After much criticism, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Special Offerings is revising its 2015 campaign for the One Great Hour of Sharing offering.
The campaign, which uses images and wordplays, has been called offensive, racist and demeaning of those who face addictions, according to a torrent of online comments.
One campaign poster shows a young Asian girl with the text “Needs help with her drinking problem. She can’t find water.” Another shows a young man with the text “Needs help getting high. Above the flood waters.”
“We appreciate the passionate outpouring of concern about the new attention-getting campaign for One Great Hour of Sharing. You spoke. We are listening. We plan to revise the campaign,” said Sam Locke, director of Special Offerings, in a statement. “We will solicit suggestions and input from a variety of Presbyterians as we make this revision.”
“We apologize for the offense and pain caused by our effort to promote the One Great Hour of Sharing offering. We strive for excellence in our work, and are deeply sorry when we miss the mark,” the statement reads.
Designed by xiik, a marketing agency in Indianapolis, the campaign uses images and wordplays meant to highlight the absurdity of the stereotypes people might have about the people benefitting from the offerings, Locke said in a December 2014 interview with Presbyterian News Service.
The campaign seems to have had the opposite effect, according to comments on its original announcement.
“The National Hispanic/Latino Caucus of the PCUSA is dismayed with the Presbyterian Mission Agency’s marketing campaign for the Special Offering. Although slickly produced and eye catching, the materials yet again perpetuate stereotypical imagery of people of color. The lack of cultural awareness and innate white privilege of the publicity materials is accompanied by a dominant culture’s word play, one that is unwelcome and not understood by the diverse body that make up our denomination,” reads a comment on the announcement. “While we are firm supporters of the Special Offering opportunity, we cannot support this year’s campaign and firmly register our disapproval.”
Before debuting the campaign, Special Offerings got feedback from internal staff, a cross-section of pastors and mid-council executives, ecumenical partners and others. Some advisory committees related to One Great Hour of Sharing were also asked for feedback, Locke said in an email to PNS.
“Among feedback about the edginess and freshness of the campaign, the negative feedback centered around proposed photographs — not for the OGHS campaign but for later offerings [Peace & Global Witness and Christmas Joy offerings],” Locke said in an email to Presbyterian News Service. “To make the needed changes to those two final offerings we created an internal task force to ensure responsiveness to the concerns.”
Special Offerings is asking that the approximately 375 churches that have received the materials not use them and instead wait for new materials to be sent, Locke said in the email to PNS. Special Offerings estimates it will cost about $65,000 to replace the printed materials, including those that have not been shipped.
The original campaign design was budgeted for $15,000-$20,000, Locke said in the email. Xiik will revise the campaign, as contracting with a new firm will be more expensive, he said. Locke expects new materials to be sent out by mid-February.