My Lame Marriage Campaign

November 8, 2005 by

For this peer review we take a look at the “My Lame Marriage” marketing campaign put on earlier this fall in Austin, Texas.


My Lame Marriage billboard

Invite card (front):
My Lame Marriage invite card, front

Invite card (back):
My Lame Marriage invite card, back

Mobile billboard:
My Lame Marriage mobile billboard

Lake Hills Church
Austin, Texas
Created by Andrew Barlow
Lake Hills Church is a growing church in Austin that just broke 3,000 average weekend attendance this fall.

The My Lame Marriage campaign attempted to drive interest in a six-week series that would offer a frank discussion on the challenges of marriage. The campaign included three billboards, two mobile billboards, radio spots and invite cards passed out to members. Everything pointed to the web site, which initially had a sort of fake blog appearance with entries from frustrated husbands and wives, but every link went to the Lake Hills site describing the message series. Sensing the blog was a bit too much, they switched to a more conventional look after about ten days.

The campaign received mixed reviews, including a write up in the Austin American Statesman. Over all Barlow commented that the campaign did boost attendance and encouraged members when they saw their church trying a new form of outreach. The campaign is over now, so any feedback will strictly be to help future efforts.


  • What do you like about the campaign?
  • What do you think of the title, “My Lame Marriage”?
  • What do you think of the design and writing?
  • How do you think having a multi-media approach (billboards, radio, invite cards) helped the overall campaign?
  • What would you have done differently?
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.
Read more posts by | Want to write for us?

22 Responses to “My Lame Marriage Campaign”

  • Wesley Walser
    November 8, 2005

    It’s exciting to see a church try a venue like this.
    I really like the bilboard effort, but the blog that was mentioned, I think, might have drew some of the focus off of the fact that it was at a church. I can see how that would have been the whole point, but once people have taken the time to look at a site that they saw on the bilboard, which I have never done, I would think the blog would make some feel tricked. Don’t get me wrong, I like the blog idea, just think what peoples reactions were.
    Awesome idea, glad a church is trying new forms of advertising.

     | Permalink
  • brand1m
    November 8, 2005

    A+ for the concept. That is such a great take on the subject. I understand the thought of being tricked, so I think that is a valid concern.
    As for the execution, I would give it maybe a C+. Such a cool title and idea and such incredibly boring art direction. I realize that may have been intentional, and I’m not suggesting they should have used a chorus line of dancing monkeys, but come on–I think that part is suffering.

     | Permalink
  • corey
    November 8, 2005

    +1 on the concerns about being tricked.
    However, I LOVE the black-on-yellow simplicity (Stryper, anyone?… uh… hello?… *tap* *tap* is this thing on?…). The lack of distracting graphics and the legibility of the URL make it great for high-speed advertising. I would have checked the web once I got home.
    I WOULD suggest for the future a site that fulfills the gutsiness of the campaign, though. This is smarmy and tongue-in-cheek and I felt like the site (as it stands today) is pretty churchy. I’m not suggesting that you hide the fact that it’s a church, but a campaign like this needs commitment from start to end. THAT may be why I’m feeling the bait and switch…
    Good stuff, though. Kudos for gutsy church marketing.

     | Permalink
  • s. zeilenga
    November 8, 2005

    Yeah, I think the website is lacking in the power of the original designs on yellow. It might be simple black on yellow but it is an attention getter, but then the website is just fairly bland.
    In general, I give them credit for doing such a big campaign about marriage though. I wonder how much of a draw it will be.

     | Permalink
  • s. zeilenga
    November 8, 2005

    And is it just me or does that webpage layout need to be centered? The left side design is a bit distracting.

     | Permalink
  • Chad Maag
    November 8, 2005

    Love the direction the art went with the displays, very appropriate use of colors (black on yellow yields highest contrast, think about roadside cautionary signs) especially when you consider the series is about the challenges facing marriages.
    On the flip side, I did immediately think of the yellow book ads we’ve been seeing on TV lately, which may have helped them or hindered them, not sure
    I was disappointed to see that they didn’t try to tie the design of the website in with the theme of their print and display pieces.

