Filling the pews one ad at a time

Posted on Sunday, January 11th, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Holy! Holy! Holy!




Metropolitan United Church















Gone Fishin'







One of wishart’s most effective and enduring advertising campaigns has been for Toronto’s Metropolitan United Church. It is proof of our ability and commitment to create great work year after year… after year!

TO SUMMARIZE: Churches are in decline. Membership is down. So are givings. Those who attend are mostly old – and growing older every day. Young people generally don’t (and won’t) go to church. The faithful are losing faith. Sadly, churches have become something of a tired commodity for people to ‘consume’ only when they want core rituals: baptisms, marriages and funerals. (Or, as some jaded church leaders say: “hatching, matching and dispatching.”) To make matters worse, churches are traditionally lousy at promotion. Ads, if they appear at all, are often phoned in to the local paper by a church secretary who offers only the name of the church, sermon title, preacher and time of worship as if that were enough to motivate the ‘unchurched’ to attend a service on any given Sunday.

wishart volunteered for the challenge of creating ads on behalf of Met in 1992 when it became apparent that their ads couldn’t get any worse. Metropolitan has never been one of wishart’s ‘big money’ accounts; don’t tell anyone but we’ve always done it for free.

So what happened? In each of the eight years that we created the ads, and during which staff and programs stayed constant, attendance and givings at the church increased. Attendance was up 39%. Givings went up 23% within the first two years alone and kept going up! More importantly,

Metropolitan – now a 190 year-old Church – has a renewed sense of optimism and its large sanctuary seems to be filled most of the time. About 400 ads were created and rotated throughout the years, a few of which are shown here. All but three were done in black and white, and most appeared no larger than the size of a business card. Advertising was part of Metropolitan’s success. True, it’s impossible to quantify exactly how large a part, but the success was real and helped sustain the Church at a time when many other congregations were shrinking.

What wishart did – or at least helped do – for Met we can do for you. As good or better than any other agency.

EFFECTIVENESS: What people admire most about their church is what makes a church effective, it can be reasoned. Effective churches become a beacon to those looking to attend and people join and then stay at ‘effective’ churches. If this makes sense to you then Toronto’s Metropolitan United Church must be considered an effective church by any yardstick because it builds on the strengths of the four ‘cornerstones’ people generally consider to be most important in a church:

ORTHODOXY – being in touch with the truth; the basics of faith which have endured over time;

COMMUNITY – being in touch with personal needs; a community of believers characterized by love, caring and genuine warmth;

RELEVANCE – being in touch with the times; an openness to and understanding of social issues, today’s culture and the ability to offer practical guidance for expressions of faith;

OUTREACH – being in touch with the needs of others; a responsiveness, and compassion for those in the church community and throughout the world.
But “rather than shopping for fragments,” say Posterski and Barker, authors of Where’s A Good Church, “Christians want a meaningful, integrated experience of faith.” What makes Metropolitan an effective church is that its sum is greater than the individual parts of orthodoxy, community, relevance and outreach.

When creating advertising for Metropolitan, wishart’s strategy was to create awareness of the church’s many strengths by addressing the four ‘cornerstones’ in a unique and meaningful way. Not any one ad even attempted to address all four cornerstones but when seen week after week it became clear to people that Metropolitan was a Church worthy of a visit.

AGENCY: wishart
ILLUSTRATIONS: Norah Bowerman, Ron McKay and Derrick Wilson

CLIENT: Metropolitan United Church

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