GRAND RAPIDS, MI: Bible publisher Zondervan was the most recent company to score a PR coup when Rolling Stone rejected its ad.
The ad was part of a $1 million marketing campaign for its Today's New International Version (TNIV) Bible. Rolling Stone initially accepted the ad in July 2004, but told the company in early January that it would not run because of its spiritual message. News of that came out in a January 18 USA Today article. Rolling Stone has subsequently said it was an "internal miscommunications" mistake. The ad will run in the March 2005 issue.
The TNIV is geared to reach the 18-to-34 year-old "spiritually-curious" demographic. The ads are also running in The Onion and Modern Bride, and on MTV.com.
"It was a complete surprise to us," said Mark Rice, VP of corporate communications. "In no way was that our intent. But was [the controversy] helpful? Absolutely."
The Log Cabin Republicans (a gay Republican group) and The United Church of Christ (an inclusive church group) both earned wide media attention when their ads were rejected by CNN and ABC, NBC, and CBS, respectively.
Rice said the PR department was not involved in the advertising pitches, but was working with USA Today about its marketing campaign. Rice said that disclosing Rolling Stone's decision was necessary because the story coming out mentioned Rolling Stone as one of the outlets that was running the advertisement.
"We didn't want false information out there," Rice said.
The organization did not pitch the story elsewhere, and waited to see what would happen when the USA Today story ran.
"Until the story hit, we didn't know what to expect," Rice said. "We said, 'We need to be ready for this,' and thirty minutes later, the calls started coming."
The six-person team worked with one of its agencies, Lambert Edwards & Associates, on fielding the calls.
"We found ourselves responding to the media in a reactive mode," Rice said.
Zondervan even moved the release date up to January 27th to accommodate the interest stemming from the media attention.
Lambert Edwards is also involved in the overall campaign, which Rice says will now focus on national media outreach. The organization has also teamed up with faith-based youth organizations like Willow Creek Association and Young Life.
"Since we started the campaign and the media hit, we've received feedback from a broad base of support of pastors and churches, but mostly young consumers," Rice said. "There's a potential naivet? on Rolling Stone's part to what its audience really likes and where they are spirituality."