Catholics Come Home. The big church recruits lapsed users with a new advertising campaign.

January 8, 2010

In my novel, The Happy Soul Industry God hires an advertising agency to market Heaven. Tries to anyway. All hell breaks loose before the Lord gets hooked up.

But if God had found an agency, and subsequently gotten an ad campaign, it might have looked something like the above commercial on behalf of the Catholic Church. The client is identified by the mantra “Catholics Come Home” with a website by the same name. If the client is, indeed, the Catholic Church then the money to produce these ads must come from the Archdiocese’s various regional branches.

Whatever, it’s the strategy and creative executions that interest me most. Beseeching lapsed Catholics to come home implies the target audiences are those who have drifted from the church or abandoned their faith all together.

Showing adults the “movie of their life” and forcing them to watch the lowlights is an obvious but admittedly effective approach, especially if you once believed in God, heaven and an afterlife. In one spot, a middle-aged man watches his younger self yelling and screaming at his terrified wife. In another scene, he sees himself dressing down black subordinates at work. And so on.

Yet, instead of threatening the man with the prospects of hell the church suggests that living with his dark past is punishing enough. This strategy assumes lapsed Catholics (if not all of us) are greatly tormented by (our) unflattering memories. That guilt, remorse and shame make ‘here and now’ a form of purgatory.

But, suggests the church, it’s never too late to alter the movie of one’s life. “Thankfully,” the soothing voice-over says, “you still can ask God to help edit your life story and create the ideal ending.”

Hammy yes, but refreshing in that God is now being portrayed as a loving father instead of a punishing one. He is helpful as opposed to vengeful, “no matter what you’ve done.” Coming from the Catholic Church this is “good news.” Not to mention fairly contemporary. Instead of positioning itself as a grueling but necessary chore, the Catholic Church wants to help lighten your load, and right now, not after you’re dead. It’s an enlightened approach. Lord knows they need one.

For another review of this campaign as well as other religious marketing schemes visit Church Marketing Sucks.

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12 Responses to “Catholics Come Home. The big church recruits lapsed users with a new advertising campaign.”

  1. Andy said

    The Catholic Church is a master at inspiring guilt in its members. This campaign should work (quite subtly) to rekindle some of that emotion.

  2. horrible, horrible, horrible. when albert brooks did it, it was funny. and why no vignettes of priests molesting little boys or pius turning his back to the jews during the war? spare me.

  3. SRP said

    Now, now, Jim-
    Considering the propaganda the Catholic Church used to employ this is enlightening!

  4. Des said

    This is terrible in concept and execution. But as a lapsed Catholic I can also say this is not at all compelling. I am admittedly low hanging fruit for a Catholic Church that would show any sign of being progressive. Not a church that imitates the conventions of LDS.

    Never join a religion or drink a wine that advertises on television.

  5. supdog said

    I knew the haters would come out.

    To andy, Catholics are not about guilt, but redemption. The sacrament of confession gives us grace, a sharing in the life of God and an inexplicable peace made possible by Christ’s death on the cross.

    To jim, the notion of Pope Pius XII being hitler’s pope was fabricated by the soviet union in post war europe. This can be found in kgb records post fall of the USSR. Even the NY Times (of that time) called him a lone voice crying in the desert. It’s so easy to attack someone 60 plus years later when he nor the people he aided are not here to defend themselves. Wouldn’t FDR be more culpable for his prolonged inaction?

    Many prominent jewish historians disagree with the innacurate distortions of his papacy.

    Yes, the abusers are a disgrace and there is no defending that. The handling of the events were also harmful. But remember that there are thousands of holy priests you don’t hear about or you care not to hear about because you don’t agree with the Catholic Church on certain issues.

    God has always used people to spread His message. Using a campaign is no different.

  6. SRP said

    Well said, Supdog-
    Of course the commercial is not great by artistic measures but the message is strong and the Catholic Church deserves credit for employing it.

  7. supdog, not a hater. the fact is, catholic parishes around the world not only looked the other way as priests raped young boys, they actively protected the offenders. what has gone on in ireland for example has been heinous. as for pius:

    ” Here’s the crux of the issue: By mid-1942, Pius could have had no doubt that the Nazis were slaughtering Jews en masse. Yet though papal representatives lodged protests against the deportation of Jews, the pope himself made only vague appeals, never mentioning Jews or Nazis specifically. (The one time he intervened personally, in an attempt to halt deportations from Hungary in 1944, he referred only to people persecuted because of their race.) Granted, others also equivocated. The Red Cross, for example, kept silent for fear its humanitarian work would be halted. But Pius was the pope. He had a unique responsibility to speak out — no one else’s words would’ve carried the same moral authority. Just a few years later, he denounced communism and made it clear he wanted bishops in Soviet bloc countries to oppose it, even if they risked persecution.”

  8. Andy said


    Good comments. No hate here, either.

    BTW, the term “hater” is too easily spewed out these days. It’s the lazy, blanket way to express disagreement, kind of like the ridiculous old “you suck” epithet.

  9. supdog said

    Andy. No hate here either. Sometimes I get emotional as if someone is talking badly about my mother.

    Jim, you are a sincere student of history and I sense you seek the truth. You will no doubt appreciate the following two quotes given soon after the death of Pius.

    “We share the grief of the world over the death of His Holiness Pius XII. During the 10 years of nazi terror, when our people passed through the horrors of martyrdom, the Pope raised his voice to condemn the persecutors and to commiserate with their victims.” –Golda Meir

    “Only the Catholic Churxh protested against Hitlerian omslaught on liberty. Up til then I had not been interested in the Church which alone has had the courage to struggle for spiritual truth and moral liberty.” –Albert Einstein

  10. supdog,

    i know there’s a lot of back and forth on pius and his actions during the war–i will keep an open mind and read more on the subject. thanks for the insights.

  11. Nope. said

    Religion can be an incredibly powerful force to help people and societies change.

    Unfortunately, I think we can say that U.S. culture has been changed for the worse by a deeply twisted form of Christianity. Christianity that not only ignores the loving and compassionate words of Jesus, but also uses a supposedly loving God as justification for:

    1. Multiple trillions of taxpayer dollars feeding the military-industrial complex.
    2. Vile bigotry and racism.
    3. Untrammeled corporate greed.
    4. Violent imperialism.
    5. Christian churches covering for paedophiles and sadistic third-world warlords around the world.

    In response to this ad, I quote:

    “And why behold you the mote that is in your brother’s eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?” -Matthew 7:3

  12. great post! keep it up, i will be visiting more often 🙂

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