Church Commercial on Rock Radio

December 9, 2005 by

This makes me happy: Today’s peer review takes us beyond web sites and print and into the world of radio. Share your suggestions and feedback in the comments.


Radio commercial:

“I’m going to a church that doesn’t suck…” (260 KB .mp3, 1:06)

Newspaper ad:

Calvary Fellowship
West Hartfort, Conn.
created by Bill LaMorey
Calvary Fellowship is a six-month-old church plant that has attendance in the teens. They’ve recently switched locations and are planning to do some advertising, initially trying to promote their Christmas Eve service. They ran a print ad in community newspapers (targeting young families) and printed 10,000 high quality invites that they’ll hand out in person.

They also put together a radio spot which will run on a local rock station (it’s a modern hard rock station with some classic rock that carries the Howard Stern Show and plays everything from Pink Floyd to Nirvana to Aerosmith to Slipknot). They hope to attract younger people who have left the church or those who have never been to church.

They are considering doing more radio advertising for their next series (that’s what the newspaper ad promotes) and would appreciate feedback on how to make the radio spots better. The Christmas Eve radio spot will run Dec. 19-24, so there is a small window where feedback can be implemented.


  • What do like about their overall approach?
  • What would you do differently?
  • What do you specifically like about the radio spot?
  • Does it reach its intended audience?
  • What would you change about the radio ad?
  • What do you like about the newspaper ad?
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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19 Responses to “Church Commercial on Rock Radio”

  • mikey
    December 9, 2005

    First of all, major props! This is awesome – the concept and approach.
    I would suggest some tweaks on the execution, though:
    – It’s too long. 30 seconds max. It’s a lot of talking for the generation you’re trying to reach.
    – Use a more relevant announcer. He’s good, but suited for a pop station. You need dude with a big attitude voice or a British chick.
    – The pastor message is okay, but not necessary. I understand why you’re doing it (“hey, he sounds like a noraml dude!”), but it adds to the length and I’d suggest you stick to the most important points.
    – Is your small body all on the same page? Or is this a pet project of the pastor only? Are you really ready for the kinds of folks who will show up? Gay couples, goths, kids who want to make trouble? Be ready for anything.
    My $.02…

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  • Brandon Meek
    December 9, 2005

    Overall approach – I like it for the most part. It probably fits the medium/audience well.
    What would I do differently? It seems to get a little too “churchy” once the pastor takes over. I ask myself, do I need him and everything that follows him? How could I simplify it and still get everything in.
    What do I like? I like that they are attempting to reach this audience, through this medium.
    What would I change? The two guys at the end, get a little too Beavis and Butthead – especially when he says church sucks. Also the length. I got tired of it way before the finish. Cut it in half, get to the point. You’ve got my attention by telling me church sucks, now just tell me how its going to be different. I don’t feel really convinced, except that if someone is willing to acknowledge that church sucks, their church must not. Radio is hard to work with, so big up yourself for the effort.
    As for the newspaper ad, I like the colors, but thats about it for me. If I heard the “church sucks” ad, then saw this, I would think, oh they meant that their church sucks (sorry). It just looks like a generic church ad. If you are going to put forth that kind of attitude in the radio spot, I would like to see that attitude carried out in the newspaper ads.
    As for the ad itself, the logo, phone and site address carry too much weight. They could all be smaller. I’m not a big fan of the diagonal type. The line itself sounds churchy – my guess is church vision statement. The headline could probably just be “A New Way to Be a Human” and be just as good or better. “A new year a new you” sounds like a weight loss program.

