You’d think that here at the end of 2017, the AV industry would learn to not waste marketing co-op and advertising dollars. But, no. In this industry, advertising and promotional efforts generally continue to pander to no one in particular with no hope of tracking a return on investment (ROI). 2018 should be the year for vendors to ensure their advertising and marketing funds yield measurable results. I submit that should start with the house of worship market.
All too often, generic ads focused on self-promotion dominate the online and publishing landscape, yet it may not be any more pronounced than it is in the house of worship vertical market. While there are a few solid exceptions (see below) that should stand as examples of what targeted advertising can aim for, I must confess myself more than a little disappointed with the advertising aimed at churches.
Now in its fourth year, this end-of-year issue at rAVe includes a scored and rated review of the top church market ads of 2017. It also includes something I began last year: examples of what doesn’t work in HoW advertising. The purpose of this issue is to inspire, not condemn, so when looking at both the best ads as well as those I believe miss the mark, my point and desire is to help you improve your marketing for the church market.
Because there continue to be a mere handful of solid, effective ads aimed at churches, it’s worth reviewing past winners from 2016, 2015, and 2014. You’ll see some companies continue to shine year after year, but even the best of those didn’t make it to this year’s list. There is always room for improvement.
Top House of Worship Ads of 2017
Elation — LED New Generation
Creativity – 3 stars
Copywriting – 4 stars
Memorability – 4 stars
Elation is new to my annual list of the best house of worship ads of 2017 and for good reason: They presented a unified message with a unified product lineup with the focus on reaching a new generation. While the product shot behind the three products demonstrates each of three technology solutions presented in one venue, the choice of exclusively promoting LED — seen as a new technology in the vast majority of churches using incandescent fixtures — speaks indirectly to the new generation of technical users.
Churches using or aspiring to this level of production will see the value of having a single manufacturer for a solution that not only can replace or augment their existing fixture infrastructure, because LED is the technology represented, savvy church buyers will recognize the added value of reducing heat, saving on energy costs and extending the life of their lighting instruments.
The reinforcing text is targeted specifically at how churches use technology. This isn’t a repurposed generic ad in a church publication, but a focused advertisement aiming at the largest growth segment of the church market in Western countries. In this regards, they are strategically choosing to focus on the segment of the house of worship market most likely to value their products.
This ad does need a stronger call-to-action, as the unique email address feels like an afterthought. Unfortunately, the ad is missing a specific landing page URL for their marketing and sales teams to track the click-through and response rates to the ad. It was smart to include both the WFX logo and booth number since this issue was right before the annual expo and to also include the NACDB logo, promoting Elation’s commitment to working with church design-build firms.
Hitachi — Cameras
Creativity – 4 stars
Copywriting – 4 stars
Memorability – 4 stars
New to the list this year is Hitachi. Their past ads have left me wondering if they were serious about selling specifically to churches, but this ad removes all doubt that they see value in the house of worship market.
Video venues and church online continue to be part of the fastest growing churches. And every video venue needs video capture, starting with a quality camera and lens system. Knowing the importance of this, Hitachi presents their camera control systems as a key selling point. This differentiates them from other camera manufacturers who are pushing the latest-and-greatest 4K resolution cameras to a market that will be quite slow to adopt 4k in large numbers. Hitachi’s play here is smart and they lead with a free offer to pique the interest of the reader.
In a day and time when remote operation and small footprints are keen selling points for portable churches, the inclusion of a Surface Pro with the Ross DashBoard for camera control is a strong value-add.
The ad copy focuses on the challenge of LED lighting environments — something that churches are moving to (see above) anyway and may not consider as a potential issue for older camera systems. However, in my opinion, the tech-speak of CMOS imaging and HDR (High Dynamic Range) is likely beyond all but the largest, most technically-savvy church buyers, but at least it doesn’t detract from the ad since it’s not the focus of the copy. It would have been nice to instead create a comparison to low-quality PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) cameras or even prosumer cameras that fail to provide the lensing and CCU (Camera Control Unit) options, especially when following a pastor around the stage on medium and close up shots requires broadcast-level gear.
As with most advertisers focusing on churches, what’s missing from this ad is a more useful and obvious Call To Action. The suggestion to “call your Hitachi representative for details” is unhelpful, as how many churches would even know who this is? A simple landing page with a contact form could easily remedy this and provide Hitachi with the ad tracking mechanism and automated method to dole our leads by sales territory/dealer.
Roland — V-1200HD Live and Broadcast Switcher
Creativity – 4 stars
Copywriting – 3 stars
Memorability – 4 stars
Roland has done well in past years (2015, 2014) on this annual list of best ads for the HoW market, so it was nice to see them resurface after missing the mark in 2016. For 2017, they used the niche application multi-site churches find themselves in, where the need exists for a feed for IMAG (Image Magnification) and a separate broadcast feed.
While IMAG is shot exclusively with tight and medium shots to reinforce what is happening live on the stage, a broadcast mix incorporates other content, including wide shots and other video elements not needed for visual reinforcement in the church venue. Perhaps this is most evident for churches using their existing video to try and feed overflow venues, satellite campuses, and even church online for website viewers. The Roland multi-format switcher provides the flexibility to help churches currently stuck in this pain point with an ideal solution, which is nicely summated with their positioning statement: “One solution for live events and broadcast.”
