Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mormon Image Campaign To Be Run Across America


Mormons’ Image Campaign

Ads coincide with church’s greater visibility in 2012 race

Lisa Wangsness
June 20, 2011
Boston Globe

In the fall of 2008, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints convened focus groups across the country as part of a major market-research study to learn more about anti-Mormon sentiment in America.

The researchers found that the most common negative associations with Mormonism included being “pushy,’’ “cultish,’’ “secretive,’’ “controlling,’’ “sexist,’’ “antigay,’’ and “polygamist.’’ There was scant interest among those surveyed in learning more about Mormon doctrine, but they did display curiosity about Mormons as people.

“I’ll never forget this one woman,’’ said Stephen B. Allen, managing director of the church’s missionary program. When participants were asked how they would feel about doing community service with Mormons, “She said’’ — Allen adopted a stage whisper — “if you are serving alongside them, you can ask them the questions you always wanted to ask.’’

The result of the research was the “I’m a Mormon’’ ad campaign, a major rebranding effort.

The effort overlaps with a political campaign that, for the first time, includes two Mormons who are presidential contenders — former governors Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, who is in the race, and Jon Huntsman of Utah, who plans to announce his candidacy tomorrow.

Both men will have to over come the same unease about Mormons the ads seek to diminish. At the same time, pop-culture forces like “The Book of Mormon,’’ an irreverent Broadway musical hit about of two naive Mormon missionaries who are sent from Utah to Uganda to proselytize, have driven public interest in Mormonism to new heights.

The ad campaign features self-narrated video portraits of young, energetic Mormons with diverse backgrounds and eye-catching interests like surfing and violin-making. Tested in nine markets last summer, the campaign popped up on an electronic billboard in Times Square last week, days after “The Book of Mormon’’ cleaned up at the Tony Awards. The ad campaign is scheduled to run in 24 to 29 markets nationwide this fall.

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