Scott Swofford, director of media for the LDS Missionary Department, said the campaign was designed to target areas of the United States "that best mirror the country as a whole." It includes TV and radio spots featuring "man on the street" interviews, but simply walking up to people and asking them to sign a release and talk on camera or for radio "is almost impossible," he said.
The team called casting agencies that supply extras for film and television, told them they needed a diverse population, and had them send the extras to a street corner at a specified time, he said. "Then we asked them questions about life satisfaction that they had never heard before. They were actually questioned on camera, and it wasn't rehearsed, but these are people used to signing releases and appearing in front of cameras.
"I was shocked at how cooperative they were and how honest in their opinions," he said. "We had a wide variety of people to compare and contrast. Many of them expressed opinions that contrasted their own religious belief."
Their comments, including statements like "I would like to think God knows me," and "I don't think God cares about me," were condensed into radio and TV ads, followed by a voice-over that says, "After centuries of confusion, truth about life's great questions is now restored. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Visit mormon.org"
Swofford said the focus of the campaign is "what are things that resonate commonly among us, and does the restored gospel shed light on your question about life?"
He said eight months "is a pretty short time to decide whether the campaign is working," but the team will continue to analyze data on how it affected people who actually joined the church. "What we do know is that traffic to mormon.org increased from 200 to 300 percent from pretest levels. Of the referrals coming in, many of them are from that site, but we don't have specific numbers yet that say things have improved or changed.
"Whether the net result will be an increase in baptisms we're still trying to figure out where that is."Early feedback from missionaries, church leaders and members in the test areas is "really enthused. ... Many reported retention (of converts) was better, and we've probably shipped over 500,000 pass-along cards."
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