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  • Ryan
    December 9, 2005

    The concept of doing a radio spot on a rock radio station is great. If you’re really going after people disenfranchised or inexperienced with the church, it’s a great place to start. However, you want to change the content of this spot if you really want to draw people.
    1. Shorten it. Seriously. I stopped listening. Thirty seconds is all these people will hear.
    2. I tend to disagree with the comments above suggesting that the pastor’s segment of the ad should be dropped. He seemed like the most real part of the whole thing to me. True, he was a little “churchy,” but he was authentic and not typical cheesy radio. In fact, I would almost …
    3. Leave out the duologue at the beginning (I hate obviously scripted radio dialogue—you get it everywhere, not just with Christians). The pastor speaking personally about his own bad experience with churches that suck would be more compelling to me. You could then have a good rock radio voice give the basic info, which leads me to my next point:
    4. I completely agree with the previous comments—the announcer voice is all wrong. I don’t know that I’d be on board with the typical gravelly rock voice or the British chick (people can see through that just as easily as through the cheesy pop voice). Maybe that’s yet another reason I liked the pastor’s part of the spot so much. He’s a regular guy, but a man’s man, which reminds me:
    5. Men listen to rock radio. Women listen to hits radio and country. Clearly, I’m generalizing. But it’s still generally true: if this is the only station the church has a spot on, they’re appealing primarily to men.
    6. The newspaper ad doesn’t fit. Maybe it’s not meant to, and if so, it succeeds. More problematically, it has split focus. The headline is clearly aiming at unchurched people, trying to grab them with a stolen (but clever) Switchfoot line. But then the bullet points at the bottom are addressing concerns that only church people have (what is the teaching like, what is the worship like, etc.). Throw in a word like revelation, and you have now completely lost your unchurched audience. Slick ad, though. I like the design, very wintery.

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  • mark Rodriguez
    December 9, 2005

    hey bill i loved the ad. miss you down here in mia… keep up the great work…

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  • Josh
    December 9, 2005

    Yes indeed. Mad props to you for putting your stuff up for the masses to tear into.
    “Church sucks” is a pretty bold statement, and it will catch people’s attention. With radio, keeping people’s attention during a commercial is the hard part. Definitely shorten it to 30 seconds.
    I would continue this bold “church sucks” approach in the design of your print piece. It’s almost like it’s two different churches. Using the word “revelation” stood out to me as well… I would lose that.

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  • Ted
    December 9, 2005

    I have to admit, the first time I listened, I was wondering, “How do the other churches in the area feel about this church saying THEY suck?”
    But I was wrong.
    I went back and listened again. I thought the dialog went “…church sucks! / YEAH, BUT I’m going to a church…” but it was actually “…church sucks! / WELL, I’m going to a church…”
    BIG difference, and a subtle mistake avoided well. Great ad!

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  • glenn
    December 9, 2005

    Whoa, cool flyer . . . totally draws me in with that slanted font.
    Haven’t heard the radio commerical yet, but I would still visit that church just by looking at the newspaper ad!

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  • Eric Jaffe
    December 10, 2005

    I listened to the ad, actually have spoken to the pastor as well. He has a great heart and I believe God will honor this and use all of the tools he is using to reach out to people in CT.
    I never thought I was getting old, but maybe I am. For some reason I can’t help but feel that even the most heathen of folks as I certianly was have some reverance surrounding Christianity and Christmas.
    Props to him for going for it, as I shared with him. He is a little bolder than I. :)

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  • Eric Jaffe
    December 10, 2005

    One more comment, I’d love to hear what attendance was like after the mailers, flyers, radio spots, and newspaper ads come out. please post what happened.

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  • jessica weiser
    December 10, 2005

    I like it, but agree about the length. I just learned the same lesson with our Christmas radio ads (both 60 seconds) and next year I’ll definitely take them down to 30 seconds. Overall I think this will get people’s attention, though. I’d love to know, as the above poster mentions, attendance numbers as well…

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  • Steve
    December 10, 2005

