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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

What to read this week.

A quick tour of Unitarian Universalist blogs:


Incidentally, I happened to be in Times Square on Friday and, naturally, I kept my eye on the NBC superwhatchamavision to see if the UUA's new video ad might come on. It didn't — but the United Church of Christ's latest ad did!

Thoughts about the UUA ad: The screen is relatively low in Times Square, but it's smack dab in the center, exactly where people look as they're heading downtown. The screen basically shows whatever is on NBC with ads like the UUA and UCC spots interspersed with regular TV advertising. Contextually, the screen doesn't look like other advertising in Times Square; it's a bit more like the ticker screens from the various news organizations.

I had seen the UCC ad before — it's the "All the People" ad — but without the soundtrack, its storyline can be hard to follow. One advantage of the UUA ad is that it was designed without sound and presents its entire message as brief, bold text phrases. Another advantage, which I didn't appreciate until I was in New York, is that the graphic starkness of the ad would help it stand out in the visual chaos of Times Square. Unfortunately, the phrase "Unitarian Universalists" and especially the URL "" shows up so briefly that the message of the ad isn't bound to the advertiser. Blink and you'll miss the sponsor.

Postscript: Speaking of missing the sponsor, I dragged my wife, brother, sister-in-law, two nephews, and niece up Fifth Avenue looking for the famous Christmas windows. I remembered "Fifth Avenue," but where? What's the name of that store? Luckily, we stumbled onto them across from Rockefeller Center, stood in line, oohed and ahed, and crossed the street without knowing which store's windows they were. And then, looking back: Saks Fifth Avenue. Of course. It's amazing how easily you can forget something you know.

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 29 November 2005 at 8:56 PM

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Ethan Dickey:

November 30, 2005 08:42 AM | Permalink for this comment

I heard the United Methodist Church also has ads running in Times Square. I'm not trying to say there aren't any good guys in these churches (with one notable exception in the case of the Methodists), but what if people think our ad is one of theirs or vice versa?

Dan Harper:

December 1, 2005 08:22 PM | Permalink for this comment

I've been reading a book on marketing titled "Purple Cow" by Seth Goodin which poses the interesting thought that mass media ads don't work any more because we're all so innundated with mass media ads. To prove his point, Goodin gives the following scenario: He sits and watches a bunch of people reading the Wall Street Journal. When they're done, he walks up to them and asks if they remember one ad from that issue of the newspaper. They don't. So then he folds over an ad in the paper, hiding the product or company, and asks them, do you remember what this ad was for? They don't. Alas, that is probably the fate of the current Unitarian Universalist ads.

Instead of using mass media or print ads, Goodin suggests that your product has to carry its marketing in the product. He says to go for the "early adopters" and rely on word-of mouth. Very interesting take on marketing in today's media-saturated world. (And thanks, Peter Bowden, for giving me the book.)


December 1, 2005 09:27 PM | Permalink for this comment

Speaking of marketing, Joseph Santos-Lyons follows up on an off-hand observation I think I made to him yesterday about the number of young people who discover Unitarian Universalism through Beliefnet's "Belief-o-Matic," but then don't find materials -- by which I mean Web sites -- directed to them as curious young adults. Please do join in Joseph's brainstorming some entrepreneurial solutions.

I've brought this up before. See "Meetup of the Larger Fellowship" (1.2.04) and especially "Unitarian Jihad: Not our 'iPod strategy'" (4.14.05).

If you doubt the idea that the Belief-o-Matic is actually introducing our name and some basic aspects of the UU worldview to a small but significant number of people, check out a sampling of blog posts and LiveJournals about people's Belief-o-Matic results. Note how regularly -- as in more than once a week -- someone is blogging about their 100% Unitarian Universalist score. They didn't all grow up in YRUU.

hafidha sofia:

December 1, 2005 11:47 PM | Permalink for this comment

*smile* I came to UUism by the quiz (now known as Belief O Matic) at I took the test three times in six months and was 99% and 100% UU each time, but when I first read the description of UUism, my honest reaction was: "Ugh! These people don't believe in anything!" (Or maybe it was, "Ugh! These people just believe everything!" - but I think it was the first.)

Later, I was doing some research on Transcendentalism for a discussion of The Thin Red Line in a Terrence Malick discussion list, when I came across something that stated Emerson was a Unitarian minister. I suddenly remembered the Belief-O-Matic results, Googled +emerson +unitarian and ... well, you can see how it turned out.

It would be really interesting to do or see a series of articles on the path that led "converts" to UUism. For my part, markers along the way included Star Trek: The Next Generation.


December 3, 2005 12:02 PM | Permalink for this comment

historicaly lots of folks came to U and U by reading! The UU church in Newberry SC was founded by folks who found dropped Universalist literature - Isnt there a church founded by folks who picked up a copy of the biography of John Murray out of the Atlantic Ocean?

the internet is just a big library .....

Dudley Jones:

December 3, 2005 09:10 PM | Permalink for this comment

Maybe it was there and I missed it but in all this discussion I do not recall any mention of the American Unitarian Conference. Are they too far away ideologically to show up on people's radar? Am I being off-topic again?


December 4, 2005 09:19 AM | Permalink for this comment

Dudley, are you asking whether the American Unitarian Conference represents a kind of online marketing?

One positive thing I'd say about the AUC is that they have at least attempted to promote some classical Unitarian texts online -- a project I'll always cheer, because I happen to like those old Unitarians. On the other hand, because the AUC's evangelistic work got caught up early on in a quasi-schismatic dispute with the UUA, I think they simply don't have a ton of credibility or good will from local churches. Mostly they seem to have run out of steam.

That's a pity, because an independent affiliate organization focused on helping people understand, appreciate, and apply the Unitarian tradition's insights would be a great thing. Also, they come across like old fogeys -- a stylistic problem if you're really trying to generate buzz or interest younger people. A dowdy website is a terrible turn-off.

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