Warner Bros. paid to promote ‘Man of Steel’ in church

It’s no revelation that comic book superheroes tap into the myth archetypes of most major religions, including Christianity—the ambiguous birth, the social persecution despite unique powers that the hero only wants to use to help humanity. Director Zack Snyder admitted heavy religious themes are baked into the Superman narrative, saying “you could be cute with it and pretend like it doesn’t exist, but what that does is hold back the mythology of Superman.”

But Warner Brothers harnessed this natural affiliation for a marketing campaign that sought to market “Man Of Steel” inside churches, “from the pulpit,” reports AP.

They tapped Craig Detweiler of Pepperdine University (affiliated with the Churches of Christ) who wrote “Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century,” to “create a Superman-centric sermon outline for pastors titled ‘Jesus: The Original Superhero.'”

On the one hand, it’s a pretty brilliant marketing strategy: Warner probably knew they’d have most of the teenagers hooked on opening weekend, but trying to convince an older church-going audience to get out to the movies is a tougher sell. In an age when advertising is more difficult than ever as even older people have learned their way around the DVR, it’s a smart idea to get them the message in a place where they’re already a captive audience—and you don’t get much more captive than sitting in a church pew.

And whatever they did, it worked—”Man of Steel” raked in $113 million its opening weekend.

But it’s also pretty insidious to hijack church sermons all over the country, effectively allocating part of your marketing budget to subliminally inserting your ads in what is supposed to be the core of people’s spiritual experience.

But in an age when advertisers are looking for ever more high-tech means of ad targeting (AOL now has a system to literally read your mind with your webcam as you watch their ads) some of the most highly effective ads may be good old lo-tech grass-roots subliminal suggestion.