     | Permalink
  • Rich
    November 9, 2005

    This would be okay for a joke and a very funny one considering the controversy on the same sex amendment in Texas but personally being Lutheran I hate topical how to improve your marriage or life sermons because it is not gospel or law that is supposed to drive us to Grace. The focus is all on our wants and needs.
    That is why Lectionary preaching is good. It forces you to struggle with the texts and not necessarily the texts you prefer to boost your agenda.

     | Permalink
  • corey
    November 9, 2005

    Not to hijack the comments section, but Rich, you raise a good point. I was raised (and trained) as a Lutheran- but I live in SoCal which is the land of “For A Better Life, Just Follow These 8 Steps” sermons/messages. I like your point on “lectionary” preaching- and I usually walk out of messages asking my wife, “where was the Law and the Gospel?”.
    But at the same time, I feel like we’re at this crossroads where we need to meet people where they are and find the opportunity to go deeper. I’m not suggesting any kind of bait and switch scheme. I’m just a Lutheran at heart who does church marketing for at least half his income so I struggle with a duality of purpose. One is the share law and gospel, because it is succinct and appropriate. The other is to earn the opportunity to share the law and gospel through engaging messages and/or programs. For instance, I just did a large marketing campaign for an annual festival for St. Johns Lutheran in Orange, CA. Nobody would dream that the event is strictly in place to share doctrinal or liturgical gospel- but at the same time, they’re hoping that the festival builds the community and opens the door to share sound doctrine.
    This message series reminds me of that crossroads I mentioned because it draws people in by way of their own language. It’s like a large, living parable. However, I think you and I are both in agreement that once they attend the service, they should be met with a message that is both relevant to the campaign and sound in doctrine.

     | Permalink
  • Mike
    November 9, 2005

    C’mon gang, I think you’re being too harsh. Overall this is great! It is way, way better than the ad campaigns all the other church’s aren’t doing! Mobile ads? Billboards?
    Think of the the stereotypes alone that this is busting! Also, I appreciate the fact that they get to the point on the website. Straight forward and I think it may appeal to the “lowest hanging fruit:” people whose marriage is really in a difficult position.
    I only hope they have “counselors standing by.” Think about the ramifications if this actually works! Great front end, but you better have the back end really covered or people could be inspired but not helped. Then you have a bigger issue with WOMMA!

     | Permalink
  • Matt
    November 9, 2005

    What I fail to see in the campaign and website, is any hint that the teaching is from God’s Word, or that ultimately the Gospel is the answer.
    Why just give advice and tips about life, when you can give scripture and the gospel?
    Over all, I like the campaign. Just hoping to offer that perspective. Great job reaching out to the community, and excellent use of the many resources that God has blessed you with!

     | Permalink
  • Keith Locke
    November 9, 2005

    Sometimes excellent design takes a backseat to a simply great idea. Decent design. Simple. Intentional. It works in large part. Til you get to the site.
    However, I have seen this concept pitched before under “My Marriage Sucks” as the headline. Billboards and the whole deal. Successful from what I recall.
    I think what churches need to get used to is when they do a campaign like this… do a microsite instead of landing directly at the church website. You can always link the microsite to the church website. It gives a chance to gain more concept content and buy-in before asking them to stop by for the visit.
    Stay consistent. Stay on message.
    Personally – if I were on staff at a church, I would develop microsites for every message series the pastor(s) did.
    It allows the message (that draws the people to begin with) to be explored further.
    As to the scripture comment. There is always a place for that. But you gotta get people in the door first to hear (if that is your first objective).
    Great discussion here. Thanks everybody!

     | Permalink
  • brand1m
    November 9, 2005

    I think the micro site is definitely the way to go. I am planning that for all our series’ next year.
    The one downside is our host is a pain to work with, but I’ve just learned to deal with it.

     | Permalink
  • Ted
    November 10, 2005

    Something I don’t get: on the back of the invite card, what are the three little boxy symbols near the top-left? Am I missing something symbolic or churchy, or … is that just random?

     | Permalink
  • corey
    November 10, 2005

    “Something I don’t get: on the back of the invite card, what are the three little boxy symbols near the top-left? Am I missing something symbolic or churchy, or … is that just random?”
    Is that their logo? “lake” + “hill” + “sun” = LakeHills Church? It’s speculation, but if it’s the logo, I dig it.

