“New Homefront Spot Released,” Ensign, Dec. 1993, 70–71
Music plays in the background as the young teenager looks nervously at the girls gathered against the wall. Visibly nervous, he ventures across the room, intent on asking one of them to dance. “Would you consider dancing with me?” he gulps. “I’d consider it, then I’d say no,” comes the thoughtless reply. He moves on and on, always receiving a negative response. Finally, he slumps down in a chair, defeated. But then, out of the corner of his eye, he notices another girl. His eyes brighten. “If at first you don’t succeed,” a voice says, “you’re pretty normal.”
This is the Church’s most recent Homefront public service announcement for television, and its message is simple, touching, and direct. “Over the years, Homefront spots have been a tremendous vehicle for reaching millions of people with ideas for building loving and caring families,” said Elder L. Aldin Porter, of the Presidency of the Seventy, executive director of the Missionary Department. “These public service announcements have helped people recognize the name of the Church and associate it with gospel principles that can help families and individuals.”
Twenty years ago, surveys indicated that when people were asked what they thought of when they heard the word Mormon, answers included the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Salt Lake City, explained Lynn Packham, director of public programs in the Missionary Department. But the majority of people were unfamiliar with the Church and had no response at all.
“Now, when you ask the same question,” Brother Packham continued, “one of the most frequent answers is family. While the Homefront series is not directly responsible for this change, the campaign has certainly helped establish the Church as a family-oriented organization. People know that we focus on families and self-esteem.”
The newest Homefront spot, “If At First You Don’t Succeed,” was just released and sent to approximately fourteen hundred television stations across the United States and Canada. Most of the spots, usually released in thirty- and sixty-second versions, are also sent to some eleven thousand radio stations. A joint effort between the Church’s Missionary Department, Audiovisual Department, and Bonneville Communications, the public service announcements garner millions of dollars of free air time every year, said Bob Hess, senior account executive at Bonneville.
The series began in the 1970s when Bonneville proposed that the Church sponsor a public service announcement with a family focus. “They knew that if we were able to come up with a top-quality product that introduced issues of importance to the community, stations would air the spots,” explains Sherman Crump, managing director of the Missionary Department. “Both communities and families could be strengthened, and, as a residual benefit, the Church would become better known.”
Through the years, the Church has become recognized as the producer of some of the best public service announcements in the industry. The spots have earned more than 160 awards, including eighteen Clio awards and three Emmys.
“It’s not unusual to read in trade magazines references to the Homefront spots or the Mormon commercials,” said Brother Packham. “Directors, crew, and performers recognize the quality of these productions and often work for less in order to be involved in the project.”
Due to the success of the Homefront campaign, other countries have indicated an interest in the public service announcements. Spots are now sent annually to several countries.
In the United States and Canada, three Homefront television and radio spots are produced annually. In addition, another television spot, called Homefront Jr., is produced every year. These spots are geared primarily toward children and are normally run during children’s programming after school and on Saturday morning.
“However, we are finding that many stations run the spots across their whole programming schedule,” noted Brother Crump. “The messages of the junior spots are just as powerful for adults.”
The Homefront Jr. spots are a result of a request made by NBC in 1983. “The television network asked if we had any public service announcements directed at children,” Brother Crump explains. “At the time we didn’t, but it didn’t take long for us to begin Homefront Jr.”
Homefront Jr. spots focus on self-esteem and values such as honesty and integrity. The regular Homefront series messages focus on the family twice a year and on service once a year.