Nicole is in her final year of high school in Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia. She and her family attend an Anglican church which had signed up to be part of the campaign. “Jesus. All about life” is an Australian national prime-time media campaign, developed by Bible Society NSW, which has as its aim, “the mobilization of quiet Christians to share their faith.” JAAL is based on the “Power to Change” campaigns run by Campus Crusade for Christ in Canada and Ireland (1998-2002).
Nicole was happy to do the training at church and to pray for five of her friends by using a prayer card produced for the campaign. Her greatest fear, however, was that the television commercials, which were the backbone of the campaign, would be “dorky.”
She was relieved when she saw the commercials (which she had downloaded from the Internet) and began telling her friends to be on the lookout for them. Nicole admits she is not a “loud” personality, nor is she an obvious evangelist, but during the five weeks of the campaign she had at least one conversation a day with her friends at school which was centered on Jesus, not religion.
Nicole’s experience was exactly what the organizers of the campaign were looking for. According to Bible Society NSW communications manager and JAAL co-director, Martin Johnson, “We spent over two years developing the ‘Jesus. All about life’ campaign and the research we did showed that people were very open to talking about the person of Jesus, they just didn’t like religion.”
The three commercials, which ran in prime-time on two of Adelaide’s three commercial television stations, asked people to consider what Jesus said and how his teachings about life made sense. The television commercials were supported by city-wide billboards and radio spots.
A key part of the Irish and Canadian “Power to Change” campaigns was a well-produced book which was sent to people who responded to the advertising. “We asked Dr Peter Downey, a Sydney-based writer, to look at the research and then write a book for Australians that would introduce the reader to the person of Jesus,” said JAAL co-director, Karl Faase. “We wanted a book that answered the questions that the people whom we had researched asked about Jesus. Peter had already co-written a book about the Bible which had a really open and friendly style and it had just been picked up by an international publisher. Together with Bill Salier, Peter wrote the ‘Jesus. All about life’ book which has proven to be a great tool to give to those who responded to the campaign. The book leads the reader through Jesus’ life and why he died and then challenges them to make their own commitment. The book also contains Luke’s Gospel.”
Like the “Power to Change” campaigns, the success of ‘Jesus. All about life’ depended on strong local church involvement. “Bible Society has been partnering with local churches since 1817 and whilst the methods have certainly changed, without their involvement there is no way a prime-time advertising campaign would be effective,” said Bible Society NSW CEO, Daniel Willis. “We went to the South Australian Heads of Churches and they established a local working group who were charged with running the campaign in South Australia. They enrolled three hundred churches that over the five weeks of the campaign ran 550 events and trained six thousand people to share their faith.”
As well as generating church support, the local committee also had the task of raising AU$300,000 to fund the media buy.
While organizers developed the key parts of the campaign in Sydney, including the commercials, the response website and the response book, the Adelaide committee had to raise funds to buy the local television time, billboard space and cover their own costs. Members believed that this would come from the Christian business community, individuals and denominations.
“Once people understood that the commercials would be seen in prime-time and that ninety percent of Adelaide’s 1,200,000 population would see them up to ten times, the fundraising and support was a lot easier to generate,” Johnson said.
With the campaign now over, the feedback from those involved has been very positive.
“Ten major denominations were involved in the Adelaide campaign and to see ‘Jesus. All about life’ banners outside the Uniting, Baptist, Salvation Army, Anglican and Catholic churches presented a real church unity that no other event has ever produced,” said Adelaide committee chairman, Rev. Stuart Cameron. “One of our working group members, Bob Beaumont, said some twelve months before the campaign went to air, that ‘if all the individual churches get behind this campaign, it will be the biggest event the Christian Church in South Australia has seen since the Billy Graham Crusades of the 1950s.’ Bob’s post campaign observation was, ‘they did … and it was!’”
The campaign generated a range of responses. First, there were direct responses to the website, the toll-free phone number or via text messaging through mobile phones. Each of the commercials invited people to ask for a free information pack and two thousand of these were distributed. However, by far the biggest response was that of churches as their members used the interest created by the prime-time television advertising and the billboards to share Jesus with their friends, family and work colleagues.
“Churches bought eleven thousand copies of the response book to give away,” said Cameron. “Many of them also produced their own postcards which advertised the campaign on one side and on the other side an invitation to a JAAL event at their church. 250,000 of these were given out during the campaign. Over 75,000 people attended a JAAL event [which was] run by a local church.”
According to Cameron, one local church member from the Adelaide Hills traveled into the city each day by bus with the same seventeen people. One morning during the campaign he bought seventeen copies of the ‘Jesus. All about life’ response book together with seventeen bus tickets and gave them to his fellow travelers.
The campaign also generated secular media coverage. Adelaide is known as the “city of churches,” which is more a reference to its founding as a free settlers state (to which all religions and ethnic groups were welcomed) than to its spiritual status. However, when the churches worked together during the campaign it attracted press interest which was overwhelmingly positive.
Adelaide was the first city to run ‘Jesus. All about life.’ Canberra, Australia’s national capital in the Australian Capital Territory, will be the second city. The campaign will be launching there in March 2006.
In October 2005 the Adelaide working group hosted an information day to which people from other major Australian and New Zealand capital cities were invited. “This was a great way of communicating the vision of ‘Jesus. All about life’ and apart from Canberra, we have strong interest from Brisbane church and business leaders who are now looking at running the campaign in their city,” said Johnson.
According to Willis, the vision of Bible Society NSW in funding and developing the ‘Jesus. All about life’ project, was “to help Australians engage with the person of Jesus Christ and to consider his message that ‘I have come to give you life in all its abundance’” (John 10:10).
“I know other Bible Societies, particularly in the UK, [that] are also developing these sorts of campaigns that use media to engage with the community,” Willis said. “We have a real heart for our Australian community and our vision is that the ‘Jesus. All about life’ campaign will run in every capital city and regional area in Australia.”
For more information about the campaign, go to www.jesusallaboutlife.com.au
To watch the television commercials go to www.allaboutlife.com.au and click on the Watch the TV ads link.