UCC and blog ads

I was going to comment on the UCC’s move to buy blog ads — I saw the story first at Philocrites.com — and build off of my last post, but then Philo wrote about the UCC blog ads and thought I had better comment while the iron’s hot. And I don’t agree with his analysis. (But we also seem to disagree about what a blog is; see his “What’s next for UU blogs?”)

In short, for the UCC campaign: great idea, poor execution with a top-down, middle-brow outlook. And no capacity to build from the action apart from some name recognition.

First, I’ve thought the UCC ad a bit of a dowdy snore for more than a year. This ad should have had tighter production values and it wasn’t positive enough. In short, I think the networks would have been justified to not air the spot just by contrasting it with other national spots, and would have been wiser to leave the political piece alone. (But they weren’t, to the UCC’s public benefit.)

Second, the very idea of national TV spots coming from an underfunded denomination — if you’re on a UCC mailing list, you’ll have gotten an appeal to pay for it — seems like bad stewardship. I thought the controversy was a Godsend from a financial POV.

Third, I think think it is not lastingly productive to morph this ad campaign — who is its target demographic? — into a blog campaign. Rather than going to the grassroots and appealing to hundreds bloggers from a broad social and ecumenical spectrum for a free ad — I would have done it — it was treated as another commercial opportunity. The fact that UCC bloggers came into it in the second round suggests the decision makers didn’t reach to its own stakeholders. That can’t be a good idea.

I would have run a campaign more like Firefox when it was going public. See SpreadFirefox.com. It enrolled evangelists and gave them simple tools to redirect their constituents to the prize: browser software, or in the UCC’s case, the “banned ad” and perhaps other downloadable goodies. (A good portal opportunity for podcasting, too. Definition? See “What is podcasting?” at iPodder.org

And the UUA should run such a campaign. We have a large corps of bloggers and we should be seen and courted as a resource.

And as for making a news story out of SpongeBob, my mind reels back to the other great policy-fictional fracas of my lifetime: Dan Qualye denouncing Murphy Brown. Treating a fictional character like a real person invites ridicule.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. I don’t know why the trackback didn’t work automatically. It’s there, but I decided that spambots were collecting published trackback URLs and so I stopped publishing the URL and simply linked it as “Trackback URL for this entry.” Of course, I may simply misunderstand how the technology is supposed to work.

    I wasn’t judging the aesthetics or message of the UCC’s campaign. But I do think they’ve managed to get quite the bang for their buck. Could another denomination pull off what the UCC has done? I doubt it. Much of the success has had to do with the unexpected reception of the campaign on the superblogs of the left especially — DailyKos, MyDD, AmericaBlog, etc. — for whom “Christian” and “liberal” didn’t register a year ago. The UCC has gone first in making a splash with the big boys of the left, and that has generated publicity that brought funding for the UCC’s TV ads from non-UCC people. It also seems to have helped generate some actual interest in the church, although I haven’t seen anything like a report on the rise in the number of visitors in congregations or in membership.

    As for SpongeBob: Did it invite ridicule? Did the ridicule overwhelm the net gain in interest the stunt generated in the church? Did it make a serious point? What I’d really love to know about that particular stunt, though, is how the denomination managed the indignation of “serious” churchpeople within the denomination, of which I can only imagine there would have been quite a bit.

  2. Oh, I’ll also look forward to your comment on my “What’s Next for UU Blogs?” post. I’m not speaking magesterially, you understand, just trying to nudge others to join in.

  3. Actually, the news about the banning of the UCC ad reached Spain and most of Europe. Of course, here nobody knows what the UCC is and what it stands for, so the usual “informed” comment was: “There they go again, those Americans, as conservative as usual and limiting every one of their remaining liberties under Bush’s authoritarian rule.”

  4. Are you making a formal request to the UUA to do something with the bloggers? Not a bad idea. What are your thoughts on FUUSE.com and its potential to redefine Unitarian Universalism for the younger generation?

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