Churchads.net â€“ a Christian charity supported by advertising and marketing professionals - is asking UK churches to support its 2011 Christmas poster which re-casts the nativity scene with trendy twenty somethings, designer fashions and luxury gifts.
In the poster the shepherds are represented by a cycle courier and plasterer. The Wise men are shown as three successful entrepreneurs and their gifts are iconic â€˜treasuresâ€™ of modern culture: a Swarovski crystal perfume bottle, a Faberge egg and a replica Damian Hirst skull. All are â€˜sharply dressedâ€™. But the traditional nativity arrangement is unchanged, with Jesus as its clear focus. And the message is â€˜However you dress it up.... Christmas Starts with Christâ€™.
The image, which features clothing from shops including Topman, Zara and Donna Karan, was photographed by Max Oppenheim, a prominent London based photographer who has shot campaigns for clients such as Paul Smith, Max Mara and Virgin. The poster already has the support of key church leaders, including the Archbishop of York, and partners such as Premier Christian Media and The Jerusalem Trust.
The Archbishop of York welcomed the image, saying, â€œWe know from research that only 12% of adults, and only 7% of people aged between 18-24, know the Christmas story. As Christians we want to keep Christmas focussed on Christ, by retelling the story in a way which engages creatively and positively with peopleâ€™s interests. Christmas starts with Christ - this is the message which I hope our congregations across the country will be sharing with their neighbours and friends in the coming months. This poster is one way of showing that Christ is at the centre of the story for all people.â€
The Christmas Starts with Christ Campaign is now in its third year. The campaign re-tells the Christmas story in modern, secular contexts to capture the general publicâ€™s attention and interest. Poster ads in previous years have set the nativity in a bus shelter and featured a dramatic â€˜Jesus Babyscanâ€™ last year. Radio ads have placed the story in a football match, horse race and pop chart countdown.
Mike Elms, from ChurchAds.net, said: â€œThis year we have a very simple but dramatic idea by showing the meeting of Christianity and high street consumerism, with Christ in the middle. With recent events in the UK and with millions of people heading for shopping centres before Christmas, there will be no better time to remind people that, behind all the consumerism - Christmas Starts with Christ.â€
To maximise the impact of the message, ChurchAds.net is asking individuals and churches to make a donation to a National Christmas Advertising fund. The aim is to raise enough money to cover the placing of posters at bus stops, buy airtime for specially commissioned radio ads, and for the first time ever buy colour ads in national and regional newspapers.
Mike Elms said: â€œLast year we took the Christmas Starts with Christ message to 30 million people. We want to build on that and for the first time ever we are hoping to place ads in regional and national newspapers. Imagine the effect of the image as a colour advertisement in, say, the Daily Mail and Sunday Mirror, exposing an additional 8 million people to the message. It would be like sending 40 million Christian â€˜Christmas cardsâ€™ to the nation.â€
Any individual or church can donate to the National Christmas Ad Fund by visiting www.christmasstarts.com
More ads add up
Research shows that repeating the message works and it is hoped that a similarly broad campaign can be funded again this year, along with many other dioceses across the country. And parishes can get involved too â€“ the more consistent the message the more likely that it will be remembered and make a difference.
All parishes can get involved locally with posters (local papers, clubs, pubs, shops etc.) and/or local radio advertising (there are more local internet-based radio stations starting up all the time) â€“ all supplied free by Churchad.net â€“ just visit www.churchads.net to find out more and get an early earful of this yearâ€™s â€˜fashionableâ€™ radio adverts.
How about using the poster image for the front of your local Christmas Services card this year?