    A few comments…
    use a different music bed. Trans-Siberian Orchestra or something. Something rawkin’.
    Voice talents: They’re all good, quality voice talents… but… not fit for this spot. The guy who says church doesn’t suck sounds like a 42 year old radio station program director, not a 23 year old Slipknot fan.
    Announcer voiceover guy sounds like he’s on an adult contemporary station, not the vibe you want. I can just see him saying “Coming up next we have Matchbox 20, Mariah Carey, and Elton John on the Lite FM” And when he says “This isn’t your grandma’s church” he sounds like he’s my dad, not my 20 something friend.
    I like having the pastor on. He sounds like a regular guy, and I thought it was very effective having him talk. But as others have said, cut it down to a :30 spot. A :60 is too long for this.
    The script is pretty solid. I don’t know that I’d change much. I liked the pastor’s copy.
    Now that I’ve savaged it… in all seriousness, I liked it, and thought it’s pretty effective. With a little tweaking, it’s a solid effort, and certainly worth doing!

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  • Michael
    December 11, 2005

    Nice to see a church pushing the limits of their marketing mix! Nicely done, radio is a tough medium to make something really work. My experience has shown that radio must be a part and not a whole, it must have support tieing in and enforcing it.
    I agree with many of the comments made:
    – shorten up
    – drop the pastors church talk
    – give it a bit more edge
    – adding a different music bed may help
    – tie it in with the flyer, radio is a frequency marketing tool, the flyer can build on that and bring it to mind when they see it. Right now the flyer loses edge and doesn’t seem as well executed as the spot.
    I too would like to hear how it works out for you.

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  • sean
    December 12, 2005

    i’ll be mr. negative.
    don’t know why you’re carefully parsing the ‘church sucks’?
    the repetition pretty much reinforces the silence about other churches — ‘they suck’.
    ‘this is not your grandmother’s church’, means ‘because that one sucks’.
    the promise of difference that this church holds out — you can fit it in with your shopping.
    then the message picks up on a familiar truth, ‘maybe people are wondering why they’re buying all this crap’. and the church positions itself as a place where you can find out why you just bought all that crap, without having to find a new parking space.
    here’s a little thought from Kierkegaard about church marketing. everybody knows that the stuff you can get for free isn’t worth anything. K. mused that church was free, and people thought it was useless. He said that in his little city there on the feudal cusp of modernity, if churches started charging admission, then it would be sending a message that people would understand- ‘this is a time and a place that is worth something’. he thought you would have more people attend it you were to put a price on it.
    but putting that price on church attendance, would be to value it in a way that is alien and antagonising to what a church offers the world. the freeness which people might dismiss, is the world encountering, and even rejecting the christian god.
    it is nearly impossible for someone to walk into a church, to get past all the aesthetics and tics and dross, to stay open enough that they can encounter the body of christ, that they can hear the spirit’s invitation.
    but the job of a brilliant ad, in all of my own failed efforts, is to help someone encounter a premonition of what it is that doesn’t suck, in the moment they see or hear a church’s ad.
    this radio spot reinforces the widely held notion — church sucks. it promises that this church doesn’t, holding out the promise that there is a message behind the rush (here a disconnect, because we have to assume that the message is no different than all those sucking churches), and all we’ve got to support the claim is the personal invitation of a religious professional with a vested interest in selling his own brand.
    i don’t mean this to hurt. i mean it because i think your church’s message of not sucking is vastly strengthened by a different message. tough figuring out that message.
    how much good will and peace on earth is anybody feeling after 11 minutes circling the parking lot of that mall trying to find a space? why is it that ‘peace on earth’ sounds vaguely threatening? does peace on earth lie further along the path of all the stuff we’re comfortable with?
    or deciding between two radically different hopes and paths: ‘peace on earth’ or ‘do no harm’
    ‘we don’t suck’ is not a proclamation.

