I thought I would chime in on the bus ad campaign by the American Humanist Association. Bill Baar (Pfarrer Streccius) and Steve Caldwell (Liberal Faith Development) have said their piece, but I’ve actually seen one of the ads. Just a few minutes ago, and I’m not impressed.
I’ll admit: I’m hard to impress with respect to the AHA. They function like an organization is aging and declining, whose historic moment of currency has past and if not for a large endowment — so I’ve heard; correct me if this is not the case — would have dried up years ago. (I am equally unimpressed with churches like that.)
Let me set the scene for the bus ad. At dusk. I had just walked Hubby to work, passed back through our old neighborhood, stopped at Whole Foods and a yoga store — my physical therapist recommended a yoga mat for continuing my core exercizes — and was on my way home. (So much for Buy Nothing Day.) This is an affluent neighborhood where middle-aged gay men carrying yoga mats and organic food are not a rare sight, but where the churches can be a bit threadbare. I mean, I was less than a block from Ralph Nader’s (reportedly) favorite restaurant. Savvy? That’s when the bus passed. What’s this campaign going to prove here? Perhaps joke fodder for the Georgetown University Jesuits at the end of the line?
- -1 point for relevance.
It was posted on the back of the bus, and I made out the words god and goodness before the bus, which had stopped, pulled off. Because I had seen the poster on the other blogs, I looked to see if I could make out the URL of the associated Web site. Nope.
- -1 point for branding
- -2 points for legibility
I made a point of looking at other bus posters on the way home, about a 15 minute walk. I saw a government-placed notice — much bigger; running along the side — encouraging HIV testing and another (back-of-the-bus) sign discouraging baby shaking. A big oil company made a flaccid appeal to its customers to consider the possibility of using less gasoline. The picture of a uniformed man on a fourth poster suggested something related to basketball.
The oil ad was pretty poor, but the company has high name recognition and is running a huge campaign. Only the public health ads were really memorable, surely because they encouraged discrete actions. Not sure what I’m supposed to do with the AHA message.
- -1 point for memorability
And here’s the funny thing. Even knowing the organization and the campaign, thinking about god and goodness — the words I remember — makes me feel better about my own faith. I’m sure there’s a lingering Ad Council-influenced feeling about religious participation. And the design was modern and pleasant, not unlike the chi-chi frozen yogurt place nearby. Surely this wasn’t intended.
- +1 point for design
- -1 point for messaging
Which leaves me wondering why. And I can’t shake the feeling that the AHA ran this bus ad to show an action, rather than to do something productive for their mission. And that brings me back to my suspicions about the AHA, and why I’m not going to encourage them by linking!Â (See the other bloggers, above, for details.)