Well the Scientologists are back again.
Over the last several days, new commercials for Scientology are appearing on the major broadcast networks. That “the church” is advertising is not new. They ran a series of ads two years ago. I’ve written about them here and in Social Compass in an article called “The Evolution of Religious Branding.”
What is new is that they are airing on some of the most popular–and most expensive–programming on network television. Not least of which was last night’s premiere of American Idol. Not only that, the commercials are not being distributed on the Internet. In fact, the old advertising no longer exists on the Scientology web site.
So why now?
A number of reasons: 1) Janet Reitman’s book Inside Scientology, an in-depth history of the church appeared on a number of best book lists of 2011. I’m about half way through the book and for those who know Scientology it is a bit long winded for my taste. For anyone who is interested in thorough histories, it will be a good read. 2) A new very high profile defection has occurred in the church. A few years ago it was Oscar-winning writer-director, Paul Haggis. Now it is Debbie Cook, who was an enforcer for the organization but is now a whistle blower, according to the Village Voice. Below is a story about her on Good Morning America.
Having only seen the commercial fleetingly, I can say this much about it. From a communications standpoint, Scientology is trying to communicate they are big. The copy in the spot was all about how the church is big and growing–obviously meant to combat the notion that people are fleeing a sinking ship. That idea is further communicated by the media placement. You simply don’t get much bigger than American Idol–TV’s highest rated show.