Scientology Ad Strategy Misses the Mark

Radar Magazine/March 28, 2008

Admittedly, we haven't exactly taken it easy on the Church of Scientology, which is why we were perplexed when we recently discovered that ads for the Scientology Video Channel, like the one above, started popping up on our website. It's sort of like a Red Socks fan trying to persuade a bunch of Yankees fans that his team has a better shot at winning the pennant-he can certainly try, but it's inevitably an exercise in futility.

After some cursory Internet searching, we realized that we weren't alone: Scientology ads have also popped up on media gossip blog Jossip. Last we checked, we weren't accepting ad buys from L. Ron Hubbard and company, so what gives?

Google, that's what!

It turns out that the Church, which recently started posting anti-Anonymous videos on YouTube, is now trying to salvage its reputation via a more traditional route: the Internet giant's lucrative AdSense program.

AdSense works like this: Advertisers buy up specific keywords that they think align with the product or service they are selling. Google places ads on sites where those keywords appear most frequently, and receives a payment whenever a browser clicks on the ad. Given the frequency with which words such as "Scientology" and "Anonymous" appear on this site, it's no wonder that Scientology-purchased spots started cycling in. It just so happens that they're juxtaposed against overwhelmingly anti-Scientology stories, where they likely have little effect beyond the comedic.

Reached for comment, a Google representative writes, "We have thousands and thousands of advertisers who all bid on keywords in order to appear on relevant sites. The ads include all different categories, so the Church can definitely be one."

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