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Scientology launches Tampa Bay TV ad campaign

Title: Scientology launches Tampa Bay TV ad campaign
Date: Monday, 10 August 2009
Publisher: WTSP-TV (Florida)
Author: Grayson Kamm
Main source:

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Clearwater, Florida – The Church of Scientology is launching a TV ad campaign in Tampa Bay this week.

But the controversial group, which is based in Clearwater, insists the ads are not connected to recent news stories that slam the church and its powerful leader.

The ad push will target multiple channels, but very particular time slots. The goal's to catch the eyes of anyone watching TV at that moment, even if they flip the channel. Turn to another station, and you'll catch the same ad there, too.

It's a technique from advertising agencies' playbooks called a "roadblock".

The spots look sharp, with Hollywood-level production values.

There are three different commercials on the group's YouTube channel.

While they all have a different theme, the final point is the same: if you're seeking answers, Scientology has them.

While these ads play on TV, paid internet ads will appear on websites.

It's part of an expansion of Scientology into what's now 65 countries that's been going full bore since 2004, according to church spokeswoman Pat Harney.

Church publications say that expansion has been driven by church leader David Miscavige.

He's the figure at the center of a controversy in Tampa Bay that's grown louder after news reports in recent months.

Miscavige has been accused of beating, humiliating, and psychologically abusing employees of Scientology for years at the organization's base in California.

The accusations have been made by more than a half-dozen people who have left from high levels in the church and told their stories this summer to the St. Pete Times.

A church spokesman told the Times the allegations are all false and "nothing more than the ranting of anti-Scientologists".

As for whether the timing of this ad campaign is related to those St. Pete Times pieces, Harney said the two are not connected.

She says the commercials first debuted in May in Los Angeles and two other TV markets, as well as on some cable stations. That's a month before the first piece appeared in the Times.

This week, the ads will expand onto broadcast stations in our market and will air in other places in the future, she said.

On the phone from Los Angeles, Harney told me, "We have a large presence in Tampa Bay, and people want to know: what is Scientology?" She explained that the ads will direct curious folks to the group's website, where they'll find those answers.

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Grayson Kamm, 10 Connects