Atheists put their faith in outdoor advertising

The folks who think the bible is a fairy tale have come up with their own stranger than fiction scenario.  The British Humanist Association has raised over 100,000 pounds (far in excess of their original goal of 5,500) to fund something called the Atheist Bus Campaign which will buy ad space on London buses proclaiming,

Ok, disclaimer and attempt at flame prevention time.  This is an incredible feat of online fundraising.  The comments and discussion generated are pretty entertaining.  Props to the humanists and atheists for asserting themselves in the marketplace of ideas.  It's their money, they can do what they want with it.

So...  what in the holy name of Richard Dawkins are they thinking?  If you had a $200,000 media budget (or even $20,000) to get your ideas out there, would you spend it on bus ads?   For people claiming the high ground of logic, reason and science, these atheists are putting a lot of faith in some of the least effective and most unquantifiable of marketing methods and a self-congratulatory message that's hardly going to win anybody over.

I know lots of smart marketeers read limeduck. What would you do with a wad of cash to promote atheism?  Viral social media campaigns?  Street teams?  Direct mail?  I'm off to London next week and maybe I'll catch one of these buses and get some good ideas.

4 Responses

  1. I think this campaign is wonderful, and my jaw is on the floor with the amount raised. (I'm sure the fundraisers are in awe as well.) The money was raised to fund bus ads, so it would be disingenuous to then not run the bus ads. Just because people are atheists doesn't mean they are liars.
  2. Now that so much money has been raised the organisers plan to widen the scope of the advertising campaign beyond a few buses. The campaign will be rolled out nationwide and will likely involve a variety of different approaches. This is partly forced as the major bus company in the UK (Stagecoach) is owned by a fundamentalist Christian, so he's unlikely to appreciate this. The reason for initially choosing the bus campaign was merely as a response to some fairly unpleasant ads a Christian group was already running on London buses. If you go to their website they warn you that you'll burn in a fiery lake for eternity - so the purpose of this campaign was to combat that and basically say that: no, you won't. So don't worry about it.
  3. From a purely marketing perspective, I was dismayed that it was not a multi-channel campaign. Why no website or blog where interested individuals can learn more and share their thoughts and concerns with others? Why no companion print ads in local newspapers to reinforce the message? Religion is such a personal, deeply held belief that I cannot imagine that seeing a sentence on the side of a bus is going to have much impact.
  4. More than the actual adverts on buses, is the fact that it has created such excellent widespread publicity for atheism and humanism. The British Humanist Association is receiving attention like it never has before! The word is being got out there, and it's being discussed by ordinary people whop may not ordinarily have thought and spoken about it. That it has raised such an enormous amount also shows people that atheism and humanism are popular movements and nothing to be afraid of joining.
  5. […] no fan of display advertising, either in web banners or “out of home” and I certainly try not to participate in it. Logos and brands are already everywhere, why […]

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