United Methodist Times Square ad offers Thanksgiving hope
11/13/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn
By Linda Green*The
people moving through New York's Times Square during the Thanksgiving
season will now be able to see the United Methodist Church's message of
welcome and reconciliation on an electronic billboard.
Nov. 17, the denomination's television advertisement, "The Gift," is
scheduled to run 10 times daily on the 7,000 square foot central
billboard of the Reuters and Instinet building. The ad will continue
through Nov. 30.
The Rev. Larry Hollon, top executive with the
denomination's communications agency announced that after all of the
controversy surrounding religious advertising on the Reuters' electronic
bulletin board, the message of hope, faith and reconciliation is back
on its original schedule.
After United Methodist Communications
signed a Sept. 23 contract to display the $30,000 commercial, Reuters
rejected the message because they said it violated its policy against
advertising that is predominantly religious or political. The
agreement was made between UMCom and a Toronto-based outdoor advertising
Once the policy was made public, United Methodist
officials expressed concern about not being given the same access and
equitable treatment as a company that serves alcohol or other products.
Other religious groups issued statements supporting the right of
religious organizations to speak in the public marketplace.
London-based chief executive Thomas H. Glocer then reversed the
company's policy. "Your proposed advertisement and the evolution of our
business has given us cause to reconsider our position," Glocer wrote to
The international media giant will now allow faith-based
advertising as long as the commercial include a prominently placed
disclaimer showing that it is "paid advertising."
pleased that "The Gift" will be on the billboard during this season of
gift-giving and at a time of high traffic in the Times Square area. But,
he also expressed disappointment in Reuters' disclaimer requirement of
"paid commercial advertisement, which is unlike any of the other
advertisers on the board, signaling out our ad for distinction."
disclaimer placed on church advertising shows that faith-related
commercials are still treated differently from the other forms of
commercial speech that Reuters accepts, he said.
"People who see
a beer advertisement and are sophisticated enough to know that it is
not endorsed by Reuters would be sophisticated enough to understand that
Reuters is not endorsing a religious message as well," Hollon added.
he considers the Reuters' policy reversal a victory for the church and
believes the action indicates "our argument that we ought to at least be
allowed to advertise is reasonable."
Diversity is important,
Hollon said, and "as we protect the diversity of opinions in the
society, a victory like this is really a victory for democratic free
speech in the commercial marketplace."
UMCom officials believe
that the message of the church should be in a public venue such as Times
Square to provide an alternative to commercialism and point out that
life is about the caring for others and giving of ourselves.
is not simply about getting and spending," Hollon said. "Life can be
measured by how we care for each other and how we nurture each other.
That is why it is important that this message be in this place at this
The church's message of hope, faith and reconciliation is
one that will respond to the hunger that people are facing and their
need for a connection with others. "People are searching for a way to
fill the hole in their soul that is not being filled by material goods.
This message speaks to that need," Hollon said.
Methodist television commercials appeared on 17 national cable and
broadcast networks earlier this fall. The advertisements are a major
component of Igniting Ministry, the denomination's four-year $20 million
U.S. media campaign. The denomination has 10 million members worldwide.
# # #
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer
in Nashville, Tenn. UMNS, the news agency of the United Methodist
Church, is a unit of United Methodist Communications.
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