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United Methodist national advertising campaign receives report card

SUMMARY: Did we make the grade?  The national television advertising ministry of The United Methodist Church recently received the results of its annual tracking study.

Conducted by The Barna Group, specialists in faith-oriented consumer research, the survey provides one of the program’s report cards for the past year.  It indicates the campaign continues to show progress in building interest among seekers and in changing their perceptions of the denomination.

Methodology
For the tracking study, Barna interviewed approximately 1,200 seekers by telephone.  In addition, more than 200 United Methodist churches provided attendance information to determine potential impact on attendance.  For this research, seekers are defined as individuals who express some discomfort with their current spiritual life status, persons searching for something different in life, church attendees dissatisfied with their current congregation or unchurched people willing to try a church.

Advertising Awareness Steady
Seeker awareness of The United Methodist Church’s advertising remains unchanged compared to 2006, at 30 percent.  Sixty-two percent of seeker advertising awareness is attributable directly to television advertising, a rate essentially unchanged for the past three years.

Ad Awareness of The United Methodist Church

 

2005

2006

2007

Percent of Seekers

27%

30%

30%

Perceptions of United Methodists Improve
Perceptions of The United Methodist Church among seekers continue to move in a positive direction.  Strongest perceptions center on United Methodists accepting others, supporting each other, caring about justice and being active in their community.

Perceptions of The United Methodist Church
Percentage Who Agree “Strongly” or “Somewhat”

 

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Accept You for Who You Are

45

49

53

56

52

57

Care and Support Each Other

43

46

52

58

54

58

Accept People from All Walks

43

47

52

57

53

57

Help in Your Community

43

42

47

56

51

55

Show Respect for Other Religions

40

40

48

51

47

51

Help People Facing Personal Difficulties

38

40

45

52

46

51

Welcome Diverse Opinions

33

35

43

47

44

45

Offer a Place to Belong

29

32

32

43

40

42

Help You Find Deeper Meaning/Purpose

26

29

34

42

37

41

Care About Justice/Peace For All

NA

NA

NA

56

51

55

These perceptions correlate strongly with awareness of the advertising.  Seekers aware of the advertising give significantly higher evaluations of the denomination across the board.  This “exposure gap” between those aware and those unaware of the ads has increased every year since 2005.

Perceptions of The United Methodist Church
Percentage Who Agree “Strongly” or “Somewhat”

 

Aware of Ads

Not Aware of Ads

Care and Support Each Other

76

50

Accept People from All Walks

74

49

Accept You for Who You Are

72

51

Help in Your Community

70

49

Help People Facing Personal Difficulties

68

44

Show Respect for Other Religions

66

45

Care About Justice/Peace For All

64

51

Welcome Diverse Opinions

58

39

Offer a Place to Belong

56

36

Help You Find Deeper Meaning/Purpose

55

35

Overall Impression of The United Methodist Church and Willingness to Visit
Forty-two percent of the seekers participating in the study indicated they have a favorable impression of The United Methodist Church, up 5 percentage points from 2006; however, the percentage with favorable impressions rose to 60 percent among those aware of the advertising, compared to 34 percent of those unaware.  A similar pattern exists when respondents were asked about their willingness to visit a United Methodist church.  This suggests advertising is influencing receptiveness to visiting a United Methodist church in the future.

Ad Awareness and Correlation To Willingness to Visit

 

Aware of Ads

Not Aware of Ads

Very/Somewhat Willing to Visit

64%

50%

Would Definitely/Probably Visit

27%

14%


Impact of Advertising on Church Attendance
In six test markets, 214 churches participated in the attendance-tracking portion of the Barna study.  Total attendance and first-time attendance statistics were collected for August through October in 2005, 2006 and 2007.  These dates correspond with waves of The United Methodist Church advertising.  Barna does not track local church advertising or outreach efforts that might correspond with those months which may affect the numbers presented.

In general, the impact of the national advertising on first-time attendance was mixed during the test while the advertising did not appear to affect total attendance.

Tracking Church Attendance - 2007 Vs. 2006

 

1st Time

Total Attendance

August

-12%

-2%

September

-2%

-2%

October

16%

-1%


The next wave of this research is scheduled for late autumn 2008.