A recent article describes the slope that has led from the marketing of films and products in churches which began with The Passion of the Christ test screenings and has now led to a dream vacation giveaway among pastors who can prove they mentioned the "Chronicles of Narnia" film series in a sermon, as well as new-car promotions tied to church events. Wharton's marketing program reports:
I'm willing to assume that non-churchgoers find this dissimulative. But if you are a regular churchgoer, I'd be very curious to know if this bothers you. Personally, I think evangelical churches need to operate on the same principles as journalists. In publishing, if it looks compromising to outsiders -- even if you believe passionately that you're above being corrupted -- you'd better not do it, because it will compromise your ability to reach your audience. What do you think?
Now some advertisers are taking the next step: marketing products -- like an SUV -- with no intrinsic religious value through church networks. "If we are going to target the African-American consumer, we have to go where they go, rather than ask them to come to us, and the church is a major institution for that community," says James Kenyon, Chrysler Group brand marketing senior manager.
[Patti] LaBelle's tour, which features both her November-release gospel album and Chyrsler's 2007 "Aspen" SUV, is passing through 14 of the largest predominantly African-American megachurches in the country. Some participating churches are also organizing "ride and drive" events, where church members and others can test-drive Chrysler vehicles.