Top House of Worship Ads of 2015

featured-how-trendsEach year, I look for the most effective ads of A/V/L gear targeting the House of Worship (HOW) market. I can tell you that, once again, the vast majority (greater than 99 percent – I’ve looked through hundreds of terrible examples) of the current ads for the HOW technology market are either A) too niche in their focus; or B) nearly offensive in their pandering to a market the advertiser clearly doesn’t understand.

As a way to consistently grade the ads and provide context for those interested in creating or changing their ads for the church market, I have a system for these reviews. First, I chose ads that were placed in more than one publication and published through at least two different publishing companies. Second, ads were scored in three categories, on a one-to-five scale where one is the lowest and five is the highest. Each category (creativity, copywriting, memorability) is worth understanding as an advertiser to the HOW market.

Below are the top house of worship ads 2015, along with my analysis on why these made this list.

Sony: Believe

5-Stars-80 5-Stars-80 5-Stars-80

Sony has been hit and miss over the past several years with their ads, but this newest one represents their matured presence in the church market. To Sony’s credit, it identifies strongly with churches of all sizes and denominations — no small feat.

There’s so much right with this ad:

  • FINALLY: Sony recognizes the pain and frustration that churches experience in their dealings with vendors.
  • PARTNER: Not just a manufacturer. Not just a technology provider. A partner. This both signals the alignment of the Omega broadcast group and a partnership with churches.
  • BELIEVE IN: There’s a fine line of using a play on words, but Sony effectively rides it without slipping down the slope of cheesy church-sounding terms. Churches stand apart from other verticals because of belief. The assertion that they can believe in Sony is not a religious expectation, but a clever play on words that identifies the value of trust and reinforces the partner statement.

The ad doesn’t have any product photos or signal flow diagrams because anything else would cheapen the message and skew the reach to a smaller market segment. Even the call-to-action URL includes a nod to understanding this market (‘faith’) without pandering to the audience.

In my opinion, this ad could not be improved. However, I think it could be tied into a larger marketing campaign that uses the ‘BELIEVE’ tag as they unifier for other ads. This is how it’s done, folks.

Yamaha: Learn One Learn All

5-Stars-80 4-Stars-80 4-Stars-80

Yamaha Commerical Audio has a close second-place finish behind Sony with this new ad ‘Learn One, Learn All’ — which combines the photos of two different classes of audio consoles in with photos of two different church venue sizes. What makes this ad brilliant is the way they used the silhouette of the same audio engineer standing in between both the images and the consoles. This ad effectively represents the same person as being able to operate either console in different venues and know that they operate on the same menu systems and functional controls.

The ad implies that if a sound engineer can learn one, they can apply their learnings in any venue on any of Yamaha’s consoles. This will strike a chord with smaller churches looking to upgrade to a larger venue as well as multisite churches wanting consistency in volunteer training and operation across each venue and location.

The big miss on this ad is not providing a specific landing page URL for their marketing and sales teams to track the click-through and response rates to the ad. The generic URL will be used for any web traffic related to Yamaha Commercial Audio and eliminate all link sources because the ad was used in print and isn’t specific to the HOW market.

Roland: OHRCA

5-Stars-80 3-Stars-80 4-Stars-80

The first of the digital-only ads, this ad included an auto-playing YouTube video that combined HD video and 3D animation to realize a seamless, movie-like quality overview of their newest digital audio console. The impressive and succinct video (less than two minutes long) identifies key features, but also hints at how the digital touch panel systems work and are applied to a mix.

Set to an upbeat, electronic track, the video clip moves along at a nice pace without bogging down on obscure details. The upside of a music-only audio track is that the video can be used for a variety of market types; but that’s also where the spot misses out on being truly stand-out. Either add some narration that describes how these features and functionality fit into church audio or change the animation to include vertical market specific call-outs.

I don’t have data on the number of impressions or views a piece like this gets, but I know that Roland does because it’s their YouTube video on their channel. This is smart for them as advertisers, as it gives them metrics to see how this ad is performing on digital platforms, assuming they used a custom URL for this video that is unique to the digital magazine it was embedded into.

One last note: Roland chose to use a subdomain (proAV) and a landing page prefix (OHRCA), which makes for a long URL. This isn’t a big deal in digital, which is click-able, but it would be hard to remember for a print ad.

FILO: Filo Conferences

4-Stars-80 4-Stars-80 4-Stars-80

I’ve added in this ad because it does several things well even though it is not from a manufacturer or systems integrator. Instead, it’s a well-done advertisement for a new series of regional conferences developed by Todd Elliott, former technical director for Willow Creek Community Church, one of the largest and most effective technology churches for the past two decades. FILO stands for First In, Last Out – a term that is clearly understood by technical arts staff and volunteers that live this moniker.

