The End of Dissemination As We Know It
I love the Rose Parade – it is one of my New Year’s rituals. I grew up in Pasadena, and never missed the parade when I was a kid. My grandmother’s house was a block from the parade route, so going down to see the parade was a much-anticipated family treat.
Well, imagine my thrill when I saw this breathless e-mail from Theresa Bloch at the Pasadena Org, replete with OMGs and multiple exclamation points:
“OMG!!! EXCITING NEWS!!!! We have just gotten the word that one of the sponsors of this years Rose Parade is: THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY!!!!!! The IAS has funded the Church of Scientology as one of the sponsors of this year’s Rose Parade on KTLA!! KTLA is THE station that has the contract for the Rose Parade and then is nationally syndicated from there. (You know, when they say, “Brought to you by Honda and… THE CHURCH OF SCIENTOLOGY!”) And the new ads will play, of course! This is amazing!!!”
Amazing, sure. Unfortunately, like much of the Church’s PR, it was a lie. Sorry, “acceptable truth.” If you look on the official Rose Parade website, you’ll find Honda, yes, but nary a mention of Scientology anywhere on the site.
Why? Because they didn’t sponsor the Rose Parade. They bought some ads on a local LA TV station, KTLA, the fourth-rated station in the city. And the ads didn’t actually run during the parade, as KTLA broadcasts it commercial-free. What their IAS ad dollars earned them was a fifteen-second blurb at the end: “A very happy New Year to our friends at the Auto Club, and Scientology, for taking part in today’s Rose Parade telecast.”
All too typical of the sort of overhyped waste that plagues Scientology’s advertising efforts.
Unfortunately, I had an up-close and personal view of David Miscavige’s advertising and marketing philosophy, as I worked for many years in the Church’s Central Marketing Unit – as detailed in the book Counterfeit Dreams.
In 1999, he became enamored with a book called The End of Marketing As We Know It by Sergio Zyman. The entire Base was required to read it. The book itself wasn’t bad. Zyman had been in charge of marketing at Coca-Cola and had presided over one of the biggest debacles in marketing history, “New Coke.” Zyman had, fortunately, learned from his mistakes and went on to a successful publishing and lecturing career. The point of his book was that too many marketers are focused on image – glossy ads and meaningless slogans – when they should be focused on sales and results. They should be focused on the consumer. The consumer didn’t want “New Coke,” and no matter how many ad dollars Coke threw at it, they could not make people want it.
Miscavige, however, took away an entirely different message from the book, almost the opposite of what Zyman was saying. He had everyone actually drink a can of Coke after they had finished reading the book, and then “have the cognition” that Coke was nothing, just a can of sugar water, and that one could sell anything with the right ads and marketing. (This is typical, by the way, of Miscavige’s endless “study orders” at the Int Base. In lieu of any real staff training, he issues an endless parade of “study orders” which are supposed to result in you having the same cognition he had. And you’d better have his cognition.)
So the answer to Scientology’s marketing, according to Miscavige, was big, broad, flossy image campaigns.
I already knew this didn’t work. And in fact, Hubbard himself knew it didn’t work, and had forbidden such ads in Policy. And whatever one might think of Hubbard, he was a pretty canny marketer. He said that if you put out an ad, sell a book. Never put out ads to just promote an “image” or sell a generality, “Scientology.”
What boomed Scientology in the late 1980s was book campaigns, not generalized image campaigns. And those campaigns were targeted to specific audiences, what they call “niche markets” today. They were not broadly blasted out to everyone. There was a lot of research into where and when those ads were placed. All that, of course, went out the window when Miscavige gained control over marketing, beginning with useless and wasteful “sports sponsorships.” I talk about all this marketing history in some detail in Counterfeit Dreams.
Well, nowadays, with Miscavige running the show, all they do is broad “image” campaigns and useless, wasteful “sponsorships” like the Rose Parade debacle.
How effective are their ads? Well, the utter failure of one of these ads was recently documented in this online study by HCD research. They showed one of the recent Scientology ads to a test audience and measured the results.
The ad begins with a trite montage of pleasant images, over which a narrator voice drones:
“It’s shiny cars, wistful eyes, and roast beef for dinner. It’s chaos and harmony and water balloon fights, and words you can’t take back. It’s tears of joy and pain, feelings you can’t explain. It’s questions and answers and I don’t knows. It’s the rise and fall of civilizations, stock markets and kids on trampolines. It’s finding true love and losing it, and finding it all over again. It’s music and sensation and touchdowns and chocolate. It’s spirituality and inspiration and money and traffic jams. It’s disaster and heroism and paper clips and knowing when to breathe. It’s flirting and tasting and curiosity. It’s fast and it’s slow. It’s rising and falling. It’s every moment and every hope, every dream, every piece of the cosmic puzzle…”
And on and on… the test audience is entranced, hypnotized with the endless warm fuzzy flow of words and images, the response scores are lazily drifting up and up… Then:
“It’s life, and it’s yours. Scientology: Know yourself, know life.”
Pow! The response rate dives like a shot duck, down and down and down, deep into the minus range. “Typically when a logo or advertiser name appears in an ad there’s a decline in interest and/or believability.” Says Glenn Kessler, president and CEO, HCD Research. “However, I have never seen such a precipitous decline in curves as was seen when the Scientology identification was shown on the screen.” The overriding emotion they were left with? 34% – Skepticism.
So the ad is an unmitigated failure in changing anyone’s opinion about Scientology or creating a positive image. But do you think that will change the way the Church advertises? No way.
Because the truth is, Miscavige doesn’t care. He’s only interested in one response – the flow of cash into IAS coffers. There is only one audience he is aiming at with these ads – Scientologists. They have only one purpose – to convince Scientologists that the Church is “running big public campaigns” and they should therefore contribute everything they have to the IAS.
Never mind that such ads are off-Policy. Never mind that they are filled with fatuous Danny Sherman drivel. Never mind that only a small fraction of their IAS donations goes into such “campaigns.” Never mind that the little that is actually done is an unmitigated failure. All that is just “entheta” that Scientologists will never look at, never see, never find out about. No, they’ll just listen to the Church’s brags and boasts and PR and lies.
And they’ll keep those donations rolling.
Or will they?