(NEW YORK) -- The "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign that hit New York City by surprise last week is "very savvy branding" that's an unusual take on an old advertising strategy, a public relations expert said.
"As a religion, branding a religion, I can't recall [another one] off hand," said Rosanna Fisk, CEO of the Public Relations Society of America in New York. "What I see in this, however, has similarities of other kinds. It's quite a testimonial. [The campaign] shows how different people come from different backgrounds and are all joined by the same, common belief."
Now splashed across an electronic billboard in the middle of Times Square, the ad includes photographs of individuals from different walks of life, all under a headline that reads "I'm a Mormon."
The campaign, which has also rolled out taxi toppers and subway advertisements, inserted the billboard blocks from the theater showing the Tony Award-winning musical The Book of Mormon, which takes a satirical look at two Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionaries as they travel through Uganda.
Although the Times Square ads come at a time when the Mormon religion is in the news, the campaign itself began in 2010, testing television ads in nine markets: Rochester, New York, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Colorado Springs, Colorado, Tucson, Arizona, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Jacksonville, Florida, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The church said it hopes to expand into 10 to 20 markets across the country throughout the coming year.
"We've added New York to the cities we're going into this year because of the conversations that are happening here," said Michael Purdy, a spokesman for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. "There's undoubtedly a national conversation going on currently about the church and its members, and we want to be part of that conversation. New York City is perhaps a center of much of that conversation."
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