Mormon Billboard Madness

One aspect of The Book of Mormon musical that is particularly interesting is the LDS Church PR department’s reaction to it.

A friend visiting NYC, mentioned that one of the first things he saw was a sign atop a cab showing a man and his falcon with the caption “I’m a Mormon.”  The next taxi-topper he saw was an ad for a gentlemen’s social club (think nudie bar).

Taxi-topper: A Man and His Falcon (with Rather Long Hair)

Apparently, in Time Square there is a large video screen showing various (non-representative) church members affirming that “I’m a Mormon.”  And something similar is showing in assorted cabs throughout the city.

"I'm a Mormon" Billboard in Time Square, NYC

When my friend returned to JFK airport, he was again confronted with an “I’m a Mormon” cab sign.  This time, it had a man and his motorcycle.

If you want to advertize religion, I suppose this is the way to do it.  Try and capitalize on the success of a hit Broadway musical.  After all, “any publicity is good publicity.”  Right?

But the $64K question is:  Should a religion advertize at all?  If you do, you are out there with a whole variety of fairly obnoxious enterprises.  Is advertizing religion in this fashion appropriate?  For me . . . NO!  Particularly the saturation campaign that the LDS Church is launching in NYC.

The next, but equally important, question is:  Is it disingenuous to say you dislike or disapprove of something, and then try and capitalize on it?  Or is the LDS Church just trying to counteract possible bad information from the South-Park-gang musical?

Instead of blowing all this cash on advertizing, why not just give the money to LDS Humanitarian Services?  They will be put it to far better use.

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7 Responses to Mormon Billboard Madness

  1. erik says:

    We are seeing an enormous amount of advertising by the Mormon church. In fact, we are being bombarded by them. This is their desperate attempt to promote a false religion. Those who are on the losing end tend to cry the loudest, or use the biggest font.

  2. susan says:

    The problem with donating the money to humanitarian services is that, right now, for whatever reason, the Mormons are at the forefront of a lot of publicity. The BofM in New York has generated a ton of press, including the fact that it won 9 (?) Tony Awards, including Best Musical. I consider this PR effort by the church to be positive. It gives someone a chance to fold their arms, put their index finger to their mouth, look up to the sky, and say, “hmmmm”, lol. I think that’s the purpose of the PR ads. Although donating to humanitarian services is stalwart and noteworthy, it doesn’t quite hold the angle that the New York (and elsewhere) PR campaign seems to be doing at the moment.

  3. rogerdhansen says:

    You are avoiding the basic issue. Should churches be doing PR? And, if so, what type is appropriate? Do you really want your church to advertize on taxicabs?

    While not as flashy as a NYC electric billboard, isn’t your emotional return a lot greater by giving to LDS Humanitarian Services? Don’t we need tighter reins on how tithing money is spent? Maybe members should give more money to LDS Humanitarian Services and less to tithing.

  4. Carl Youngblood says:

    Roger, I think you’re getting prudish here. If we want the church to lose some of its backwardness in other areas, why shouldn’t it be allowed to advertise? I’d say, let it advertise, and while it’s at it, I’d like to see some actual Mormons who look like the ones in these ads sitting next to me in Church some time! Haven’t met any of them yet.

  5. rogerdhansen says:

    Hi Carl. I’m not sure what you mean about me “wanting the church to lose some of its backwardness.” I would like to see them quit trying to accomodate the Christian right, but that has little to do with advertizing. I also have strong feelings about transhumanism and progress, but I’m not sure advertizing is necessary there either.

    I agree that the Mormons in the ads hardly look typical.

    • Carl Youngblood says:

      Perhaps I should have explained better. I’m not interested in seeing the church become more provincial and less connected to the world at large. I see this media outreach campaign as an effort by the church to engage the world more directly. I think it’s unnecessarily hardline to say that a church should never advertise, but I would concede that it is possible for a church to undermine its message if advertisements are seen as too commercial in nature. I don’t think it’s crossed that line. My biggest frustration with the campaign is that I feel that the current church culture isn’t sufficiently welcoming of the kinds of people depicted in the campaign.

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