In the third year of this round up of my pick for the Top House of Worship Ads, 2016’s contenders were few and set far apart from the white noise of bland and ineffective advertising that continues to saturate the church technology vertical market. If anything, it seemed to me that there might have been more ads than in previous years, but with the vast majority using outdated marketing schlock to pitch products with little to no regards for the church buyer/influencer demographic.
A slight change to this year’s list is the inclusion of one ad that stood out — for all of the wrong reasons. I included it not to shame the manufacturer (I blurred out their name, model number and website URL), but to describe instead how this ad misses all of the marks. All. The. Marks.
It is worth noting that the ads included below were chosen by the three criteria of creativity, copywriting and memorability, but, in order to be chosen, each of them needed to clearly identify the value to the House of Worship (HoW) buyer/influencer.
Top House of Worship Market Ads of 2016
ETC – ColorSource PAR
Creativity – 3 stars
Copywriting – 5 stars
Memorability – 4 stars
ETC won again in 2016 with this new half-page (vertical) ad in various HoW trade publications. As a company, they’ve long been selling into this market segment and are one of the leaders — if not THE leader — in the church lighting category. Still, it’s worth noting that they’ve got a good understanding of the HoW market and are a good example for other vendors to learn from and follow.
For two years in a row, ETC understands that “less is more” with a minimalist design and a no-frills, high-focus on a single product. This ad includes a definitive statement and a qualified value, something missing from most ads aimed at churches. “Quality comes with a small price tag,” is a clever way not to focus on price, but rather on quality while still hinting at the price wars that continue to rage online. In fact, they don’t list the price at all; they only leave the reader with the understanding that the price is small, which makes a subjective statement sound objective. The emphasis is on quality and the copywriting in the ad drives this home in a focused, crisp and succinct way.
The product shot is, frankly, perfect, and instantly identifies with readers looking to update their lighting with LED technology to reduce heat, save on costs and extend the life of their lighting instruments.
However, once again, just like last year (are you listening ETC?), the only potential improvements are for a stronger call-to-action and a specific landing page URL for their marketing and sales teams to track the click-through and response rates to the ad. Otherwise, this ad is a clear winner.
Elite Screens – QuickStand Portable, ATA-rated Projection Screens
Creativity – 4 stars
Copywriting – 4 stars
Memorability – 5 stars
A new entrant for 2016, Elite Screens did something clever and familiar at the same time: It used the visual representation of projection used in dozens of other ads, but made sure to highlight the uniqueness of its product with the product shot include a distinct view of the company’s ATA-rated cases. Though many churches use portable projection screens, the market segment that benefits the most is the portable church market, where wear-and-tear on screens is high.
The brilliance of the ad is in the title, where it states “QuickStand 5-Second Large Venue Portable Projection Screen” — and makes for a must-read hook. From a marketing perspective, there’s a lot to admire in this: the name of the product is clear and self-explanatory, the five-second time reference intimates easy of use, the large venue language fits a number of church room types and the portability of the screen is a key factor in the decision-making purchase process. Frankly, this title alone with the product shots is effective enough to motivate a church buyer to head to the website.
A controversial option was the inclusion of a QR code that promised video of the screens in action. Some folks love QR codes, but others hate them, so this is subjective to begin with. However, while the QR code does show video of the product in question, it packs a lot of information about the product in a wide variety of venues. This is a slight ding on the effectiveness of the ad because it doesn’t create a HoW exclusive focus. Still, it’s a smart move that simply needs to be better executed in the future.
Though they used the QR code, I’m still a big believer in either sub-domains (verticalmarket.vendor.com) or landing pages (vendor.com/verticalmarket) for easy tracking and more importantly, targeted persona messaging.
Teradek – Streaming Devices
Creativity – 5 stars
Copywriting – 4 stars
Memorability – 5 stars
This is my favorite ad of the group because it does so much with so little. The use of simple and clear icons, the easy logic and the Facebook color-matching blue and white make this an attention-grabbing ad that will easily resonate with a vast number (most?) of churches wanting to use the unparalleled reach of Facebook. This may be the most perfectly-targeted HoW ad of the year.
Streaming is a hot topic for churches because it’s at the intersection of social media and online church services. Realizing this, Teradek ingeniously leveraged the ubiquitous Facebook colors, famous logo and clever ‘like’ icon to help the reader arrive at the obvious conclusion that this has instant and important value for them as church technology buyers. It’s all of the technical verbiage that’s not in the ad — no bandwidth, no codecs, no hardware compatibility — that makes this compelling for churches to want to learn more without needing to know tech specs or product shots.
