The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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March 3, 2000 Issue
Jubilee 2000
Open Wide the Doors


Bishops advertise for reconciling

Series of radio and TV spots call attention to our need to forgive hurts

Third in a Renew series on reconciling


By Peter Feuerherd

The Bible calls for people to be one with one another. Pope John Paul has called for the jubilee millennium year to be "a year of reconciliation between disputing parties."

Now, the U.S. bishops are delivering that messsage through a series of radio and TV spots. The spots are part of a public service advertising campaign and were developed by the Bishops' Catholic Communicaiton Campaign, an effort to bring values to people through the media.

This latest venture, a series of ads produced pro bono by the New York advertising firm of Saatchi & Saatchi, aired on cable and broadcast stations throughout the country.

Pat Ryan Garcia, director of distribution for the Catholic Communications Campaign, is confident the public service announcements pack a wallop that transcends sectarian boundaries. The spots, both 30-second and 15-second, provide short vignettes of "very real dilemmas that everyone can relate to."

This series of spots is a continuation of other U.S. Catholic Conference campaigns over the past five years, which included public service announcements promoting prayer and family values.

Three spots on the reconciliation theme include:

-- A man scurrying around the house in the morning, apparently anxious about the upcoming work day. But he's not anxious about work; instead, he's nervous about an imminent meeting with his brother whom he hasn't talked to for years.

-- A father watches a video of a family picnic. He looks sad as he views shots of his son, who's no longer in his life. "His son didn't die," a voice-over proclaims. "He had an argument." The father reluctantly picks up a phone, only to put it down.

-- A young woman, in close-up, is seen apologizing to her father over a long-festering argument. A wide shot reveals a different twist on the situation.

The spots - which air using donated time - provide a powerful message in a short period, a secret of any kind of effective advertising, said Garcia.

"You have to grab them. You have to touch them," she said, noting that the spots have "a quality and a message that are so strong they should get lots of air play."

The messages, she noted, are a means of "promoting Catholic values in a less obvious way" than previous media campaigns, such as one on prayer also sponsored by the U.S. Catholic Conference.

The result, she said, should be wide exposure, even if the campaign has to rely on the generosity of media companies to provide the time.

Amy Martin, of Saatchi & Saatchi, who has worked on the project, said the spots should appeal to all viewers, whether they are Catholics or of some other faith or express no faith at all.

"It's a feel-good message that reconciliation is something that they should address in their daily lives," one viewers will get, said Martin.

The pope's message on reconciliation, she said, needs to be heard by all, regardless of denomination or faith background.

"All people have someone in their lives with whom they have had a falling out, someone whom they don't think everything is right with," she said. In such situations, Martin said, "it's hard to make that first move. There's a need to take baby steps to fix that relationship."

The public service announcements, she said, offer an inducement for viewers to take that step. The message, said Martin, is ultimately an optimistic one. "There's always hope. There's always a way to make it right with that person," she said.

(Feuerherd, former assistant editor of the Long Island Catholic, newspaper of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, N.Y., works with the American Bible Society in New York.)

-- Next: Taking steps to reconcile a nation



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