A Christian foundation in Kansas launched a $100million campaign called “He Gets Us”, to promote Jesus to the masses. Here, advertising copywriter Lizzie Hutchison shares her expert opinion on the pricey project.
Advertising and Jesus. Two of my fave topics are finaly brought together and wow, it is uncomfortable. The Signatry, a Christian foundation in Kansas launched a $100million campaign called “He Gets Us”. It’s designed to advertise Jesus, as the 783,137 words in the Bible - it would seem - are not enough. I write ads for a living (and one day I’ll stop banging on about it) so in this instance I feel qualified to critique the work. And even if I’m not, I’m still going to, because the first rule of being a creative is backing yourself.
Why it’s good
It’s always right to point to Jesus. Particularly as his followers can be a pretty sketchy bunch. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. He is the beginning, the end, and all the bits in the middle. He’s the answer to every Sunday school question. He’s the answer to everything. So a campaign that puts him at the centre is no bad thing.
One of my favourite phrases in adland is: “Ooh careful dear, your strategy’s showing.” And it’s one of those campaigns where you can tell what the brief to the creative team was - which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It looks like they were asked to help people connect with Jesus on a human level. And they’ve done that quite nicely. The ads are lovely and simple. Black background, short headline, done. There’s “Jesus went all in too” over a casino. And “Jesus let his hair down, too” in Times Square. They’re not wrong. Jesus was fun. He was wholehearted. He was, however, a whole lot more.
Why it’s bad
Jesus was not just fully human. He was also fully God. As far as I’m aware, no one else has ever made this claim. If we’re talking about USPs, this is literally one-of-a-kind. So why not dwell on this mind-blowing dichotomy? Show his human vulnerability, but reassure people that it doesn’t end there - he is risen!
It’s easy to critique, it’s a lot harder to find a solution, so here’s my starter for ten. You could even flip the hierarchy if you want to focus on his humanity:
The one who gasped for breath.
Is the one who walked on water.
The one who starved in the desert.
Is the one who fed the five thousand.
The one who was beaten.
Is the one who beat death.
$100 million is a lot of money and clearly I can’t speak on Jesus’ behalf. But I have a hunch that if you asked him, he’d say give it to the poor. And without one of those horrible self-referential ads that says: “we were going to talk about Jesus but we gave the money to those in need instead”. Because thanks to Oatly and their milk that under no circumstances comes from a cow, we’ve really exhausted that stuff.
It’s interesting. It provokes debate. And hopefully it points people towards Christianity. But let’s not put Jesus in ads. Let’s not make him a commodity to be sold above casinos. He is so very much more than that. And to be honest, you can’t reduce him to five words. No matter how hard us copywriters try.