     | Permalink
  • brand1m
    November 10, 2005

    I was under the impression that it is their logo. I like the style of it.

     | Permalink
  • Melissa
    November 10, 2005

    Now that the campaign and message series is over, do you feel like it was a success? What metrics are you using (did you use) to determine success? How much did your visitor flow increase? How did you track if new visitors came as a result of this campaign?
    Sorry for the 20 questions. I’m also in Austin and I thought it was a great idea. And tried to imagine what it would be like to have your budget. :-)

     | Permalink
  • Michael
    November 10, 2005

    I like concepts like this, it grabs your attention. I agree with many of the comments of others especially the follow through with the website, I think they took their lumps a bit too hard. Yellows probably not the color I would have used…but, well done for having a concept.
    On Melissa’s comment on budget, you can get a billboard for pennies of what a business would pay, they are always looking for non-profits to sell their unused boards to for around $100…check it out.

     | Permalink
  • Dan Lee
    November 11, 2005

    I really like the design and the idea. Black on yellow is meant to make the most impact. With billboards that size you won’t be able to miss it.
    The site is ok but could be better in terms of content. I would not be keen on downloading content that could easily be seen on the site, it acts as a barrier because I carry on browsing and forget what I have downloaded.
    When I first got to the site it wasn’t aware that it was a church site, which might be a good or a bad thing depending on the target audience.

     | Permalink
  • Market Anomaly
    November 13, 2005

    Blog Voyager: Church Marketing Sucks

    I’m tired of reading the standard fare in the marketing blogosphere, so I’m looking for new and interesting options. The other day it occurred to that there are tons of blogs that focus on marketing from fun niche perspectives. It’s…

     | Permalink
  • Joshua
    November 14, 2005

    I feel bait/switched just because of the design change from the marketing to the website. As has already been mentioned, there is a clear disconnect between the styles. The marketing is simple, bold, the site is soft, churchy, not distinct.
    Also is there any worth whatsoever in this message to non-married people? I’m sure the marketing drew many singles in from curiousity, but the site doesn’t address this.
    The marketing campaign is great, but maybe that’s just cause I like yellow/black and things without graphics. Unfortunately the site is a mismatch and doesn’t measure up.

     | Permalink
  • Andrew
    November 29, 2005

    Sorry for taking so long to respond on your great comments. I’ll answer a couple of questions (in no particular order) quickly then ruminate on a few others:
    ** Three-box thingy: yes, that’s our logo. You can see it used more on our own site, We hired a designer to create it about six years ago and have been pleased with its simplicity and timelessness.
    ** Effectiveness: we had a nice attendance spike in early September, breaking any previous non-holiday attendance numbers. The challenge as with any effort like this is the back-end: delivering a great series of teaching worship experiences, offering follow-up with those who really need help, connecting people into genuine life-changing Christ-centered community. (You know, the easy stuff.) Attendance post-series has tapered a bit, but some of that is seasonal as well.
    ** Campaign origin: yes, this is a reworking of similar campaigns that ran in Houston ( I think?) and South Carolina (I think that was We stand tallest on the shoulders of giants…
    ** Actual site design: as I think might have been mentioned elsewhere, the original site concept was to do a faux blog containing the thoughts of people in lame marriages (keeping it reasonably light but compelling). After testing it live for a few days, we decided it was a little too disingenuous, possibly making people feel deceived when they figured out it was from a church. We turned a replacement site pretty quickly (thank God for our incredibly gifted graphic design volunteers) that was brighter and more straightforward.
    ** Verbiage: Regarding the mention of it being Word-based teaching, etc., we’re trying to reach a demographic that either doesn’t know what those words mean or don’t care or are put off by them. By advertising to resonate with a felt need, we’re hoping to draw people with the goal of providing them the only real solution (you know, God.) If we can’t get them in the door (obviously only as flawed/limited participants in the Holy Spirit’s work of drawing people), we can’t tell them that God is the answer in a way they’ll receive. At least that’s our thought.
    Keep the comments coming: we want to get better.

     | Permalink
  • tim sabo
    July 9, 2006

    it was genius.
    it catered to a younger, more savvy crowd.
    it’s a hip church and this billboard campaign is consistent with the brand personality

     | Permalink

Peer Review