Brittany Campbell
art director + designer


The Mormon Ads

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, aka The Mormon Church, has a lot of publicity as of lately. Mitt Romney, a member of the church, is running for president, there's "I'm a Mormon" ads all over the internet, and of course the Book of Mormon Musical. The musical won 9 Tonys in 2011 and is now touring the country.

The musical was created by Trey Parker, Robert Lopez and Matt Stone. If the names of Parker and Stone sound familiar, you're right. Parker and Stone are the creators of South Park. Remember the Mormon inspired episode of South Park? Yeah. That happened. It was pretty humorous but unless you are familiar with the church I bet you didn't get half of the jokes. Even the few songs from the musical I've listened to are more like inside jokes for members of the church. It's important to note that the musical and the South Park episode are 100% satire and tend to laugh AT the church instead of laugh WITH the church. It might be interesting to know that the creators of South Park are former church members themselves, which might explain the reason why some of the jokes would only be understood by church members. 

The Ad of the Week focuses on the ad the church has placed in response to the musical. The church has purchased ad space in the PlayBill of the Los Angeles production of The Book of Mormon Musical. And it's actually kind of brilliant.

The message of the ad is just "Read the book." I think the copy "The book is always better." Really appeals to the audience. I think that people who are attending Broadway musicals are typically a little more cultured. I think they are the kind of people who see a movie and say "The book was better." I really like that the ad isn't too over bearing and doesn't give the "churchy" vibe. It's plainly stating read the book and see what the Mormons really believe. 

The church came out with a statement when the Musical started they said "The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ."

Church spokesman Michael Purdy discussed the ad placed in the Play Bill saying "Patrons of the musical aren't likely to leave the theater with a better understanding of the Book of Mormon. Our message in the PlayBill invites the audience to seek a more complete perspective on the book, its Christ-centered message and its place in Mormon belief."

The church within the last two years has been steeping up their advertising. Just last year the "I'm a Mormon" ads could be seen on Hulu and Youtube. There's actually a whole youtube channel dedicated to the "I'm a Mormon" campaign. This campaign focused on a certain individual that was a member of the church. The individual would talk about their life, interests, family, ect. Then at the end of the ad they would say "My name is ______. And I'm a Mormon." 

I have compliments and criticisms for this campaign. We will start with the compliments. I think it's nice to give members of the church a chance to talk about themselves and break the stereotypes that outsiders typically have about members. The first time I saw this campaign I remember thinking ok, this has got to be an ad for Walmart or some kind of service that a busy family man can't live without. I was completely shocked when he said "and I'm a Mormon." It totally caught me off guard. This ad was for the church. 

Now to my criticisms. This might be a little hard to explain but I will try my hardest. Being a member of the church, I have been told time and time again by leaders of the church to not refer to ourselves as "Mormons." This term doesn't tell non-member who we are. A lot of people don't actually know that the Mormon religion is a Christian faith. Using the name "Mormon" detracts from that. It makes us sound like we base our religion off Mormon and not Christ. But if non-members knew that the church was actually called "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint" then there would be no doubt in who or what the basis of our religion is. As a designer, I believe the name church members call themselves  is very important. It's a branding issue. 

Of course people outside of the church think members worship Mormon. They are called the Mormons. Christians call themselves Christians because they worship Christ. Mormons are just another denomination of Christianity. Which is why church leaders urge church members to say "I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints." For those of you who aren't members, we even have a song that is taught to young children that has a catchy little tune repeating that phrase. It is followed by the words "I know who I am. I know God's plan. I'll follow him in faith." That's pretty much one of the most Christian things I've ever heard. 

So why do I think the "I'm a Mormon" campaign fails? It's not educating people about what the church and what members believe in. It's telling people that Mormons aren't freaks but it's still calling members Mormons. I understand that non-members are more familiar with the name "Mormon" but I still  think this ad is just trying to improve the reputation of members and not necessarily educating people about the church.

That is why I think the Play Bill ad is so brilliant. It doesn't say anything about Mormons. It just has the book cover and a link where you can request a free copy of the book and hear testimonies from members of the church. The website has a HUGE header that says "Another testament of Jesus Christ." That is what the "I am a Mormon" campaign is missing. It was selling the life style of the church and not necessarily the message of the church. If I had to compare the church to a product I would say that the feature of the church is the lifestyle but the benefit is Christ. The Play Bill ad just asks you to use your faith, a main principle in the religion, and read the book to learn more about Christ and eventually more about the church and its lifestyle.

Now I can't say how many people will actually go to the website or use the QR code (actually I really hate QR codes and I am judging the ad for using them) but I can say that it will get people to actually think about the book as a religious text and maybe one day they will consider picking it up and reading it.