November 14, 2019

Ad Creep in the Church?

Advertising follows people and their changing habits. The Internet is now full of ads. They pop up and will not go away until you click on a small “x” hidden in the corner of the ad or the advertisement turns your screen dark and forces you to respond. Years ago, most hockey arenas had white partitions that surrounded the ice. Now the same white partitions are flooded with advertisements. Some even have ads in the ice itself and the plexiglass partitions are not sacred either. Professional football arenas and baseball stadiums are ripe for ads. The new Yankee stadium in the Bronx is loaded with ads. While all arenas differ in prices they charge, the Baltimore Orioles charge a minimum of $30,000 for any sign placed anywhere in the park and a minimum of $50,000 for any ad shown in the seating area. Single advertisements in Camden Yards can reach up to $750,000 if it is placed on the LED screen or behind home plate.

We know TV is loaded with ads now consuming up to 20% of the available time on an hour long program. The most recent Super Bowl was watched by approximately 114 million people. The 30 second commercials for the very first Super Bowl in 1967 cost $42,000 but the average broke a million dollars in 1995 and hit a record of $4.5 million in 2015. A 30 second commercial in the 2016 Super Bowl cost $166,666 a second! So it is not surprising that with the written word, newspapers and magazines, slowly disappearing from our society that ad creep will move to sports and the Internet. According to Golf Digest, a professional golfer could earn anywhere from $250,000 to $2 million dollars annually for a decal on the front of their hat or on the left side of the front of their shirt. It is estimated that Tiger Woods and Gary Nickelson earned $62 million and $38 million dollars respectively in recent years. In 2015 more than $180 billion dollars were spent on advertising in the United States. For 2016, media advertising is expected to reach $200 billion dollars. TV advertising is forecast to reach $75 billion dollars in 2016.

With a majority of Catholic schools and churches in the U.S. struggling to stay afloat in today’s economy, could advertising play a part in this struggle? I guess the first reaction is one of shock and repulsion. Religion would be cheapened. However, if you think about it, are not most parish bulletins supported in part by advertisements from their parishioners? I don’t think I would mind if I picked up a prayer book that said in the opening page that “this book was provided by the generosity of Monsanto Chemical.” I would look upon many of the expenses by the parish as similar to a public television station. Do churches not solicit funds from local businesses to support flowers, trees, and candles during the Holidays?

I guess there is fine line on how advertising is promoted by the church. I think a Nike logo on the front of a vestment at Mass to be “over the line” but Catholics buy sporting goods just like every other person. I am sure that this is a very controversial topic but one that could be discussed in the coming years. One thing we know is that advertisements are here to stay. Let’s consider using this revenue in a way that would benefit our parishes and charities.

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Written by
Donald Wittmer

DONALD WITTMER is a retired business executive who held key roles in the automotive and banking sectors. For a time, he also served as a Fiscal Agency Manager for the Detroit branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. He received his undergraduate degree from Cincinnati's Xavier University, an M.A. in business management from Central Michigan University, and earned certification in bank operations from the School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A husband, father, and grandfather, he teaches part-time at the Kent Place School for Girls in Summit, New Jersey.

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Written by Donald Wittmer
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