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A $100-M Ad Campaign Wants to Fix Jesus’ Image, But Will It Work?

The “He Gets Us” campaign will culminate with Super Bowl ad

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Launched earlier this year, the “He Gets Us” campaign, which features black-and-white online videos about Jesus as a rebel, an activist or a host of a dinner party, has had more than 300 million views, according to organizers.

Billboards with messages like “Jesus let his hair down, too” and “Jesus went all in, too,” have also been posted in major markets like New York City and Las Vegas.

The campaign’s funding is managed by, the Signatry, a Christian foundation based in Kansas that helps manage philanthropic affairs for members of Hobby Lobby’s Green family.

According to Jason Vanderground, a spokesperson for the campaign, “He Gets Us, LLC, is a single member LLC.  Servant Foundation (which is tax-exempt) is the sole member.  That means donations to HGU, LLC, are deductible as a donation to Servant Foundation.”

Vanderground said, “Funding for the campaign comes from a diverse group of individuals and entities with a common goal of sharing Jesus’ story authentically.”

He Gets Us will expand in the next few months, with an updated website, an online store where people can get free gear if they forgive someone or welcome a stranger, and an outreach program for churches, all leading up to a Super Bowl ad.

Jason Vanderground is also the president of Haven, a branding firm based in Grand Haven, Mich.  He told Religion News Service the movement hopes to bridge the gap between the story of Jesus and the public perception of his followers. The campaign has done extensive market research and found that, while many Americans like Jesus, they are skeptical of his followers.

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The market research split Americans into four categories: non-Christians (16% of the sample), people who are “spiritually open” (20%), “Jesus followers” (34%) and “engaged Christians” (30%). It showed a wide gap between the first three groups and the last category.

Most people in the first three categories said the behavior of Christians is a barrier to faith. More than two-thirds agreed when asked: “Followers of Jesus say one thing, but do not follow those things in practice.” Only 5% of the engaged Christians agreed. Most folks in the first three categories also agreed that Christians care only about stopping abortions, rather than caring for moms and their children. Only 6% of the engaged Christians agreed.

Vanderground said Christians see their faith as the greatest love story, but those outside the faith see Christians as a hate group.

“Jesus said people are going to know my followers by the way they love each other and the way they interact with each other,” he said. “I think when we look at American Christianity now, we don’t see nearly as much of that — and that concerns a lot of people.”

So far, Vanderground told Religion News Service, 100 million people have been exposed to the campaigns and about 30,000 have signed up for Bible reading plans. Of those, more than half have completed the reading plans. Those reading plans can help people get in touch with the real message of Jesus, he said.

Vanderground would say how much of the money was being spent on creative and how much was being spent on ad buys.  But it is spending money on consultants, including Ed Stetzer, who directs the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism at Wheaton College.

Some of the advertising has been directed at the Christian market.  According to Tim Dalrymple, president of Christianity Today, ads in that magazine have been “focused on educating the church about the HGU campaign and equipping the church to build new relationships through it.”  Relevant Magazine is also listed as a partner. WORLD Magazine confirmed to MinistryWatch that it had not received any ad buys from He Gets Us.

But most of the advertising dollars have been directed at secular outlets.  One outlet carrying the ads is eBaumsWorld.com, a meme-sharing and young-adult alt-news site that’s been around since 2001.

According to SimilarWeb, about 44% of eBaum’s World visitors are between the ages of 19-34. SimilarWeb also estimates that 68% of the site’s visitors are men.

Religion News Service contributed to this report.

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Warren Cole Smith

Warren previously served as Vice President of WORLD News Group, publisher of WORLD Magazine, and Vice President of The Colson Center for Christian Worldview. He has more than 30 years of experience as a writer, editor, marketing professional, and entrepreneur. Before launching a career in Christian journalism 25 years ago, Smith spent more than seven years as the Marketing Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers.