Bnet.com ~ [see link for complete interview] For 20 years, Steve Hall was a senior writer in the marketing department of the Church of Scientology. He wrote the tagline “Know Yourself; Know Life.” He left the church, which he now refers to as a “cult”, to start his own graphic design firm, Steve Hall Creative.
He talked to BNET about how Scientology markets and advertises itself, and discusses famous Scientologists such as Leo Burnett’s Cheryl Berman, Neopets.com’s Doug Dohring, and of course actor Tom Cruise.
Hall describes an “inept” organization that has historically failed to take advantage of the experience available to it, and which has become “a stinking horrible mess” as a result.
BNET: What did you actually do for the Church of Scientology?
Hall: ...Scientology, they recruited me. I was doing the courses. They provide counseling, auditing, which means “to listen.” I took a job and after about three years I heard they were forming a new organization of staff in Los Angeles that was going to handle advertising for the church. That was 1987.
So, I went to Los Angeles and my first job was as a product manager. I later became the director of marketing for Dianetics. It’s a book but it’s also a subject. We did direct mail. We did fliers, brochures, handouts and TV ads. I’ve done TV ads for Dianetics and a lot of TV ads for Scientology. There was a big campaign released in 1998, a series of ads on TV promoting several different books. I was pretty much the senior writer.
For most of my stuff I reported either to David Miscavige [the leader of the church] or one of his direct juniors. As a screenwriter I had 14 writers under me, plus a secretary. Not all of those people were full time. [continued below video]
What if Scientology actually made a truthful infomercial?
This is not Hall's work, rather, the effort of a protesting anon.
What if Scientology came out publicly as the money-making, soul-raping scam that it is? Their infomercial would probably look something like this:
Presenting "Make Money! Make More Money! Make Other People Make Money! The Scientology Way."
Inspired by the very words -- and policies -- of con-man and diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic founder L. Ron Hubbard. Edited using existing footage from Scientology's annual summit -- which, on its own already plays like an over-long infomercial.
BNET: Do they use ad agencies?
Hall: They do everything in-house. At one time they hired Trout & Ries. They wrote, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.” It came out in the late 1970s. They were hired to do an advertising campaign for Scientology but David Muscavige didn’t like it so that killed it right there. That was the last time they hired an outside agency to do something.
BNET: A lot of executives would regard Scientology as an extremely difficult marketing challenge.
Hall: The challenge of trying to market Dianetics and Scientology is probably one of the most difficult assignments in the world. They are not thought of well. There’s a lot of suspicion and controversy. Most of that is generated from within because of the way the leader of the church has dealt with people, such as issues to do with internet copyright.
They do a lot of lawsuits. They run full-page ads in USA Today attacking Eli Lilly (LLY) [which makes antidepressants, which Scientology opposes]. It makes people stand back. Time magazine wrote them up as a “mafia-like” organization. How do you create a want for that? It’s an almost impossible challenge.
BNET: The main problem seems to be that Scientology is a secret organization. Most people have no idea what it stands for.
Hall: It’s not deliberate. It’s just inept marketing. I think they don’t have a clue what they are doing. I’ve worked at the top ranks of management, shoulder to shoulder. They all worry constantly about the big problem that nobody understands them.
But for other reasons they have not been effective at all at communicating what they do, what their beliefs are and so forth. They’re not deliberately keeping it a secret. It’s a more simple problem than that. A lot of organizations that do their own in-house marketing, they eat the product, breathe the product, 24/7, and they lose their objectivity and they don’t know how to connect with people outside.
Compounding that, [founder L. Ron] Hubbard wrote in the 1970s and ’80s a few policies on how the church was to do their marketing. There’s nothing wrong with what he wrote, but that marketing know-how is circa 1975. As any creative person knows, marketing has grown by light years since 1975. By today’s standards those methods are terrible. [continued below video]
'What Is Scientology?' Montage Ad
Borrowing from the ad barrage of '09, a commercial about nothing, another anon duplicates the montage style, but substitutes, what he believes, really goes on behind the facade known as Scientology.
BNET: Hold on — the church has access to people like Berman, Cruise and Dohring who all have lifetimes of marketing experience, and it doesn’t ask them for advice in any way?
Hall: I know, it doesn’t make any sense does it? That’s the point. It doesn’t make any sense! Scientology grew and grew all through the 1980s. In 1990 David Miscavige pulled the funding for all that advertising and it stopped. Since that time the church has been contracting. They’ve bought some buildings but that’s it. That’s not expanding, they have shrinking membership but they’ve got a bigger building.
BNET: What kind of events does the church put on?
Hall: I put together 28 TV ads in 1998 that used the current tagline that they’re still using. Miscavige showed them at one of his events … Scientologists said “Wow, fantastic! Here’s money to run them.” The ads ran for a few months and then he totally just pulled the funding and never even showed the very best ads. Their PR was not nearly as bad back then as it as now. Now it’s just a stinking horrible mess. The purpose was to show the ads at the events that generated donations. The Scientologists don’t know any better. The ads only run for a short time. He spends a minimal amount of money.
BNET: So you made ads to generate donations to run them on TV, but they never ran, they just generate donations at meetings?
SCICO: avoiding them could save you $15,000 or more
Also, nothing to do with Hall, a parody using the GEICO "Kash Date" commercial as a backdrop, spoofing scientology as a money hungry corporation. Oh, wait. They are.