Jesus Christ holding car keys
And on the seventh day, God created Jeep Wranglers?

One of the most talked about Super Bowl ads this year was from Jeep, a two-minute appeal for a cultural coming together that used classic Americana imagery like running trains, flags on porches, and Bruce Springsteen in its pitch for healing our wounded nation.

One of the most memorable lines from the ad is about meeting in "the middle" – referencing a chapel in Kansas that sits geographically in the exact middle of the lower 48 states. And while many immediately noticed that a Christian church is not exactly the most neutral of meeting grounds, it’s interesting to see a multinational corporation use religion so prominently in its biggest ad of the year. 

If you didn't catch it, we've linked the video here on this page. 

It begs the question: Does the Bible sell?

God Approves This Message

We’ll have to wait and see just how much Jeep sales spike (or dip) in the future thanks to this latest ad, but the use of religious imagery to sell a product isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, although it is rare. Perhaps the most famous tying together of religion and advertising in recent memory is Ram Truck’s “So God Made a Farmer” commercial that debuted during the Super Bowl in 2013. 

The ad uses a popular 1978 speech from broadcaster Paul Harvey and utilizes the creation of man from Genesis to celebrate farmers and sell pickups, intrinsically tying the Ram brand to Christianity. However, the ad was generally well-received, with Forbes saying that “Chrysler managed to insert just enough of its vehicles and brands in each spot so as to make their inclusion seem part of the fabric of the paean, [and] not at all intrusive.”

Sometimes, however, religious ads aren’t received quite so warmly. Just a few years ago, another auto company used religion in an appeal to togetherness during the Super Bowl.

Toyota ran they’re “We’re All One Team” ad during the 2018 Super Bowl, which showed a group of friends - a Catholic Priest, Muslim Imam, Jewish Rabbi, and Buddhist Monk - all pile into a Toyota to cheer on their team at a football game. The ad was another appeal to togetherness, but apparently Toyota forgot a key cohort.... the world’s 1 billion+ Hindus did not appreciate being left out of the ad.

Hindu activist Rajan Zed said that it was “shocking for the hard-working, harmonious and peaceful Hindu community, who had made a lot of contributions to the society and the world, to receive such signals of exclusion.”

Perhaps the worst advertising sin one can make when incorporating faith into their ad is coming across as blasphemous. Red Bull yanked a 2012 commercial that depicted Jesus walking on water… only to reveal at the end of the ad that he wasn’t performing a miracle at all, just stepping on stones.

The ill-conceived ad received swift condemnation from Christians and Muslims alike, with Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, head of the Southern African Roman Catholic Bishops Conference, saying that they “suggest that [Red Bull’s] marketing team and their advertising and public relations companies make a serious effort to attend sensitivity training. People are more than consumers and faith-based symbols are more than marketing opportunities.”

Risky Business

Given the backlash to some ads but not others, it seems the jury is still out on whether or not using religion to advertise something nonreligious is a good idea. But perhaps it is a simple matter of tact. John Hegarty, founder of the Bartle Bogle Hegarty ad agency in London, told the New York Times that using faith is a high-risk, high-reward strategy. “If done right, it can inspire religious or spiritually minded consumers to act,” they quote him as saying. “But if done wrong, it can alienate an audience.”

But what if the audience is changing?

America’s fastest-growing religious demographic is the ‘nones’, those who identify with no religion in particular. Americans are jettisoning traditional religion at a rapid pace, particularly Millennials and Gen-Z. Over one-third of younger Millennials say they have no faith at all, more than double the rate of older generations. 

Which brings us back to the Super Bowl ad from Jeep. By tying faith to their brand, is Jeep risking alienating potential non-Christian buyers?

Whether you’re Christian or not, what did you think of the Jeep ad? Was it effective? Is using religion in advertising wise, or is the risk of fumbling the message just too high?

50 comments

  1. Steven Lee's Avatar Steven Lee

    People should just be more understanding, tolerant and take some things in the light they are intended. We, as ministers, should help encourage this.

