But thanks to a call from a current affairs program, I was recently alerted to a new campaign by the Australian chapter of the Mormon church, which is currently being tested in Brisbane. I had seen a similar campaign while in New York in August. The Australian campaign currently consists of an online, well produced series of advertisements and billboards, highlighting that Mormons are “just like you and me”.
Clearly the Mormons are trying to change attitudes about their church and their religion. The Mormon brand has not done well over the years. “Big Love”, “The Osmonds”, and South Park have all had a go at trying to explain The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The underlying story about Joseph Smith, being told by the angel, Moroni, to wander into the hills around his home in Manchester, New York, find the golden plates and start a new religion, has plenty of critics, but the Mormon church has about 14 million members around the world, including more than 100,000 in Australia.
So, it doesn’t surprise me that the church is using social media to get to Australians, and perhaps create some new “customers”. The effectiveness of that approach (in a similar context) is discussed here. The ads are well-made, have high production values, and, at face value, are trying to overcome simplistic stereotypes of what the Mormons believe people think the Mormons are… if that makes sense. By using “normal” people, and including the “pitch” at the end, the campaign is trying to tell us that Mormons are just like us (a bit like Brand Power… but different).
But having looked through a couple of the online advertisements for the Australian campaign, I felt like I had been transported back to some strange “Mad Men” era, where men could do whatever they liked, and women were required to stay home and look after the kiddies.
Look through a couple of the advertisements, and it is obvious that there are clear roles being framed here. Men of the Mormon church are encouraged to be loving fathers and family men, but to also have lives outside of the family that are stimulating, diverse, and, of course, spiritual.
Women, on the other hand, seem to have one role – to look after their family. The women portrayed in the 30 second Australian spots, seem to have (had) exciting and rewarding careers, but the narrative coming through seems to imply that something was missing from their lives, and that all they needed was to stop focusing on life outside the family, and become full-time mothers. As one of the featured women say, “… so, home, that’s where I’m gonna be.” The implication is that these women sought fulfilment by giving up their careers and outside life, although the ads aren’t clear as to whether that is, indeed, the case.
Please don’t get me wrong – I don’t have a problem with full-time parenting. I think having the means and capacity to focus on on your family is a great thing. But I do have a problem when the campaign doesn’t once mention that any of the men considered giving up their careers/education/exciting lives, so that they could become full-time dads.
I may be a bit out of touch with the real world, but why is it that women always have to give up “life” for the family, but men don’t? And why is that so many religions reinforce this view?
Campaigns like these really do shock me, but I would imagine that the Mormons probably don’t see anything wrong with this particular sentiment.
But then again, as I often say, if it doesn’t resonate with me, I am probably not the target audience… or it is a really bad ad.