Focus on the Family Launches Ad Campaign in Times Square

NEW YORK – Focus on the Family is running a television ad for Thanksgiving in the middle of one of Times Square's towers in New York City.

The 30-second ad campaign, which has been running in Times Square since Monday, will be scrolled eight times a day and also run during popular TV shows The Oprah Winfrey Show and Dr. Phil. The advertising effort will end with volunteers distributing promotional items during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

The ad features little-known Web site, Troubledwith.com, which has answers to a range of issues from cheating spouses to gambling addictions.

“Too many people are living their lives in quiet desperation, hurting and struggling through troubling situations because they just aren’t sure where to turn for help,” said Steve Watters, Director of Marriage and Family Formation for Focus on the Family. “Our objective with this campaign is to reach as many of those people as possible and offer them the help they desperately need.”

The holiday season is specifically targeted because of increase in depression, abuse, and suicide during what most people see as a festive time. New York’s Domestic Violence Services estimates that approximately 450,000 women will be abused nationwide between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.

This marks the second time that the parachurch ministry founded by child psychologist Dr. James Dobson has used mainstream television as part of an advertising campaign. In May, Focus received national attention by airing television commercials during ABC’s hit show “Supernanny.” The effort drew over 70,000 new visitors to its Focus on Your Child parenting website.

TroubledWith.com was a good choice as the second Web site to ever be advertised in the national market by Focus on the Family (FOTF), said Steve Watters, who created the site. It doesn't shout "Christian" which may turn off many non-Christians, and it deals with a wide range of tough issues.

"Because the site addresses so many different problems it gives us an opportunity to deal with the topics first, and then introduce people to the ministries we have for the topics – ministries for single parents, for couples in crisis, young parents, people struggling with unwanted pregnancy," Watters said.

"By promoting one product as a helpful source for people struggling with a variety of issues, we have a simpler way of introducing them to the broader ministry," he added.

The ministry felt that creeping into the secular market rather than announcing itself was the better way to minister to the non-Christian populace.

"We didn't necessarily trumpet it to the world that this is Focus on the Family, so that people who may know us and have questionable feelings about Focus, may still find something online," Watters said.

According Watters, New York was the perfect choice for FOTF to start advertising in the mainstream media because it is the "media capital of the world." It is also associated with icons like Times Square and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, which generate a buzz that would outlast the 14-day campaign.

"We have less than $100,000 to spend," said Watters. “We thought we might as well spend it at a place where we can get word-of-mouth to go beyond it.”

TroubledWith.com was created in 2002 and launched in February 2003. Roughly 300,000 visitors drop into the site each month.

FOTF hopes to generate enough interest that donors will want to help them place television ads in other cities as well.