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Mormon and Scientologist Ad Campaigns: Who Copied Who?

Mormon and Scientologist Ad Campaigns: Who Copied Who?

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Published by TruthIsReason
Two of America's most marginalized religious groups are using nearly identical ad campaigns in hopes of revamping their image. Could it be a coincidence? If not, who's the copycat?
Two of America's most marginalized religious groups are using nearly identical ad campaigns in hopes of revamping their image. Could it be a coincidence? If not, who's the copycat?

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Published by: TruthIsReason on Jan 18, 2014
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01/19/2014

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Mormon and Scientologist Ad Campaigns: Who Copied Who?
Posted by TruthIsReason on 1/18/2013 The high-
profile “I’m a Mormon” advertising campaign launched in recent years by the
LDS Church has marked an abrupt shift in the way that the church markets itself to the public. It has gone from dry, impersonal, infomercial-like TV spots that ask you to call for your free video, Bible, or Book of Mormon to more upbeat, modern videos that simply introduce you to one of its members and
end with the words “I’m a Mormon”.
Unbeknownst to most, there is a much lower-profile campaign, also launched in recent years, with a similar
tagline: “I Am a Scientologist”.
Is this similarity a mere coincidence? Is
it the only similarity between the two campaigns? Let’
s take a look and see
 
You’ve probably spotted a couple more parallels j
ust by looking at the above screenshot snippets from YouTube, but go ahead and watch one or two of the videos from each campaign. You can find them here and here. You can also watch one of the short videos from an entertaining new series
called
, which
 show a number of striking side-by-side comparisons.
 
2
As you watch
, you’ll
likely notice the following basic commonalities among
most 
 of the ads:
 
They feature an ordinary-looking, clean-cut, middle class person
 
They are entirely narrated by that person, who 1) describes what they do for a living, 2) explains the role their religion has played in their life, and 3) closes with something to the effect of
“My name is ______. I’m a ______. And I’m a
Mormon/
Scientologist.”
 
 
Their titles have practically the same format 
: The tagline followed by the person’s
occupation(s). Also, the thumbnail of each video is a photo of the person. There are probably even more commonalities worth noting that someone more trained in media analysis could identify. I say this because entire presentations were given on the subject by a PhD student at  a 2011 meeting of the American Academy of Religion and at a 2012 Sunstone Symposium. If I
can get a hold of him, I’
ll expand this article with his insights. For now, this list is more than sufficient for our purposes. The campaigns also appear to share a common purpose: to dispel persistent negative perceptions and stereotypes regarding the organizations and their members and, in effect,
say, “See, we’re just like you!” (even though Mormons are supposed to be
”)
in hopes of boosting their public image and furthering their recruitment efforts. To be fair, we should also note the differences between the
churches’ respective ads
:
 
The Mormon ads are around three times longer on average
 
The titles of the Scientologist ads include the name of the person featured and the
words “I Am” instead of the contraction “I’m”.
 
 
Some of these titles replace the words “I Am” with the word “Meet”
 Again, I might be missing a small item or two, but the point here is that the similarities are undoubtedly
much
 more substantive than the differences. Could it be any coincidence that two similarly marginalized American religious groups suddenly start running nearly-identical ad campaigns at around the same time? Certainly not! Either these groups hired the same ad agency and that agency was lazy enough and careless enough to lead them both down the same road or there has been
some serious idea “borrowing” going on
, to put it gently. As this post  from an advertising copywriter on Quora.com explains, they have most definitely
not 
 used the same agency, so the question now is
“Who copied who?”
 To answer that, we need to travel a few years back in time... It has never been any secret that the LDS Church played a pivotal role in getting the infamous Californian Prop 8 passed in 2008, and as a result of that high-profile involvement, its public image was dealt a heavy blow. Determined to repair it, the church hired two big-name advertising agencies the following year
. The “I’m a Mormon” campaign
was a large part of what resulted and it was launched in 2010. As you can see on this page 
from Mormon.org’s YouTube channel, on whic
h the videos are sorted with the oldest at the
top, their first “I’m a Mormon”
ads were posted on October 1, 2010.

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