The college age son of my friend Beth is working part time for an ad agency, so I asked her if his career goal is advertising. She said, "Yes. If there's anything left to advertise in a few years." I thought her remark was a reference to the sagging economy, but she meant something different.
The direction of modern advertising is away from the blunt instrument approach my generation grew up with and toward the stealthy and subliminal. I, of course, have noticed bottles of Coca Cola appearing discretely in the middle of love scenes in the movies. And The Matrix Reloaded featured a chase scene between two Cadillacs, the CTS and the Escalade EXT. Newsweek changed its format a while back, and now I can't tell the ads from the articles; every page looks like a prescription drug ad.
But Beth mentioned a tactic I didn't know of, celebrity marketing---giving exposure to products at celebrity parties. Notice this public relations agency's unusual offering:
"As one of our strategic alliances, Cultural Marketing Communications is able to provide product placement marketing and celebrity outreach marketing promotional services that can give your products nationwide exposure as an alternative to launching television commercials."
"How can it work?" I asked Beth. "How can they reach all the way to you and me that way?"
"Word of mouth," she said. And I have been mulling that over ever since. The forces of worldliness have tapped into a couple of secrets that we Christians would do well to reacquaint ourselves with. One is the mystery of one person talking to another person who then talks to another person about Jesus. The second is the incalculable power of incarnational living.
Jesus scooped cultural marketing communications by about 2,000 years with this: 120 people in an upper room, filled with the Holy Spirit, sparking a chain reaction that continues to this day. This is encouraging for those of us with a small field of influence. It's not about dollars and corporate power; it's all about what you say next time you go to Dunkin' Donuts with your neighbor. It's all about the power of the Word.
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