What is the “He Gets Us” Jesus commercial, and who is behind it? : NPR


A screenshot of one of the “He Gets Us” campaign ads, this one on Reddit.

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A screenshot of one of the “He Gets Us” campaign ads, this one on Reddit.

Patrick Wood/NPR

Welcome to a new NPR series where we shine a light on the people and things that make headlines — and the stories behind them.

Jesus Christ is now the focus of a multi-million dollar ad campaign funded by the Hobby Lobby founder and others that is apparently just getting started.

Who is he? Well, in Christianity he is known as the son of God. But in this scenario, “He” is the focus of a marketing campaign that has swept across the United States, spanning billboards, online banner ads and an upcoming Super Ad. Bowl.

  • The ads all stem from the central idea that “He gets us”. They discuss how “He” (Jesus Christ) was a refugee, scorned hypocrisy, and was also unfairly judged like other marginalized members of modern society.
  • In one of the advertisements, a slideshow of black and white photos tells the story of Central American migrants who must flee their country to avoid persecution. At the end, it is revealed that the story being told is that of Jesus and his parents, Mary and Joseph.
  • The advertisements would be financed in part by the family which owns the chain of religious crafts stores Hobby Lobby, according to Christianity today, as well as other evangelical groups, including a foundation called The Signatry. Other donors have kept their identities anonymous.

One of the “He Gets Us” ads posted on YouTube.

Youtube

What is the problem ? This is part of a well-funded campaign that is just getting started.

  • The ads are part of an effort to move away from a negative public perception of Christians, and towards Jesus, says Bob Smietana, national reporter for Religious News Servicein an interview with NPR.
  • Smietana says the campaign tries to appeal to groups that may have felt excluded or pushed away by the church in recent years, such as members of the LGBTQ community, different races and ethnicities, those who lean more politically liberal , or the people who followed with abuse scandals.
  • The group behind the campaign also bought an ad slot for this Sunday’s Super Bowl, one of the most expensive branded platforms out there. The estimated costs for these ads will be around $20 million.
  • In an interview with Christianity todaythe branding company for the campaign said the plan calls for investing $1 billion over the next three years, a budget comparable to that of a major brand.

One of the “He Gets Us” ads posted on YouTube.

Youtube

What are people saying? Smietana told NPR that the campaign comes at a time of decline for organized religion:

“I think spending so much money, again, is kind of an admission on their part that there’s a problem. And, you know, there’s a problem for organized religion in America. She’s in decline, the congregations are in decline. And these advertisements too, are a way of chastising their fellow Christians saying, ‘This is what Jesus looks like, and maybe we know that, and maybe we don’t.’ don’t act like Jesus.'”

“But I think it goes back to the problem that American evangelicals in particular face, which is that their political ambitions and their deeply held religious and ethical beliefs are in conflict right now. So the things that will help them win politically will alienate people.”

And, of course, social media had some thoughts:

And now ?

  • The next Super Bowl is expected to see a surge in viewership, with an estimated 100 million people watching the show
  • That means many more people are likely to send confused tweets about a “Jesus Commercial” – a search term on Twitter that has already been inundated after “He Gets Us” ads aired during Sunday’s Grammy Awards.

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