Its detractors have compared the Church of Scientology to a cult, but the controversy that often surrounds it did not deter Horizon Media from taking on the business.
"It's freedom of speech," said Zach Rosenberg, evp and general manager for Horizon in Los Angeles. "Everyone has a right to market a belief, and we want to help them."
The independent agency won media responsibilities for the church's account following a review that included incumbent URI, Beverly Hills, Calif.; KSL Media and Universal McCann, both Los Angeles; and Corinthian Media, New York.
The church, which spent about $45 million on ads in 2002, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus, had grown too big for URI, said Becky Miscavige, client marketing campaigns director. Horizon was tapped because it is "a growing independent agency that fits our needs as a growing church," and it has an office in Europe, she said.
Horizon will handle media strategies for building awareness of the church in the U.S., Europe and Russia. The account will be handled by Horizon's Los Angeles office and its Amsterdam outpost, Eurizon.
U.S. duties include buying and planning to support church founder L. Ron Hubbard's book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Internationally, Eurizon will support the Volunteer Minister Cavalcade, which touts Scientology in 40 cities.
"It's not standard retail [advertising]--to drive traffic into seats or generate ratings--it's ultimately to recruit people to the church," Rosenberg said.
Creative is done in-house, Miscavige said. Billings are undetermined.
Founded in 1954 with one church, Scientology now claims 3,000-plus locations in 154 countries.