Reflecting on Crappy Ads on Christian Websites

I am sure there is a nice term for this, but since I am not involved in marketing, I don’t know what it is. But here are a few examples.

  • A Christian theologian who I really appreciate moved his personal blog onto Patheos. Of course, Patheos has a LOT of advertisements on the webpage they provide. This theologian’s Patheos page is full of really cringy ads such as one related to divination (through one’s “personal angel”) or attempts to lure readers to some pretty sketchy groups that are definitely outside of historical Christianity.
  • I was watching a very popular video on problems with NFTs and cryptocurrency. Youtube had advertisements on that video for various cryptocurrency vehicles.
  • I was viewing a Q&A on a financial management website. There were a number of advertisements attached to it that recommended things that that website oppose.
  • Not long ago, the musical “The Book of Mormon” was quite popular, and the LDS (largest Mormon group) advertised their religion targeting those who went to this show that was humorously adversarial and mocking of that faith.

MLMs advertising on programs that oppose MLMs and more are out there. Why is that? At first it seems rather ridiculous. After all, if I am watching a show that does a good job of dismantling the logic behind NFTs, wouldn’t I be especially turned off by any group that is promoting that product? Probably, YES. However, that is not the point.

Suppose I want to sell people a Perpetual Motion (PM) device. (Such a device doesn’t exist, by the way.) Where would I try to market it. If I just set up a website for it, very few people would end up there, unless, I have some way of drawing them in. But suppose there is a science show (Youtube or some other media service) that has an episode that shows clearly why PM devices are impossible. One might think this is a bad place to advertise. After all, they are shown how foolish and impossible your product is. But there is a different way of looking at it. Many of the people who view this show are convinced by the show of the infeasibilty of PM devices. Actually, more likely they were already convinced that PM devices are impossible because they violate the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. However, there are still likely to be many people who are more casually interested in the topic. These people one might call “Seekers,” or those who are interested in the topic of PM devices but may not have firm convictions. Some may even be believers in PM devices. It is likely that that there is a higher percentage of Believers and Seekers who view the show than there are in the general populace. As such, the advertisement is probably effective.

The same could be said with the other examples above. It seems a bit silly at first to advertise in a place that is actively hostile to what you are advertising… but upon further consideration, the people who show up there are probably more likely to be intrigued by your advertisement than the average person.

So what does that mean in terms of Christian ministry. Christians have often sought to use their group influence to shut down perspectives that are offensive to Christians (in societies where they have a dominant role). Maybe, however, instead of opposing them… support them. Support them by advertising with them. It is likely that a higher percentage of Seekers exist in a place that is attacking Christianity than where religion is not addressed.

I gave this example before. Several years ago, I took my son to an MMA fight in Baguio City. The fight is a blood sport (technically) and as such is rather questionable (at least to many). At the activity, there was a heavy metal band playing, among other things, AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells,” ring girls in revealing outfits (revealing by Philippine standards anyway), Colt 45 beer being heavily promoted and given away, and generally a setting that many Christians would not be comfortable with. In that setting, right after the music and the beer give-away, the regular part of the event with an Invocation. A pastor came forward and did a prayer blessing the fight and all those who participated in it. I have often wondered if this was a good thing or a bad thing. I have kind of come to the conclusion that if I was asked to do the invocation I would decline the offer (gently). However, I am glad that a pastor DID accept the offer and remind people that God is with them and seeks to protect and bless. It seems kind of contrary to logic… but where people are struggling to be thrilled with the common cultural alternatives (sex, violence, booze, music, and spectacle), it may be exactly the right place to get them to think about God… even if for a moment.

But what about us? Is there a danger in the silly advertisements that show up tied to legitimate and instructional media? Yes. Illegitimate groups seek legitimacy in the minds of viewers through advertisements. Doing this (like using similar terminology and seeming to claim the same authorities) give a false association. This is especially true when the advertisement pretends to agree with the media it is attached to.

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