    1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

      Oh I understand the nature of the ancient enemy. I see it clearly shine in those who now demand mercy and unity after causing strife and misery. Understanding them does not make me feel anything but a desire to see them dealt with like the rabid red hat wearing mongrels they are.

      1. Robert A Stiff's Avatar Robert A Stiff

        All religion is a cancer on civilization. Christianity just seems to be more insidious and evil.

        1. Benton Wade Standard's Avatar Benton Wade Standard

          More so than the radical branches of Islam?

    2. Susan Claire Schloeder's Avatar Susan Claire Schloeder

      Steven Lee..... I have a friend (a singer) with that name. ☺. While I'm sure there are many with that name, it just struck me and I wanted to say hi even if you aren't the same guy. 😘

    3. Benton Wade Standard's Avatar Benton Wade Standard

      Well said. People need to lighten up. While I sympathize with the Hindu activist Rajan Zed due to exclusivism being quite common in this country (especially in the Bible Belt) he like many others need to relax and stop taking this commercial so seriously. It's doubtful that the commercial was intentionally being "exclusivist" or any other such claim of bigotry.

    4. Randy C Hamilton's Avatar Randy C Hamilton

      Try reading the constitution and works by Jefferson, et al. Pushing anti-constitution christian nationalism is wrong no matter where, when, or how. Drunk driver Springsteen was as idiot for doing this as were the Jeep people. ps the center of KS is 4 miles away from this JC shrine.

  1. SueW's Avatar SueW

    The suggestion that there is a “middle” where we should meet with white supremacists and other such people is, at best, naive. There’s no “middle” with people who hate, and sadly that’s even coming from some churches.

    Poor imagery for a failed message.

    1. Benjamin William Alexander's Avatar Benjamin William Alexander

      The is also no middle ground with people who use the bludgeon of white supremacy to further their agenda.

      1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

        You are so right on IMHO Benjamin. White supremacy is a sickening disease in our society and the sooner it is acknolwedged as a cancer and dealt with we will always suffer from it.

  1. Clay Serenbetz's Avatar Clay Serenbetz

    The "New York Times" just reported that Jeep pulled the ad because Bruce Springsteen was charged with reckless driving and DUI in November.

  1. Chris's Avatar Chris

    I don't see a problem with it. The ad itself was not intrinsically religious, it just mentioned a chapel in the middle of nowhere. The idea was for everyone to meet in the middle, to find common ground, to work together. It shouldn't matter where this takes place because it should take place everywhere.

    1. Benton Wade Standard's Avatar Benton Wade Standard

      I can see where one would see it as quasi exclusivist but I agree with you. It's not exclusivist or at least it's doubtful that was the intention of this commercial to be so.

    2. Randy C Hamilton's Avatar Randy C Hamilton

      B S. The christian nationalism of crapping on the constitution is right up front and topped of with the map at the end. watch it again.

  1. Christopher Lee Campbell's Avatar Christopher Lee Campbell

    I'm not Christian but I'm also not offended by my many friends, relatives, and neighbors who do chose and adhere to a religion. Many of them don't share my political views. As wrong-headed as I may think many of my fellow citizens are about politics, their votes are equal to mine. A message of tolerance and meeting somewhere in the middle is welcome. We don't have to settle down in that middle and we don't have to yield our principles, but we do have to be ready to accept that other views exist. Certainly there are some beliefs that I can't and don't accept and won't respect. Civilized society has its boundaries. But there's a wide range of beliefs that aren't going away just because I stamp my little foot. Listening and talking is something we need to do.

    1. Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson's Avatar Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson

      Comment removed by author.

    2. Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson's Avatar Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson

      Comment removed by author.

    3. Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson's Avatar Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson

      My dad showed us that you do not have to agree 100% with anyone, or even like them, if there is someplace you CAN work together to better the community.

      (Previous comments deleted because we cannot edit typos.)

  1. Brien's Avatar Brien

    Dumb commercial. Everyone knows that God drives a chevy ;)

    1. Mark Edwin Currier's Avatar Mark Edwin Currier

      LMAO!

