Bible publisher turns 'RS' ad ban into PR gold

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An ad for a youth-targeted Bible rejected by Wenner Media's Rolling Stone has turned out to be a free-media bonanza for Christian publisher Zondervan.

This latest sacred-secular dust-up began when Rolling Stone, citing internal ad guidelines, rejected an ad by the HarperCollins unit for its "Today's New International Version" of the Good Book, which the company is publishing for the 18-to-34 demographic.

Media coverage of the rejected ad included articles in USA Today, the Chicago Sun-Times and numerous other newspapers via the Associated Press, as well as a segment on Fox News Channel's popular prime-time show "Hannity & Colmes," which featured Paul Caminiti, Zondervan's VP-publisher, Bibles.

"It has helped us," said Doug Lockhart, Zondervan's exec VP-marketing. "Certainly, we are in newspapers and radio and TV that we would not have been a part of."

The Rolling Stone-Zondervan situation sits against the backdrop of a culture in which a mass-market Christian mainstream has risen outside of virtually all major media outlets and media centers-like the deeply blue-state enclave of New York, where most major consumer magazines (including Rolling Stone) are still based. A Harris interactive survey sponsored by Zondervan found that 59% of 18-to-34-year-olds said the Bible is relevant to their lives.

It also occurs in a media and political world in which savvy players can net substantial marketing oomph from clashes between America's parallel secular and sacred mainstreams.

Zondervan's ad, which does not mention the words "God" or "Christ," was part of a $1 million ad campaign organized around the TNIV's February launch. At that time, Zondervan is also publishing eight other Bibles, all of which are being marketed with the tagline "Timeless truth. Today's language," as a way of communicating these Bibles' updated language (AA, Dec. 13). Mr. Lockhart said the initial print run of the TNIV is in the hundreds of thousands.

Wenner executives declined to comment. A spokeswoman said, in a statement, "This was for a $13,000 ad. ... Like any classified ad in Rolling Stone, it's reviewed for content and appropriateness. As you might suspect, there's a little more scrutiny and rejection with classified ads than regular ads."


Mr. Lockhart said that the ad Zondervan sought was a half-page ad that had a rate-card rate of $27,000, but he declined to identify the exact rate Zondervan had negotiated. He said he "didn't know" if the ad was slated for Rolling Stone's classified section.

"We were surprised, and certainly disappointed" that the magazine "decided to reject the ad," he said.

The ad, Mr. Lockhart said, will run in The Onion, Fairchild Publications' Modern Bride and on Viacom's He said that Zondervan had not yet decided which media outlet it might turn to in order to replace Rolling Stone in its marketing plan.

"I have to tell you, we'd love for them to reconsider," said Mr. Lockhart. "We'd love for them to run that ad."

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