes, if the church wins a million dollars, it will help its ministry, but is this worthy of a church?

What if churches or denominations put on actual commercials that communicated its actual message? What might be a good commercial that a church might run without looking stupid or demeaning itself? Or had churches better just stick to preaching, teaching, and worshipping?


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  • I recently received a piece of junk mail that had us as a church, preparing for Easter already. It said something about seeing the come in droves to your church, because – drum roll, please – you would market yourself like God. Didn’t bother reading anymore details than that. I wonder? What kind of commercial would God put on the SuperBowl?

  • I recently received a piece of junk mail that had us as a church, preparing for Easter already. It said something about seeing the come in droves to your church, because – drum roll, please – you would market yourself like God. Didn’t bother reading anymore details than that. I wonder? What kind of commercial would God put on the SuperBowl?

  • I had actually considered sending you a link to that Doritos commercial some weeks ago to see how you might comment. I was urged to vote for it at the Doritos site because I actually know someone who’s in the commercial, but I resisted because I really don’t like the way a *church* is involved in trivializing a valued and time-honored Christian ceremony, not to mention the whole idea of miracles. But it doesn’t really surprise me, given the post-modernism of the source.

    I wonder how many thousands of people are going to attend funerals in the next weeks or months and instead of meditating on the big questions of life and death and — we hope — hearing the message of hope that is Christ’s resurrection, will think of Doritos.

  • I had actually considered sending you a link to that Doritos commercial some weeks ago to see how you might comment. I was urged to vote for it at the Doritos site because I actually know someone who’s in the commercial, but I resisted because I really don’t like the way a *church* is involved in trivializing a valued and time-honored Christian ceremony, not to mention the whole idea of miracles. But it doesn’t really surprise me, given the post-modernism of the source.

    I wonder how many thousands of people are going to attend funerals in the next weeks or months and instead of meditating on the big questions of life and death and — we hope — hearing the message of hope that is Christ’s resurrection, will think of Doritos.

  • But to your questions …
    The biggest issue with churches advertising on TV is budget. It’s simply not worth doing — even on local cable — unless you can do it well, because making no impression on TV viewers is much better than making a bad impression (“cheap!”, “corny”, “insincere”, “hokey”, “holier than thou”, etc.). There’s a company/ministry or two out there that will customize pretty high quality commercials for your church (and even handle placing them on air), but it still costs money and most of the ones I’ve seen would be inappropriate for confessional Lutheran congregations.

    Still, if you’re going to advertise on TV, there are two basic approaches: 1) Try to share the message of Jesus — with an invitation to your church — in 30 seconds or less, or 2) Make an impression on the viewer that makes him or her interested in visiting your church (or web site, or …).

    Confessional Lutherans are probably more likely to lean toward the first approach because of our conviction that only the gospel can change hearts and lives. But there is really very little of substance that can be done in 30 seconds and leave much of an impression (at least not if you’re also trying to draw people to your church). In most cases we’re probably better off just going with the second approach and trying to make a positive impression that intrigues and invites (all while not sending a false or misleading message, e.g. “Join our church and all your problems will disappear” or “You’ll never encounter anything uncomfortable here!”).

    All that said, however, there is another problem with TV advertising. Congregations will too often get behind a big media campaign because they want it to do the all work of evangelism for them. They spend their entire outreach budget on ads and then say, “OK, we’ve done our job, now we just wait for the people to come.” And in so doing, they forget that Jesus told his disciples to “Go.” Passive “Come and see” strategies like advertising are best paired with “Go and tell” strategies for a balanced outreach program.

  • But to your questions …
    The biggest issue with churches advertising on TV is budget. It’s simply not worth doing — even on local cable — unless you can do it well, because making no impression on TV viewers is much better than making a bad impression (“cheap!”, “corny”, “insincere”, “hokey”, “holier than thou”, etc.). There’s a company/ministry or two out there that will customize pretty high quality commercials for your church (and even handle placing them on air), but it still costs money and most of the ones I’ve seen would be inappropriate for confessional Lutheran congregations.