The visual flow diagrams also represent a quick reference confirmation for churches facing these unique challenges. The ad works because it is so specific, boldly underscoring the premise that it is better to help readers self-qualify or disqualify themselves so that your sales team gets better quality leads from marketing.
While the ad does include a unique URL, it is simply a landing page for the product and not a unique page that would identify that this ad came from a particular technical magazine focused on the church market. Tracking matters, and this ad, like many others, missed the opportunity to track the ad spend to ROI (Return On Investment). Finally, while this ad did not directly specify churches, the alignment of the copy to the unique niche issue found in these types of churches was solid enough that the ad still worked; it simply could have been even better with both church-specific verbiage and superimposed images in the video monitor of churches using the device.
Sweetwater – Worship Sound Pro
Creativity – 5 stars
Copywriting – 4 stars
Memorability – 5 stars
Sweetwater, a large distributor that has found huge success in the music instrument and pro audio industry, took aim at churches with a brilliant strategy: Build an entire branch of their website exclusively created for churches. They even provide a free subscription to a highly targeted “Worship Sound Pro” publication.
The full-page ad leaned into the strengths of the retail-savvy company and found a unique way to catch the attention of the church technical user, who is a different point of contact from their typical church demographic: music pastors.
While I make much of creating unique landing pages specific to churches, Sweetwater took it to the next level with the creation of the sweetwater.com/worship site, which includes helpful resources, downloads, videos, how-to articles, and, of course, links to their products. This site is a treasure trove of good ideas executed well with a significant emphasis on being the one-stop portal for churches looking for box sales and the largesse of a company that includes a call center of technical support and advice in addition to sales. Their curated content of church-specific articles, posts and videos also upped the ante for their Search Engine Optimization game.
Following the link form the digital magazine ad, the first promotion was for a new worship connect educational workshop offering, a deft move to provide further incentive for the church technical leader to consider Sweetwater as a viable source for some of their A/V needs.
While many in the consulting and design-build space may take issue with a so-called ‘box house retailer’ focusing on being a one-stop place for church AV, the strategy and tactics of Sweetwater are sound and their advertising well considered and executed. Like their style of business or not, you’ve got to respect the full-on commitment they’ve made to make a major play in the house of worship space.
In particular, it is worth pointing out that Sweetwater found a way to promote their value proposition, promote targeted and relevant resources and create a trackable method for seeing the online click-through to the landing page from the online version of the magazine publications. For the print versions, the ad could have used a more specific landing page URL for tracking purposes.
To me, it’s interesting that one of the best ads came from a distributor and not a manufacturer or design-build vendor.
What Did Not Work in 2017
In the spirit of adding clarity to house of worship marketing, the four examples highlighted below are shown to highlight where they missed the mark in targeting churches with their products. My inclusion of these four ads is a subjective review of key points that I feel made these otherwise beautiful ads with a solid layout and copywriting miss the mark for the house of worship market.
Each of the above ads are professionally produced by companies with significant experience in marketing and advertising. Candidly, I admire each of these companies. But what’s missing here is not their quality but their content. At best, each are merely generic ads that fail to resonate with churches. At worst, they each represent an expensive, full-page, swing-and-a-miss that completely fail to identify with the church market or the church buyer.
The first three (AJA, BlackMagic and Canon) tout the benefits of high-end production at 4K resolution. To date, there is exactly one church — one — that I have found in my extensive research of churches worldwide that has gone 4K from end-to-end. One church does not a market make. And while it could be argued that 4K has a place in the future of church video production, these ads fail to build the bridge from where churches are today to where they could be with the massive infrastructure requirements of a 4K workflow, which I wrote about in my articles here on rave entitled “The Four Uses of 4K Video in Churches and “The HD and 4K Video Storage Issue Facing Churches.”
But it is the generic aspect of these that really makes it hard to see why these ads were chosen for church-specific publications. They simply either do not meet the needs or present themselves as viable to 99 percent of the HoW market. They do not resonate with the workflows or budgets of most church buyers. They do not add value to the viability of the brand for the average church reader as it relates to their applications and venues. They’re simply beautiful eye-candy that these readers would expect to see in a magazine like “Film and Video Magazine” or “Professional Lighting Design Magazine,” not in a church trade publication.
As always, I challenge your firm to compare this year’s ads to what your firm and others are doing. What the house of worship market needs is specificity, target copywriting, high-quality imagery and focused landing pages/sub-domains so that you can help church market buyers find value in your offerings.
Each year I provide this helpful advice for marketing to churches:
- 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 house of worship 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.
Will you create a strategic and focused advertising push to the huge HoW market(which boasts over 300,000 unique churches in North America alone)? Make 2018 the year to ensure your advertising and marketing funds yield trackable, measurable results with a solid ROI.
What do you think — are these the best ads of 2017 or do you have another you’d like to have seen listed above? Share your views and links in the comments below.