April 16, 2024

Be Loud. Be Proud. Be Episcopalian!

"Drawing from the Pulse campaign's insights, we're reminded to be bold in conveying our identity and rooted in our baptismal covenant and the Way of Love."
--Canon Mike Orr, The Episcopal Church in Colorado and Caffeinated Church

If you’re Episcopalian and on any kind of social media, you probably saw the responses to the “He Gets UsFoot Washing and Who is My Neighbor ads shown during the Super Bowl. Some people praised the ads for putting Christianity on such a wide-reaching platform. Others panned the advertisements as an improper use of money or a ‘bait and switch’ where the content of the ads didn’t necessarily match the beliefs of those who paid for it. One thing is for sure though... the ads got noticed.

According to an article by AdWeek the two commercials totaled 75 seconds of airtime, cost $17.5 million, and have so far been viewed online 3.7 billion times. That’s billion with a ‘B’. This got the Episcopal Pulse team talking. Can we use the Pulse to get a better read on the Episcopal reaction to the ads. What did people really think of them? What did they find positive? Off-putting? The Pulse community did not disappoint:

  • Overall, the Episcopal Pulse community gives the “He Gets Us” ad campaign a mediocre rating of 3/5 stars.
  • Pulse Members appreciate the content of the ads, crediting them for being engaging, inclusive, and clear (particularly the “Foot Washing” ad).
  • At the same time, many note that the non-inclusive sponsors of the ad and the high price tag on the ad make its message seem hypocritical. Some also decry the ads’ lack of diversity.

These findings likely do not shock you. The response from Charis Bhagianathan, Director of Communications at ECF and Editor of Vital Practices, might resonate with you as well:

It’s not surprising to me that the Episcopal Pulse community found the ad campaign problematic. As a Church, diversity, inclusivity and authenticity are foundational values in our faith. While the content of the ad is commendable, the context and creation does not align with Episcopal values. The Pulse community is keen to see a well-marketed, TEC branded ad that focuses on social justice and inclusivity, and so am I!”

The March Pulse went a step further and asked a more relevant question: Could the Episcopal Church do something similar in a more missional way? 86% of the Pulse community said they would support an Episcopal-focused ad campaign like “He Gets Us,” but with a few stipulations.

When asked to respond to the survey results, Canon Mike Orr says,

The "He Gets Us" campaign, with its substantial ad-spend, illustrates the potential of digital marketing for evangelism, despite high costs. Drawing from the Pulse campaign's insights, we're reminded to be bold in conveying our identity, rooted in our baptismal covenant and the Way of Love. Our engagement in social justice and advocacy, coupled with our inclusive ethos, must be communicated effectively. We must be engaging and thought-provoking, but not necessarily from a corporate level as The Episcopal Church. Embracing these lessons, individual churches should harness local and digital platforms to share our message of hope in Christ, balancing boldness with genuine community connection.”

Mike serves as the Canon for Communication & Evangelism or the Episcopal Church in Colorado and is one of the leaders of Caffeinated Church. Of particular interest to the Pulse Team is Mike’s assurance that this kind of messaging need not be from The Episcopal Church as a denomination. He encourages local dioceses or congregations to take point in creating ads that speak to their local neighbors, sharing the authentic love and theology of the Episcopal denomination.

Now for the biggest question of all... why would we choose to advertise the Episcopal Church in this way?

Results from the February Pulse survey on “sharing your faith” taught us that the vast majority of Episcopalians struggle to share their faith with others. What would it look like to start the conversation for us? Advertise Christ’s love and how the Episcopal denomination and theology is meant for everyone? Open a door for true inquiry and dialogue?

ECF Fellow & Educational Media Scholar Rev. Kyle Oliver shares such an experience from the “He Gets Us” ads:

I originally saw the foot-washing “He Gets Us” ad while watching the Super Bowl with my neighbor. She is quite skeptical of organized religion but often expresses curiosity and surprise when learning bits and pieces about the Episcopal Church. Her response to the ad was pretty similar to my own: skepticism about the messengers, but cautious appreciation for the message. It certainly started a conversation. I like that the campaign took a big swing (sorry to mix sports metaphors) at the worthy but weighty goal of reframing broad cultural narratives about Christianity and Jesus’s role within it. These data suggest many Pulse respondents had similar reactions. Whether it’s through more expensive broadcast-style advertising or more targeted digital efforts, I certainly think the Episcopal Church has a message worth sharing: about Jesus, about justice, and about postures of belief, practice, and community that look quite different from the Culture Wars’ caricature. But what I most hope any Episcopal effort would prioritize is actually not unlike what “He Gets Us” ultimately provided me that day on my neighbor’s couch. I’m looking for inviting prompts that start conversations about faith in a way that respects the insights and values that any viewer carries with them.”

But what can you do?

What do you mean you don’t have $17.5 million to spend on an advertising campaign? No worries! This month’s survey results point to very actionable steps that any diocese or congregation can do:

  • Advertise in your local newspaper.
  • Pay for sponsored ads on social media.
  • Start a social media campaign showing the authentic mission of your congregation.
  • Partner with other faith communities or dioceses to purchase advertising time on local TV.
  • Print posters for parishioners to hang around town on community bulletin boards.

No matter what you choose to do, results from this Pulse show that proudly proclaiming the Episcopal identify and rooting yourself in the teachings of Jesus is key to spreading the Good News.


  • Figure 1: He Gets Us Ad Campaign, Episcopal Pulse Survey, March 2024; Q1. Overall, how would you rate these “He Gets Us” Superbowl ads? Please factor in everything you know about the campaign, the organization sponsoring it, the amount spent on the ads, etc.; Base: N=274, Lay: N=181, Ordained: N=93, Age Under 40: N=40 (*Caution, Low Base), Age 40+: N=234; Margin of Error: ±6% at 95% Confidence
  • Figure 2: He Gets Us Ad Campaign, Episcopal Pulse Survey, March 2024; Q3. Imagine that The Episcopal Church decided to run a “He Gets Us”-style campaign. What would you change about the ads if they were run by The Episcopal Church? (Select all that apply); Base: N=274; Margin of Error: ±6% at 95% Confidence