  1. John P Maher's Avatar John P Maher

    KEEP RELIGION WHERE it BELONGS, IN THE CHURCHES and IN THE HOME, THE CAR ADDS are for ALL D H.

  1. Dave J's Avatar Dave J

    All that add made me feel was OLD. The Boss as an old farmer? Nope. Nope. Nope.

  1. Robert J Giammarco's Avatar Robert J Giammarco

    I lost my repect for the BOSS long ago. If he was so interested in finding middle ground, they WHY didn't he, as well as many others, do so long ago? WHY, now? The church, IMHO, had nothingto do with the ad. It mentioned where, in kansas. So we are in the middle. In the middle of pitting one against the other. If I don'y go along with what your agenda is, I'm attacked? What I did not appreciate is WHY did JEEP mention at the end of the ad, the "REUNITED" America. When did we become un-united? This is all propaganda from the left Media telling us this. AMERICA, IMHO, has never been that. We all need to have FAITH, and respect one another. Unfortuanately, these characteristics have been forgotten. Not having them and the Media portrayal pushes this on us. We need religion, no matter what your Faith might be. Unfortuantely, and according to the article, that too has been lost among the mellinnials and gen Z. Maybe more ads need to portray Religion? Start with the SCHOOLS!

    1. Robert A Stiff's Avatar Robert A Stiff

      "Start with the schools"....get 'em while they're dumb and can't form opinions of their own.

      1. Benton Wade Standard's Avatar Benton Wade Standard

        lol yep.

    2. Brian Scott Hoff's Avatar Brian Scott Hoff

      Stay out of the schools. Recruiting youth to bad ideas is not a great way to start. Teach people how to actually think using the evidence in front of them & to look for evidence prior to deciding what they "believe".

      1. Benton Wade Standard's Avatar Benton Wade Standard

        Publicly funded schools shouldn't be promoting either a leftist or right wing agenda. That should be left up to their families to instill such values in their children. Unfortunately those that run these public schools don't necessarily think parents are doing a good enough job of that and that's why out on the left coast they push a more liberal dogma and in the Bible Belt they tend to push Christian exclusivism. That's not all schools of course but it's a large chunk of them. 😕

  1. Dr. Michae J. Glick's Avatar Dr. Michae J. Glick

    Yes, I don't see the problem and I am not even Christian. It was an effort to heal. As a health professional I spent my life trying to heal. We live in a Christian nation, founded by Christians who were open enough to invite everyone to our shores, including my ancestors.

    1. Nathaniel Robert Hunt's Avatar Nathaniel Robert Hunt

      We are a free nation based on enlightenment/masonic ideas , not a christian nation, as freedom of religion, thought and speech are not christian values.

      1. Benton Wade Standard's Avatar Benton Wade Standard

        That's true. Some of the founding fathers were mainline protestant Christians and others were Deists. This country was never founded as an evangelical Christian theocracy contrary to what the likes of Pat Robertson and other fundie goons would have everyone think. 😂

  1. Carl Bernard Elfstrom's Avatar Carl Bernard Elfstrom

    People are people,and why should it be, you and I should get along so awfully. Not being a prejudiced person, I'm not even against those who are. I'd only hate to be in a world in which everyone was the same. I love the diversity of beliefs, regardless of what they are. Whatever they are, we are all children of the same universe, which makes us United.

  1. Alexander Clarke's Avatar Alexander Clarke

    The ad would not sell me.

    1. Benton Wade Standard's Avatar Benton Wade Standard

      Me either.

  1. Ken Morrow's Avatar Ken Morrow

    The fact that a church building stands in the geographic middle of the USA is cool. The fact that many people are actually bothered by that fact is poetic justice. And the fact that Jeep appealed to imagery of the shared heritage of the vast majority of their target audience is...from a marketing perspective...common sense. Jesus Christ is King! God bless America. If it weren't for companies like Jeep and Christendom, most of y'all would be speaking German or Japanese and worshipping Hitler or Hirohito. Some of us will remind you of the truth with our dying breath because we love God and you, and more will rise up from the ashes of our pyres who will be even greater witnesses to the Truth.

