Special Offerings to revise promotional campaign

January 12, 2015


After much criticism, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Special Offerings is revising its 2015 campaign for the One Great Hour of Sharing offering.

The campaign, which uses images and wordplays, has been called offensive, racist and demeaning of those who face addictions, according to a torrent of online comments.

One campaign poster shows a young Asian girl with the text “Needs help with her drinking problem. She can’t find water.” Another shows a young man with the text “Needs help getting high. Above the flood waters.”

“We appreciate the passionate outpouring of concern about the new attention-getting campaign for One Great Hour of Sharing. You spoke. We are listening. We plan to revise the campaign,” said Sam Locke, director of Special Offerings, in a statement. “We will solicit suggestions and input from a variety of Presbyterians as we make this revision.”

“We apologize for the offense and pain caused by our effort to promote the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. We strive for excellence in our work, and are deeply sorry when we miss the mark,” the statement reads.

Designed by xiik, a marketing agency in Indianapolis, the campaign uses images and wordplays meant to highlight the absurdity of the stereotypes people might have about the people benefitting from the offerings, Locke said in a December 2014 interview with Presbyterian News Service.

The campaign seems to have had the opposite effect, according to comments on its original announcement.

“The National Hispanic/Latino Caucus of the PCUSA is dismayed with the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s marketing campaign for the Special Offering. Although slickly produced and eye catching, the materials yet again perpetuate stereotypical imagery of people of color. The lack of cultural awareness and innate white privilege of the publicity materials is accompanied by a dominant culture’s word play, one that is unwelcome and not understood by the diverse body that make up our denomination,” reads a comment on the announcement. “While we are firm supporters of the Special Offering opportunity, we cannot support this year’s campaign and firmly register our disapproval.”

Before debuting the campaign, Special Offerings got feedback from internal staff, a cross-section of pastors and mid-council executives, ecumenical partners and others. Some advisory committees related to One Great Hour of Sharing were also asked for feedback, Locke said in an email to PNS.

“Among feedback about the edginess and freshness of the campaign, the negative feedback centered around proposed photographs — not for the OGHS campaign but for later offerings [Peace & Global Witness and Christmas Joy offerings],” Locke said in an email to Presbyterian News Service. “To make the needed changes to those two final offerings we created an internal task force to ensure responsiveness to the concerns.”

Special Offerings is asking that the approximately 375 churches that have received the materials not use them and instead wait for new materials to be sent, Locke said in the email to PNS. Special Offerings estimates it will cost about $65,000 to replace the printed materials, including those that have not been shipped.

The original campaign design was budgeted for $15,000-$20,000, Locke said in the email. Xiik will revise the campaign, as contracting with a new firm will be more expensive, he said. Locke expects new materials to be sent out by mid-February.

  1. I just want to say in response to several of the comments above that we DO still use the inserts and envelops, we find them helpful and appreciate having them. We only order what we need, and we recycle any that are not taken. It's been my observation that since online giving info is being put on the inserts, more people are taking them home rather than recycling them with their bulletins.

    by Connie Weaver

    March 10, 2015

  2. Clean water is a worthy project, already being promoted by one of our church's own ministries, Living Waters for the World, with clean water systems world wide and growing. Is there a reason OGHS would adopt it's own campaign separate from something that is already working and serving?

    by William Berger

    February 26, 2015

  3. The tone of several of the comments on the OGHS promotional materials causes me to think that a significant number of Presbyterians think of their own national office as "the enemy." It is unfortunate that funding cuts can result in staff cuts that result in outsourcing of design tasks that should be done in-house by people with sensibilities more attuned to our values. Pointing out problems to team members can be a gentler process, with the presumption that we all want the campaign done with sensitivity. Pointing out cheaper ways to accomplish the job could be done as a suggestion to a friend, rather than a demand to an opponent. The cacophony in this comment string hurts my brain.

    by Richard Lindeborg

    February 22, 2015

  4. Please stop spending money on the design, printing and mailing of the envelopes and glossy inserts for the Special Offerings. These marketing campaigns are not needed and are a huge waste. The inserts are rarely read, and are just set aside (and have to be gathered up for the recycling bin). I am never happy to see such waste of money, paper (and the energy used to make them). Please just sent the congregations a simple, reproducible electronic version.

    by Janet Rainey

    January 16, 2015

  5. Please stop spending money on the design, printing, and mailing of glossy inserts and special envelopes for the Special Offerings. They are rarely read and are just set aside (and have to be gathered up for the recycling bin). I don't like seeing so much waste (never mind thinking about the energy used to create them !). Surely it is more responsible, fiscally and environmentally, to send congregations a simple reproducible electronic version of the flyers. That I would be happy to see!

