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Religion and Advertising

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Advertising and Religion

Anyone who seems to be in the business of promoting themselves or their product is turning to religion to gain a larger audience. Take the religion of Kaballah for instance, five years ago many of us would openly admit that we had never heard of the religion before. But now, thanks to the media many of us know Kaballah is the religion practiced by such celebrities as Madonna and Britney Spears. In all actuality Kaballah is a more spiritual branch of the Jewish religion.

Many religions are now branching out and using the media to market their religion and sparking serious debates in the process. Many feel that it is slightly immoral for churches to use the media to market themselves in the mainstream. Some believe the religions should simply sell themselves, but not literally.

As Americans we now see television commercials for churches and services on regular broadcast channels. Another fairly recent trend that we see are churches in strip malls or plazas. Next to our favorite outlet cigarette shop, local retail store, Bingo hall, or fast food chain there are churches.

Much of the advertising we see for religions is on a smaller scale and not so mainstream. The religion of Jehovah's Witness often sends its members door-to-door to spread their word, give out information, in hope to maintain new members. Those of us who have been privileged with a visit know that they are early risers and like to travel in pairs, so as to take turns overwhelming us with spoken word and pamphlets.

One of the largest trends of advertising that we have seen is the wearing of a cross. What used to be a symbol of ones' beliefs and values has become a mere fashion accessory. In the world of celebrities and "bling-bling," a word associated with the amount of visible jewelry shown, a platinum cross medallion adorned with diamonds and/or jewels is a sign of wealth and defines your degree of celebrity.

However not everyone is into advertising religion in the mainstream. In January 2005 an article was published in USA Today about a conflict between Rolling Stone Magazine and Zondervan Bible, one of the largest Bible publishers over an ad targeted at "spiritually intrigued," 18-to-34-year-olds.

Rolling Stone, which rejected the ad just weeks before its scheduled run date, cited an unwritten policy against accepting ads that contain religious messages. Executives for Zondervan say Rolling Stone was a key part of its $1 million campaign targeted at young adults.

The actual ad doesn't even mention the word God, but the picture shows a young man apparently pondering the problems of life. The text in the picture pushes the Today's New International Version of the Bible (TNIV), one of Zondervan's publications, as a source for the "real truth" in a world of "endless media noise and political spin." A blue bible only peeks through the bottom corner of the ad.

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