Because Todd is leading this from a personal vision, he has added sponsorship of these conferences to the ad, furthering the brand recognition for these sponsors. Smart and a double-win for FILO and the sponsors.

The video embedded into this digital-only ad is simple and effective. Because FILO is founded by Todd, his personal invitation is both sincere and highly credible. The ad also includes practical, click-able links to other events, the website, and the sponsors.

One last mention about this ad: it directly ties into the social media channels of FILO, and they’re all click-able. Very, very smart.

I’d like to see more digital advertisements in the 2016 version of this list.

Video Devices: Share the Mission

4-Stars-80 4-Stars-80 4-Stars-80

The use of nature photography was clever when combined with the word “mission,” which is a term that is associated with missionaries (who are often funded by churches). This ad ties together the digital technology within the church and the ministries using technology outside of the church — namely, missions work.

Another winning point of this ad is the effective use of two versions of the product image. The pictures show the connectivity types, which helps users self-identify with the level of capability of each device. Further, the smart inclusion of their SpeedDrive (complimentary product) and a small call-out further increase the positioning of the product for churches of all sizes.

The only lacking part of this ad is the copywriting. While it does include some terms (as Sony did in the ad above) that help identify with the church world, it misses the mark in defining the value proposition. Instead, it goes for the lowest common denominator of advertising: features and benefits. Yes, those have a place, but they can’t be the best way to reach a broad audience of tech geeks and non-tech pastors alike.

Digital Audio Labs: Livemix

4-Stars-80 5-Stars-80 4-Stars-80

For the second year in a row, Digital Audio Labs has used the same effective ad — a simple, vertically-oriented one-third page design for their Livemix personal monitoring system. High-contrast simplicity combined with their value proposition statements overlaid on top of an image of a casual, rock-n-roll service style makes it both easy to read and easy for contemporary churches to identify with the vibe.

Once again, volunteer operation is highlighted because of the ubiquitous need for volunteer-friendly control. The key phrases were the two highlighted in the ad: simple enough for volunteers and deep enough for professionals. Yet the ad also speaks to the technicians and musicians who appreciate professional features. There’s just enough features listed to entice the user to find out more, but plenty to present their case to the reader. The one new addition is the “DANTE spoken here,” which signifies the device is compatible with the DANTE (Digital Audio Network Through Ethernet) protocol.

My recommendation still stands: make the model name, product, URL and logo all clickable for the digital (web) version of the ad. Advertisers should take advantage of these free and powerful tracking mechanisms when paying for placement in digital.

The bold, all-caps URL is the clear call-to-action, but as with the other entrants, could still be made more effective with a specific URL landing page to track the response rate of the ad – especially since this ad also appeared in a digital version of a trade magazine.

It’s not always necessary to have the space for copy or images in a larger ad when it’s possible to execute this well in a third-page advertisement.

How to Advertise to the HOW Market

All of these ads share three characteristics: They’re well-crafted, targeted and memorable. Even a casual flip through trade pubs and church production magazines reveals just how big a gulf in understanding exists between these advertisers and the rest of the pack — and it’s significant. Though not all had specific landing pages, top-notch call-to-actions, or the opportunity to connect via social media, these ads still had more than enough going for them to be honored as some of the best HOW market advertisements in 2015.

For manufacturers and systems integrators to maximize their advertising dollars, compare these ads to what your firm and others are doing. There’s a plethora of verbal pandering, generic copy and stock images masquerading as advertising to a market that’s been fed mediocre marketing for decades. Here’s my helpful advice for marketing to this massive vertical market:

  • Define your personas.
  • Sell your value proposition over your product’s features and benefits.
  • Identify felt needs.
  • Connect with the user’s pain points.
  • Provide a solution, not just a product.
  • Don’t talk at the reader; talk to your prospects.
  • Learn which images and photographs server your best target demographic in the HOW space.
  • Use compelling landing pages that invite the prospect to learn more with a non-existent barrier to entry.
  • Track your marketing efforts and measure what’s working — and why.

The house of worship market is over 330,000 unique churches strong in North America alone. Add to that the crazy growth of multi-site and multi-venue church campuses, and the obvious intersection of your products and churches should be crystal clear.

What do you think — are these the best HOW ads of 2015 or do you have another you’d like to have seen listed above? Share your views and links in the comments below.