    by Janet Rainey

    January 16, 2015

  6. Just one more example of why it was a horrible idea to spend the denomination's limited funds on personnel to "fix what wasn't broken" in the first place!

    by Bobbi Neason

    January 15, 2015

  7. Sadly, the $65,000 will end up coming out of the offering, not the salaries of those whose poor judgements get us into these messes.

    by Arlene Torrens

    January 15, 2015

  8. STOP! Do not spend more money on design and printing . Instead provide simple reproducible digital resources that tell congregations how their offerings are being used from Syria to Sierra Leone to San Francisco. Restore the credibility of the PMA by respecting the commitment of congregations to support hunger, disaster and self-development programs that they understand and care about. We don't want a marketing campaign. We want integrity in telling us that the denomination we love is at work in proclaiming Christ's love through healing, advocating and promoting justice with and for our sisters and brothers around the world.

    by Colleen Shannon

    January 14, 2015

  9. Why in the world would you reward an out of town Ad Agency who produced such obviously inappropriate images with thousands more dollars? Demand the digital images, hire someone local to change the wording to something simple and respectful, then start the new shipment. Next time, cultivate a relationship with someone local who can take the time to get to know the church culture. A big city ad agency two and a half hours away is not going to understand what you're all about.

    by HTMacon

    January 14, 2015

  10. Totally saddened and disappointed. PCUSA has once again shot itself in the foot and wasted thousands of $$$.

    by Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Morgan

    January 13, 2015

  11. It is already incredibly difficult to engage congregations with the concept of national special offerings. The insensitivity and offensiveness of your latest media campaign is beyond belief. I and the church I serve will no longer support OGHS. Your efforts to revise are too little, too late. Stop shooting us in the foot, Louisville!

    by Rev.Dr. Elizabeth Morgan

    January 13, 2015

  12. We are all so sensitive these days that probably our promotional materials should not show human beings. Some other charities get tremendous response from pictures of puppies, so maybe that would work.

    by Bruce Shields

    January 13, 2015

  13. Open Letter to the Presbyterian Mission Agency regarding the 2015 Special Offerings Ad Campaign, which addresses this announcement, can be seen here: http://bit.ly/1xiKM6a I am glad to see the ad campaign has been pulled and that churches who have received these materials have been asked not to use them. As has been said by many, criticism against the 2015 OS marketing materials was never met to discourage churches and individuals from giving to the necessary OGHS offering.

    by Honna Eichler (George)

    January 13, 2015

  14. Please, please do not spend MORE money printing more resources to be sent to churches that will then put them in the recycle bin (whether they are used in worship or not- they'll go to the recycle bin). Instead, please pay for professional quality videos and websites that are easy to navigate (and find). We can print materials ourselves or add small pieces of information to our bulletins.

    by Deven Johnson

    January 12, 2015

  15. while, as a body , your recent decisions, such as the people you support and the stocks you don't are in my opinion examples of poor judgement caused by single mindedness, This latest episode, cowering to the p.c. Police, take that poor judgement to an extreme. In this offering scandel, Only perhaps, better images could have been chosen, but it has nothing to do with white privilege, unless of course, you are using it. We are not guilty of white privilege. Because we are white, we are guilty when we conscious invoke it. The hype in our popular culture isn't anything that is supported by our beliefs, even under the concept of a big tent. For a change be courageous, in an executive sense, and stand your ground. Oh, wait, it's too late you already caved into the p.c. pressure. I pray for the executive body of my church often, and you only seem to get it wrong again and again. I'm starting to think of you, PCUSA, as a false prophets, ones I have been wRned about. Fix your mindset outside the current box and maybe, you can effect my thoughts. Ruling elder, E. Paul yager

    by E Paul yager

    January 12, 2015

  16. Skip the re-design and give the money $65,ooo away as an offering!!!!! Don't waste this money on paper and promotional gimmicks! What is pcusa thinking?

    by Anne Felts

    January 12, 2015

  17. I'm glad to hear of the decision to redo. I am hot happy that Xiik gets the repeat business. One of the reasons I'm not happy is that I don't think the focus should be marketing. In what I took to be Xiik's proposal for the campaign, tweeted by former Moderator Bruce Reyes-Chow, I saw a set of "Gave ... Got" images that approached acceptability. With a little adjustment of the faces used, let's run with those.

    by Barbara Kellam-Scott

    January 12, 2015