Unlike the other winners, this ad does use a sub-domain URL to track where viewers originated from on their website. This helps provide marketing with insanely valuable data and, with a form submission, contact information for leads. This is the way it should be done, folks.
Creativity – 3 stars
Copywriting – 4 stars
Memorability – 4 stars
This ad from Renkus-Heinz uses a profile view of audience members to reinforce the point of the message for churches: Reach your audience. It’s subtle and effective, with a particularly well-chosen shot of two people in focus and listening intently. You can see it in the eyes and in the body language and this is something every church audio guy and gal — not to mention the pastor! — wants to see happen in their churches.
Targeted at the audio technician, the ad uses language about steerable sound, a hot topic for years now and one that is hotly debated at tradeshows and in trade publications — both secular and religious. Because the ad highlights not only the technology, but addresses the debate surrounding steerable sound (line arrays, in particular) with the statement “steerable sound isn’t just about being heard, it’s about being understood,” the reader is instantly aware that the manufacturer is making an implied claim about speech intelligibility, which is a critical point in the HoW market.
The brand of the speaker is highlighted, but could have been less prominent since the ad already had the user interested in the meta-conversation: speech intelligibility. Driving home the name of the product here is less important than delivering the message (no pun intended), which was done particularly well in the copy at the bottom of the ad. A slight swing-and-a-miss in the copy, however, was the call-to-action pointing to the generic manufacturer website instead of to a specific landing page (tracking matters, people!) or sub-domain.
Note that the blue URL text at the bottom right is, in fact, to the product page, which is an improvement over simply the website URL. Still, a product page isn’t specific enough for a HoW user, and this could have been a 5 out of 5 review had it gone to a church venue specific landing page that helped the church buyer with additional qualifying information about this new speaker in their type of venue.
Un-named Vendor – Un-named Product
Creativity – 1 star
Copywriting – 1 star
Memorability – 1 star
For the first time, I’ve included an example of what not to do when it comes to HoW market advertising. I’m not naming the vendor or their product because my point is not to embarrass or harass them. My point is to highlight how so much can go so very, very wrong in an ad.
The text is interesting. Control. Communicate. These are understood terms to church techies and important ones at that within the technology space. But this ad goes beyond a metaphor and exceeds the abstract when it shows a 1 RU (Rack Unit) rack-mount comms box with gooseneck microphone inexplicably being held by a child in a grassy yard with an RC-controlled car in the background. To further warp the minds of the readers, the bottom half depicts a grandmotherly-looking woman holding another 1 RU rack-mount device to her ear as if it’s a ginormous, misplaced technology shot from an ’80s-era cellular phone provider trying to showcase the lean aesthetic of a 19” long device held to the ear instead of a brick-phone with external power supply. The reader is left to scan up-and-down repeatedly in futile attempts to apply meaning, much less logical association, with the technology and the dimension-warping photography. There’s abstract and then there’s absurd. This is, sadly, the latter.
However, the befuddlement continues with the baffling complexity of a made up compound word-phrase of “intercomandmediornetcontrol” to somehow try and bring meaning to the senseless imagery above, only to add considerably to the paradox within what is already a mystery. I mean, in a warped way it is rather impressive that this all-caps spelling of indeterminate meaning makes the mind-bending imagery above seem merely silly and not outright incomprehensible.
The summation text of “together in one device” tries to pair the inexplicable with the preposterous, as if telling us that putting two out of place things together somehow makes this painful visual experience less uncomfortable. One has to decide to tough it out and plow on ahead to the final paragraph, which reveals this is some kind of new intercom system for users of another dimension.
Then, as this ad is in print, the marketing team went ahead and cleverly added the social sharing icons for Facebook, Google Plus, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Instagram at the bottom of the ad, just in case you wanted to see these fine logos in print with no possible way to go to the vendor’s social sites.
You can’t make this stuff up. But it should also point out that the key marketing principle of ‘know thy audience’ is one that every advertiser would do well to understand and apply to their church market advertisements.
I challenge your firm to compare these ads to what your firm and others are doing. What the HoW 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.
As always, 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 HoW market is over 300,000 unique churches 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 ads of 2016 or do you have another you’d like to have seen listed above? Share your views and links in the comments below.