Up In Smoke
No apology is offered to readers who are smokers, or christians, of their own free will. The author has been both, and is now neither.
The article’s vanished from the website of The Australian now, but there are copies all over the web, like sweaty prints in a shroud of Turin, helping with the problem of disbelief. Of course, I mean Roy Eccleston’s article from September 20, 2005: “The Atheist Who’s Selling Jesus”.
The big-bucks media push and website of the Jesus All About Life campaign, set up as part of a multiple-state, multiple-church campaign to spread their big message, is an interesting study in What’s Not Said.
The article begins:
Angus Kinnaird has advised some big brands – the Sydney Olympics, the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, Telstra and Brand Australia to name a few – but admits he has rarely had an assignment so tough.
“I’ve had lots of clients wanting to update their image,” says the Melbourne strategy director of FutureBrand. “But I don’t think I’ve ever come across one that has quite as many problems as the church.”
The Christian church certainly has had its share of difficulties: paedophile priests, an out-of-touch hierarchy, falling attendances in traditional churches, a reluctance to incorporate women, and a lack of relevance to a baby boomer generation bred on freedom, consumerism and self-absorption.
Further in, we read…
The new marketing strategy keeps the church, the Bible and religion well out of the picture. Instead, the spotlight falls on just one star. Jesus is played not as the son of God but a tough-talking no-nonsense philosopher who makes life easier and, incidentally, eternal.
Why Jesus? “That was the only place we had to go,” Kinnaird says. The research shows that the church is almost an insurmountable obstacle to the campaign. “The church was seen as the problem, not the solution,” he says.
This “Accentuate The Positive, Dodge Around The Negative” approach reminds me of the devious ways of cigarette advertising, back in the days when overt advertising of the stuff was allowed over here.
The image of the carefree smoker, complete with success, all the play-toys imaginable, and not a problem in the world, was the thing. In Marlboro Country, where the flavour is, there are no sad bastards with coughs, and even the skinny, round-shouldered guy becomes a tanned, manly cowboy, at ease with the world he surveys from atop his powerful horse.
Tar, carcinogens, bunged-up airways, clogged arteries and cancer therapy are never mentioned when tobacco is advertised. This holds true from time immemorial, till today. It’s all about flavour, all about freedom, all about choice, all about style, all about satisfaction, all about social acceptance, all about freshness, all about mildness… somebody ought to have chucked in “all about life” somewhere down the line: after all, an early choice for Kinnaird’s campaign was “Jesus. Nothing about Religion“.
Bit of a soft-soap, huh?
Now bear in mind that cigarettes, no matter how they’re packaged, will still yield tars and carcinogens, clog up some bits of the user’s body, and considerably increase the susceptibility of the smoker to cancer. And anybody responding to the Jesus All About Life adverts will get exactly what the advertisers don’t want to tell them about… a church, complete with all the things people get to hate in a church. I think Mr Kinnaird listed some in the article quoted at the beginning of this post:
- paedophile priests,
- an out-of-touch hierarchy,
- falling attendances in traditional churches,
- a reluctance to incorporate women,
- and a lack of relevance to a baby boomer generation bred on freedom,
- consumerism and
All in all, it’s much the same, church or cigarettes… buy into the dream, pay more and more for a pack, and get irritating, harmful hot air.
Still, everybody’s doing it, as the opinion makers will gladly tell you…