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  • Bill LaMorey
    December 12, 2005

    Thanks for all the great comments, you’ve certainly given us much to consider. As a baby church, we certainly do not think we’ve got it all figured out. In fact, I didn’t submit our commercial for review because I thought we were amazing, but I in fact was inspired by the lack of radio efforts as reported in the Center for Church Communication’s recent report. Our ad was already in the works, and I thought it would be great to get evaluation as well as to get people talking and thinking about their own ads.
    Certainly the one thing that has been consistent in the reviews is the length (so that has become pretty clear). The rest we will sift through and consider carefully as we move forward.
    Just to be clear, the print ad isn’t intended to work in tandem w/ the radio ad; in fact it’s a follow up New Year campaign. The front of our Christmas invites can be viewed on our website. But all print ads were placed in community newspapers targeting young families, and were not intended to compliment the radio. We didn’t start the church just for rock-station listeners, but we certainly wanted to let them know that they were invited too.
    We are not out to make a statment about the suckiness of other churches, but more so we wanted to get the attention of this audience and let them know that we know what they think (even if it’s not true).
    Sean…you’ll be happy to know that your feedback has prompted us to charge admission to the service.
    As requested, in a couple weeks, I’ll post a quick report about our effectiveness (or lack thereof)
    Merry Christmas!

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  • Slice of Laodicea
    December 16, 2005

    Relating to The World, or Conforming?

    This is probably going to be another one of those stories where two groups are talking past each other. I see this as a specific church conforming to the world, which passages like Romans 12:2 warns us against. On the…

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  • Susan
    December 19, 2005

    Agree with most of the above comments, but have to add that you need a better proofreader as the word “through” is misspelled in your slanty text.

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  • Blind Beggar
    December 28, 2005

    Can we have some follow-up and feedback on how the focus went for Calvary Fellowship?

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  • Bill LaMorey
    December 30, 2005

    I had promised feedback on our Christmas Eve outreach efforts so here goes: It was a wonderful…failure. Let me explain that, and then give some positive impact as well.
    Our overall turnout was 26 people for our 1st service and 16 for our 2nd (10 redundant from the 1st svc.) This is better than normal since our weekly Sunday attendance has ranged from the low teens to the high 20s, but far from explosive.
    In the end, personal invitation was the most effective (as we all know is most often the case). Not one person came because of the radio ad, the community newspaper ads, or the free Christmas gift wrapping event we held at Sears the week prior. Only 2 people came on their own because of the printed invites and those were guests staying at the hotel we meet at who were already Christians.
    I took the feedback generated at CMS to my contact at the radio station (especially the length issue) and he said he thought the ad was solid and should stand as is, so i deferred to his 12 years exp. We initially purchased 10 spots, someone in the body purchased 15 more and the station threw in 5 more (30 total). They ran the week of the event in prime, varied times. Our web hits spiked and the radio station got calls inquiring about us. So we were very surprised that not one person came to our event.
    My perspective: The push was a failure in regards to this event, but may have been a success in other ways. My boss (yes, I’m paying my dues as a church-planter) did one of the voices on the radio spot, and he ended up coming out to the service. He is not usually a church-goer, and he went back to the office and gave rave reviews. So I now talk even more openly about our church and have people promising to visit. I think this was a benefit of our outreach. Beyond that there are a few questions I’m pondering:
    Will we experience any residuals as people who were intrigued but were perhaps busy on Christmas Eve may attend?
    Did we at least have the benefit of building brand (making it easier to promote our next event)?
    Was it all worth it from the team-building aspect of our churh (I say yes…I am very proud of the hard-work our core group put into the planning, promoting and execution of our event…definitely stretched and binded us)?
    Do we give up on radio or do we do it again with perhaps another approach?
    Thanks again for all your input, it will be helpful for us in future efforts.

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  • Andrew Barlow
    January 10, 2006

    I like the radio concept (we’re running a spot on local “mix” radio right now, feeling like targeting “soccer moms” will get the attention of the person who actually makes the church-going decision in most homes) and see it as a part of the big picture. Our external advertising efforts are seen merely as a prop for the invitation efforts for which we equip our own people. We regularly give our people tools to invite people (business cards, etc.) and advertise to “soften the battlespace” if you will so people they risk inviting won’t be totally clueless on who we are.
    Keep on keepin’ on.

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