Billy Graham Preaches to the Choir

February 10, 2005 by

screen shot of 'Watch Billy Graham' online adI’ve been seeing Billy Graham’s face on some of the web sites I regularly visit: and Both are Christian sites and both are carrying ads for a Billy Graham TV special.

Let me get this straight: They’re doing a TV special to present the gospel (what else does Billy do?), so they advertise on sites with primarily Christian audiences? And there’s no ‘invite a friend’ spin to the ads, it’s just ‘watch Billy’. Seems like the BGEA is off the mark this time.

Usually they’re right on the money: Earlier this year I saw ads on the homepage of hyping a TV special featuring Franklin Graham. At last year’s L.A. crusade the organization spent $1.4 million on advertising, most of it in non-English media and they backed it up with 12,000 volunteers trained in 19 foreign languages, along with 17,000 translation radios for the event itself. A few years ago ads for appeared on spiritual-related sites, all pointing to the organization’s online spiritual help section (Full Disclosure: I worked for the BGEA from 2001-2003).

The lesson? Spend advertising dollars actually reaching your target audience. If you want non-Christians to come to your church, don’t advertise in the local Christian paper, advertise in the alternative weeklies. Otherwise you’re just preaching to the choir.

Update (Feb. 15, 2005): The inside scoop on this story is that thanks to sweeps month the BGEA was unable to buy time slots on any national networks, so they went with several Christian cable and satellite networks. Since Billy Graham would be appearing on Christian TV, they decided to advertise on Christian sites with more of an awareness campaign (though I can’t help but wonder how much awareness Billy Graham needs). More than awareness, it seems the BGEA should be mobilizing people with the ‘invite a friend’ angle they’re usually so good at. Watching with a non-Christian friend may be the obvious next step for a Christian, but you can’t spend advertising dollars hoping people will make that mental step. The lesson still stands: spend your advertising dollars reaching your target audience with your target message.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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5 Responses to “Billy Graham Preaches to the Choir”

  • mikeyUneek
    February 11, 2005

    >begin rant

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  • James VanDyke
    February 11, 2005

    I’d like to give the BGEA the benefit of the doubt and say that they were going for awareness marketing. If I was defending them, which it appears I’m doing for the moment, I’d say that their logic goes somewhat along the lines of: 1) tell Christians about the show 2)Hope that if Christians, who are likely to be interested in Billy Graham, know about the specials they will tell others.
    I imagine word of mouth is pretty important for them and that it’s cheaper to start the buzz within the Christian community.

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  • kevin
    February 13, 2005

    James, I completely agree. My comments were based on observations–I certainly don’t know the inside story. After talking to a BGEA employee, I learned that they’re trying to do a TV special every month now, and February being sweeps month the only channels they could get on were the Christian cable and satellite networks. Thus the advertising on Christian web sites.
    Which is fine, except that they’re completely preaching to the choir. If they geared the ads towards the ‘watch with a friend’ message, then it’d be great. But they’re just encouraging Christians to watch and hoping they figure out the bring a friend step on their own. They really need to take that step for people and actually make it easier to invite friends (e-mail invites, etc–though the site does have a PDF flyer you can print, though it’s nothing amazing).

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  • Randy Dryburgh
    April 11, 2005

    Great blog!

    Even the choir has a checkbook, so why not preach to them?

    In lieu of a larger audience (thanks to sweeps), don’t stop talking to those who follow and support as its likely to produce *some* results.

    While I’m no BG fan, I have no doubt that BGEA knows their audience and knows how to get them to part with dollars.

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  • Church Advertising
    December 13, 2009

    I have found it interesting how churches seem to forget this one important thing. When we advertise our churches we tend to use christian words a lot. In other words people don’t understand when we say “God just wants to love you”.
    It would be better to remember what they do understand and speak in their terms.

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