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VOLUME 2 • ISSUE 1   |   Release date: May 15, 2004

In This Issue
Kerry to Start New Catholic Church
Hip-Hop Lyrics Too Theologically Complex
Worn Out by Revival
Dobson Backs Stern in FCC Fight
Spidey Pews, Pulpits
Christ-Anderson Homeboy Relationship
Survey Results
May Church Sign of the Month
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Spidey to Adorn Pews, Pulpits at Megachurches
Spidey Pulpit
Spidey Pulpit

LOS ANGELES, CA – Only days after retracting its unpopular Spider-Man 2 ad campaign with Major League Baseball, Columbia Pictures has set its advertising sites on the church. In an announcement late Friday, Columbia executives unveiled plans to place small web decals on the pews and pulpits of the largest American churches—the same decals that were only recently the subject of heated debate within the baseball world.

The 12"x12" ads will be placed on the ends of pews and on the fronts of pulpits for one weekend of services in mid-June. The campaign includes several megachurches such as Saddleback and Willow Creek Community Church, but focuses its effort on churches with national TV audiences. Columbia sources remain tight-lipped about the terms of the deal, but some industry sources speculate that churches such as Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral and John Hagee's Cornerstone Church may net as much as $50,000 for their participation.

Just one week ago, Major League Baseball angered a nation of baseball purists with the announcement of a significant ad campaign that would place Spider-Man web logos on the bases and in on-deck circles of every Major League ballpark. A day later, the league changed course, admitting that the public outcry had been so widespread that to continue as planned would have been a public relations nightmare. That opened the door for Columbia to pursue the option to advertise in the church.

Geoffrey Ammer, president of marketing for the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, expressed some regrets about the change in tack. "We're somewhat concerned with the timing, summer being a bit of a down time within our new advertising demographic. But the outcry within baseball, which is peaking in June, left us without a major sponsor and little time to act."

But overall, Ammer said, the company is pleased with the new marketing opportunity, which taps an audience that until the release of The Passion of the Christ was thought to be relatively un-hip when it came to the cinema. "If Mel Gibson proved one thing, it's that today's evangelical is not opposed to some violent content if the subject matter is good. And we feel our product is definitely up-to-snuff."

The decision has already raised the ire of religious traditionalists, who argue that the ad campaign impugns Christianity's dignified history. "I guess it's inevitable, but it's sad," said Eugene Peterson, pastor and translator of the popular Message version of the Bible. "I guess I'm old-fashioned. Pastors are already little more than religious shopkeepers, and this just exposes that fact. The church should be protected from this. Some may hail this as progress, but I regret it very much."

The pastors whose churches stand to benefit from the promotion have a different view, saying they're merely trying to do what's best for their ministries during a typically dry financial season. "Look, summers are a financial strain on all churches, with people vacationing and whatnot," Hagee said. "And at my church, we have a TV audience of thousands who are on vacation, so it hurts us even more than average churches. So if I can recoup those losses by placing a few Spider-Man logos around the building, I'm more than willing to do it. And besides, it's not as though I'm covering over the cross or anything."

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