Church of Scientology Media Push Tries to Counter Negative Publicity

Thursday, 21 Feb 2013 05:21 PM

By Dale Eisinger

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A Church of Scientology media push that included millions for a Super Bowl TV ad is being seen as a reaction to negative publicity from a spate of tell-all books.

AdAge reported the church spent $3.6 million on advertising between November 2012 and January 2013, with most of that spent on the Super Bowl ad dubbed the "Knowledge" spot promoting the secular belief system.

"To the curious, the inquisitive, the seekers of knowledge," says the Super Bowl spot, "to the rebels, the artists, the free thinkers and the innovators who care less about labels and more about truth, who believe nonconformity is more than a bumper sticker."

The spot first ran on the Scientology website back in November. In December, the spot was played 16 times per hour on a billboard in New York's Times Square, including throughout New Year's Eve when thousands packed into the space.

The ad also ran during the NFL's AFC championship game on Jan. 20.

In January, a Scientology advertorial that appeared on the website of The Atlantic was quickly removed when journalists called it out for looking too much like an actual story.

AdAge noted the recent buys follow the release of several tell-all books about the church, including a memoir from Jenna Miscavige Hill, niece of the organization's leader, David Miscavige, and "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief," from New Yorker reporter Lawrence Wright.

The ad push is seen as a way to attract positive attention and to help keep the followers and contributors that the church already has.

A former media director for the church, Jefferson Hawkins, told AdAge that the ads have been more reactionary than proactive.

"Their solution when negative stuff happens is to get high-profile ads out there." said Hawkins. "From my experience, they don't have a real interest in getting new members. It costs money to train new members. There's no immediate profit. They are more interested in keeping current members and encouraging them to donate."

A spokeswoman for the church insisted the ads are part of a larger campaign plan.

"The church's general media strategy is to effectively use as many communication platforms as possible to disseminate the fact that the answers to life's questions may be found in Scientology," Karin Pouw wrote to AdAge via email. "This media strategy has been effective as reflected in our enormous growth over the past five years."

Related stories:

Atlantic Apologizes After Scientology Ad Disguised as News Is Yanked

Rupert Murdoch Labels Scientology 'Very Weird Cult'

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