Methodists Put Faith in Buntin

The Buntin Group has been named lead agency for the United Methodist Church.

Billings for the account, won in a review that included as many as11 agencies scattered across the country, will total $25 million over the next four years.

“We didn’t know who’d be crazy enough to want to brand a denomination,” said Rev. Steve Horswill-Johnston, executive director of United Methodist Communications, the church’s in-house marketing arm.

The Nashville, Tenn., shop’s campaign, which begins next year, will include print, broadcast, outdoor, interactive and “in-church” efforts. The UMC will provide an additional $1 million for local and regional broadcast buys to supplement the national effort.

Three-year incumbent Pearson, Crahan, Fletcher, England inIndianapolis made it to the final round that included Buntin; Doe-Anderson, Louisville, Ky.; BBDO, Chicago; Russ Reid, Pasadena, Calif.; The DASGroup, Ann Arbor, Mich.; Hanon-McKen-dry, Grand Rapids, Mich.; and Impact Productions, Tulsa, Okla.

“We had a good body of knowledge about how they work,” said agency president Jeffrey Buntin Sr. “When it came down to the review process, we were the home-town consideration.”

The Methodists were looking for an agency that could reach non-denominationals (“thoughtful seekers”) or lapsed Christians.

“The creative approach from Buntin was fresh and on target,” said Horswill-Johnston. “They weren’t mirroring back what we already knew.” Some agencies were good strategically, but believed the creative should have a “touch of this or that” and it was those touches that were “too churchy,” he added.

The denomination—which in-cludes some 8 million lay members in 36,000 churches throughout the nation—is specifically reaching out to both Gen Xers and baby boomers “looking for a new sense of spiritual well-being,” said Buntin.

“The spots will be about people’s search for renewed spiritual well-being and how our church has a responsibility, as well an opportunity, to fill that need,” said Horswill-Johnston.

The UMC, headquartered in Nashville, is the second-largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. Horswill-Johnston said the campaign would be the largest in church history. “The Mormons advertise,” he said, “but none of the other mainline Protestant groups have done a branding effort like this.”