    Still, if you’re going to advertise on TV, there are two basic approaches: 1) Try to share the message of Jesus — with an invitation to your church — in 30 seconds or less, or 2) Make an impression on the viewer that makes him or her interested in visiting your church (or web site, or …).

    Confessional Lutherans are probably more likely to lean toward the first approach because of our conviction that only the gospel can change hearts and lives. But there is really very little of substance that can be done in 30 seconds and leave much of an impression (at least not if you’re also trying to draw people to your church). In most cases we’re probably better off just going with the second approach and trying to make a positive impression that intrigues and invites (all while not sending a false or misleading message, e.g. “Join our church and all your problems will disappear” or “You’ll never encounter anything uncomfortable here!”).

    All that said, however, there is another problem with TV advertising. Congregations will too often get behind a big media campaign because they want it to do the all work of evangelism for them. They spend their entire outreach budget on ads and then say, “OK, we’ve done our job, now we just wait for the people to come.” And in so doing, they forget that Jesus told his disciples to “Go.” Passive “Come and see” strategies like advertising are best paired with “Go and tell” strategies for a balanced outreach program.

  • fws

    the LLL in so cal always makes a float for the rose bowl parade. same thing I would think….. same issues…..

  • fws

    the LLL in so cal always makes a float for the rose bowl parade. same thing I would think….. same issues…..

  • Dave

    Is this commercial a church activity or is it rather a bunch of people from the church getting together to do something fun. Sounds to me like the latter. Is it any more right or wrong than a bunch of guys from the church deciding to make a dugout canoe and take a cruise on the water after the big tree in the church yard is cut down?

    I think we need to realize that not everything believers do together is directly tied to the proclamation of Law and Gospel or administration of the Sacraments. Sometimes we just do stuff and live in community. That’s fine, isn’t it?

  • Dave

    Is this commercial a church activity or is it rather a bunch of people from the church getting together to do something fun. Sounds to me like the latter. Is it any more right or wrong than a bunch of guys from the church deciding to make a dugout canoe and take a cruise on the water after the big tree in the church yard is cut down?

    I think we need to realize that not everything believers do together is directly tied to the proclamation of Law and Gospel or administration of the Sacraments. Sometimes we just do stuff and live in community. That’s fine, isn’t it?

  • Dennis Voss

    There was an article in the Eau Claire WI Leader-Telegram, of course on the Religion page, this morning about this ad. In the second paragraph, the AP author writes, “with a light-hearted spoof that plays off the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” To spoof the resurrection, light-hearted or otherwise, causes me to doubt the message this supposed church puts out. Yes, I know, the church didn’t write this article, but really.

  • Dennis Voss

    There was an article in the Eau Claire WI Leader-Telegram, of course on the Religion page, this morning about this ad. In the second paragraph, the AP author writes, “with a light-hearted spoof that plays off the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” To spoof the resurrection, light-hearted or otherwise, causes me to doubt the message this supposed church puts out. Yes, I know, the church didn’t write this article, but really.

  • How about if we use our artistic skills in the realm of acting and movie making and make an ad featuring the Lutheran-Peter Muhlenberg—“There is a time to fight, and that time has now come!”
    C-CS

  • How about if we use our artistic skills in the realm of acting and movie making and make an ad featuring the Lutheran-Peter Muhlenberg—“There is a time to fight, and that time has now come!”
    C-CS

  • Well, I see the as something akin to a bake sale: Something that a church does that has nothing to do with the gospel, but that is perfectly fine.

    From what I hear, it’s a really funny commercial, and I’m not really seeing how telling a joke about trying to be buried in a casket full of Doritos is a trivialization of miracles or Christian doctrine. It’s a funny story. And this is a commercial about DORITOS, not trying to advertise Christian doctrine.

  • Well, I see the as something akin to a bake sale: Something that a church does that has nothing to do with the gospel, but that is perfectly fine.

    From what I hear, it’s a really funny commercial, and I’m not really seeing how telling a joke about trying to be buried in a casket full of Doritos is a trivialization of miracles or Christian doctrine. It’s a funny story. And this is a commercial about DORITOS, not trying to advertise Christian doctrine.