    1. Robert A Stiff's Avatar Robert A Stiff

      Ken Morrow: Your right-wing christian fanaticism is showing.

      1. Benton Wade Standard's Avatar Benton Wade Standard

        Ken's own brand of fanaticism helps the opposite form of it grow. I'm glad i'm neither a right winger or a left winger as both ideologies are imbalanced which is largely what this advertisement was trying to convey .... in a nice way of course.

  1. Alan Maurice Sanders's Avatar Alan Maurice Sanders

    This is not a unifying message. It immediately leaves out tens of millions of Americans who are not Christian nationalists. The message borders on propaganda in that if you are not part of the club, then you are a second class citizen who is against unity. The masssge is a major fail.

  1. Beth Helene Hurewitz's Avatar Beth Helene Hurewitz

    Would be great if it were true. This assumes too much. White supremacy is a hatred that must be consumed by itself; it doesn't know or recognize anything other than hate.

    1. Benton Wade Standard's Avatar Benton Wade Standard

      The same would apply to black supremacy, Zionist supremacy, Christian supremacy, Islamic supremacy, and etc.

      1. Catherine Ohrin-Greipp's Avatar Catherine Ohrin-Greipp

        OH my, "black supremacy"???? Let's draw the line here. Someone appears to be uncomfortable with supporting white sujpremacy or maybe it's just white fragility. False attempts at equivalency, shows us who and what people are who try to "equalize" Black folks with white supremacists. Last I saw, its Black people and other people of color who are assaulted daily, murdered, called racist names,etc.

  1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

    Not sure if it would bolster sales.... I doubt it. The more 'faith' involved would equate to the more 'risk' involved. Some people make choices based on 'proof', while others choose based on 'promise'. Are there car ads for Atheists I wonder....?

  1. Woodrow's Avatar Woodrow

    Why not use every opportunity to use what has been given us by the Father. It's in the scriptures and the shear volumes of this book that are in the world should not be taken lightly. Freedom for all. Freedom not lock down.

    Although it is impossible to obtain exact figures, there is little doubt that the Bible is the world's best-selling and most widely distributed book. A survey by the Bible Society concluded that around 2.5 billion copies were printed between 1815 and 1975, but more recent estimates put the number at more than 5 billion.

    1. Ilmenheru Terikson's Avatar Ilmenheru Terikson

      What a pointless and off topic post. Then again that is typical of the false christians here on these forums who never seem to know how to engage in actual debate.

  1. Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson's Avatar Ealdormon Piparskeggr Robinson

    I was part of the reason this was the least watched "Superbowl" in the last 50 years.

    1. Benton Wade Standard's Avatar Benton Wade Standard

      Comment removed by author.

  1. Benjamin William Alexander's Avatar Benjamin William Alexander

    SueW,

    I agree, but there is also no middle where the default position is accusations of white supremacy.

    1. Benton Wade Standard's Avatar Benton Wade Standard

      promoting supremacy of any kind is wrong.

  1. CB Cuff's Avatar CB Cuff

    Comment removed by author.

  1. Mark Edwin Currier's Avatar Mark Edwin Currier

    No big deal. The Jeep ad has since been pulled from other outlets such as Youtube since they discovered his DUI arrest in November.

  1. Steven Inglima's Avatar Steven Inglima

    Ironic on so many levels.

    It features a church, a significant part of the the target audience with which is likely not to be familiar.

    Bruce Springsteen is not an appropriate poster child for unity, if anyone knows anything about him. And parenthetically, it's time for performers of all kinds to cease assuming their fame purports political acumen.

    Drunk driving is as illegal in Kansas as it is everywhere else, placing Jeep dead center (all puns intended) in the controversy. I hope they spent plenty on it, and really are forced to re-consider their "celebrity" endorsement fail.

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