“There is a great amount of interest in Mormons right now in the U.K. and Ireland,” LDS Church leader Elder Clifford Herbertson said in a news release. “People are asking the question, ‘Who are the Mormons?’ and when people are asking questions, we want to be here to provide them with the answers of how and why we follow Jesus Christ.”
Previously, the only ad travelers on the London Underground saw mentioning "Mormons" was in regard to the musical. But this week, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has gained some attention with several bright ads in the London Underground tube stations and on the sides of double-decker buses.
The campaign is comparable to the initial Times Square campaign in Manhattan, which was launched in 2011. According to the news release, 250 double-decker buses feature the advertisements, along with the Charing Cross mainline station and 10 tube stations. The advertisements will be up for the next four weeks, but throughout the rest of the U.K. and Ireland, Internet advertisements will remain through the end of 2013. A specific mormon.org website has also been created for those located in the U.K.
Jessica Watts lives in London with her husband, Michael, while she studies at Middlesex University. Watts said the campaign has selected key locations to place the advertisements.
"The ads are on almost every ad spot in the three major tube stations near the West End, where 'The Book of Mormon' musical is in previews," Watts said. "For one month, London will not know what hit them."
As a member of the LDS Church and a ward missionary, Watts and her husband have been preparing for the release of the campaign for months.
"As ward missionaries we have been working alongside the full-time missionaries to not only prepare the members of the ward for what the campaign would be, but also to deal with questions they might be asked," Watts said.
Watts said the initiative to share the gospel brought excitement along with some hesitation in her stake.
"Some members were hesitant at first because it was so shocking and large scale, and some, I think, were a little nervous to come out of their shell and share their feelings about the church with strangers, but I think most came around and were thrilled to have their personal profiles online where they were able to express their testimonies in a public way."
Overall, Watts expressed the excitement she has for the next four weeks.
"I have never been one to want to openly talk to people about my religion and the way I choose to live my life, but this opportunity has given me the courage to step out of my comfort zone and share the happiness I feel, that stems from the gospel, with everyone and anyone," Watts said. "The campaign is done so beautifully that I feel proud to be a Mormon in London!"
Several media reactions to the campaign have already begun to circulate. Simon Kelner with The Independent addressed the LDS Church's reaction to the "offensive musical."
"We live in a liberal age, when most people acknowledge the right of artists to take creative risks," Kelner wrote. "But these are also times when everyone seems so quick to take offence. Which makes the reaction to 'The Book of Mormon,' particularly within the Mormon establishment, extremely interesting."
Kelner later commended the positive public relations and advertising campaign the LDS Church has initiated.
"Instead of complaining about a musical show that pokes fun at their religion, The Church of Latter Day Saints has chosen to capture the moment by launching a marketing campaign of their own," Kelner wrote. "It would have been so easy to whip up a storm around the musical. The Mormons could have had all the publicity they wanted: demos, protests, questions in the House. But that would have been the wrong sort of publicity. By eschewing boiler-plate indignation and accentuating the positive, the Mormons can be seen as modern, open, inclusive and understanding. I wouldn't be surprised if the Mormon population of Britain (190,000 and rising) gets a boost as a result."
Sarah Sanders Petersen is an intern for the Deseret News where she writes for Mormon Times and does other feature articles. She is a communications major and editing minor from Brigham Young University.