“Church Media-Member Campaign Encourages Growth in Europe,” Ensign, Sept. 1989, 79–80
A Direct Gospel Message campaign conducted recently in three European locations continues to bring missionary referrals months after it ended. But the campaign may be even more significant because of the blessings it has brought to Church members.
Michael Obst, Direct Gospel Message project manager, coordinated the program under the direction of the Europe Area presidency. He said it had three goals: to increase convert baptisms; to bring the Church “forth out of obscurity” in Europe (see D&C 1:30); and to increase missionary awareness and involvement among Church members.
Thousands of referrals have come as a result of a media campaign conducted in Frankfurt, Paris, and Madrid, Brother Obst said. Many investigators have been taught and baptized, and members have become enthusiastic participants in missionary work as they have had spiritual experiences with friends and acquaintances.
Harold Frome, director of public communications for the Europe Area, said the program succeeded well because it was not seen as a missionary program aided by members, but a member program aided by missionaries.
Efforts associated with the current Direct Gospel Message project will continue into August, but some members already want to know how soon another such project can be scheduled. Members in cities where the program was not carried out have been asking about scheduling it in their own communities.
The program has two parts: a media ad campaign and a concurrent effort by members to make new missionary contacts among friends, acquaintances, and even strangers. Full-time missionaries are asked to aid in efforts organized at the stake level. The ad campaign is followed in each stake by firesides, socials, and other opportunities to fellowship new contacts.
The Direct Gospel Message campaign began earlier this year with a series of advertisements printed in publications in Frankfurt, Paris, and Madrid. The ads offered respondents a copy of the audiocassette tape, Our Heavenly Father’s Plan. In Frankfurt, the ads were printed in three newspapers and one magazine. In Paris, they were printed in five publications. In Madrid, they not only appeared in newspapers, but were also coupled with radio spots broadcast twice a day for four weeks on eight different stations.
The magazine ads were placed in highly read television program guides, making it possible to reach television audiences without the comparatively high cost of television advertising.
The ads ran for four-week periods in each of the three cities during February, March, and April. The high-quality, highly visible advertisements provided a psychological boost for European members who are used to the Church being perceived as a small, somewhat backward group. The quality and message of the ads opened doors to the media and to other groups that have never been receptive to the Church or its representatives before, Brother Obst reported.
Alain Marie, the Church’s public communications director in France and Spain, estimated that about five million people in Germany, France, and Spain saw the ads. Thousands of fliers telling about the tape were also distributed, Brother Marie said.
At the same time the ads were running, members began a person-to-person missionary effort. They were asked to place copies of the audiocassette tape, Our Heavenly Father’s Plan, with friends.
In all three countries, the Church is harvesting the results of members’ involvement, Brother Obst said. It is evident that the Direct Gospel Message campaign “has really helped to bring the Church out of obscurity in Europe,” he added. By the end of May, the ad campaign had resulted in 3,000 requests for Our Heavenly Father’s Plan in Germany, 2,000 requests in Spain, and 1,700 in France.
Initially, a telemarketing firm handled calls requesting the tape of Our Heavenly Father’s Plan. Now, though the ads ended in April, letters requesting copies of the tape continue to come in, sometimes at the rate of one hundred per day. In France and Germany, many people have ordered the tape using direct-response electronic devices connected to their television sets. Some who have home computers have used electronic mail to make a request through one of the Church’s computers.
In France and Spain, about 30 percent of the people who asked for the audiocassette tape also agreed to a visit from missionaries or other Church members. In Germany, the rate was about 20 percent.
Ninety-five percent of responses to the ad campaign have been “very positive,” Brother Obst says. “We have felt many doors are open” now where they were not before, he adds—even with people who have not made direct contact with the Church. It is hoped that they will be inclined to listen when contacted by missionaries in the future.
The Direct Gospel Message project was originally planned to last for six months, including member-missionary efforts and follow-up, Brother Obst said. After the project ends in August, its effects will be evaluated, and its successful techniques will be applied to possible future campaigns.
Impetus for the Direct Gospel Message program came from the Church’s Missionary Department. Bonneville Media Communications produced the tapes and helped produce the ads used in the campaign.