Discuss as:

Prime-time religion: Catholics to air national TV ads

Catholics Come Home

Catholic Come Home's upcoming prime-time TV ads are aimed at getting inactive Catholics and others to return to church.

Catholics Come Home wants Catholics to come back to church, and it’s using prime-time television ads to get across the message.

The nonprofit lay organization is partnering with dioceses across the country to launch a major, national “evangelization” campaign whose main component is nearly $4 million in network TV ads that will air across the country Dec. 16 to Jan. 8.

It’s the first such national TV ad campaign ever for the Catholic Church, says Tom Peterson, president of Roswell, Ga.-based Catholics Come Home. The goal is to reach out not only to inactive Catholics, but also to people who have never belonged to a faith or who may want to consider switching religions.

“Ads will air more than 400 times during the three-week period on major networks like CBS and NBC and cable stations like TNT and CNN inviting viewers to take a look at the church and to ‘come home’ during the holidays and New Year’s,” Peterson told msnbc.com on Tuesday.

The 30- and 60-second commercials will air in English and Spanish on major networks in every diocese, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Peterson said 250 million viewers in more than 10,000 cities and every diocese will be exposed to the ads.

 In the past, Catholics Come Home has aired evangelization ads in regional markets like Seattle, Omaha, Neb., and Providence, R.I. , and a few hundred thousand people “returned” to the church as a result, Peterson said.

The goal of the national ad campaign is to bring as many as 1 million people back to the Catholic faith, he said.

Mormon campaign
It’s not the first time religious denominations have taken to the airwaves to promote their faith.

The Mormon Church, which has nearly 6 million members in the U.S., last year launched a multimillion-dollar television, billboard and Internet advertising campaign called “I’m a Mormon.” The campaign, which was recently expanded to 21 media markets, features profiles of Mormons from various walks of life. Its goal is to educate the public and dispel myths about one of the fastest-growing religions in the world, church officials say. They say the timing of the expansion doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that two Mormons are running for president: Mitt Romney and John Huntsman.

Atheist display: Skeleton Santa nailed to a cross

About 65 million people identify themselves as Catholic in the U.S., making it the single largest denomination in America. But according to a recent Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate poll, only 33 percent of U.S. Catholics attend weekly Mass, Peterson noted. That means 42.7 million, or two-thirds, of U.S. Catholics are not going to Mass.

That's a sizable audience of potential church-goers to be tapped.

Peterson notes that studies have shown the average American spends 38 hours per week consuming media, with TV and Internet being the top two choices, so it makes sense to reach out to them via television.
“Companies like Coca Cola, Microsoft, IBM are using advertising communication to promote a product. It makes sense for faithful Christians and Catholics  to use modern media to promote the most important thing in world, and that is faith in Jesus Christ.”

More news and features from msnbc.com: