17 August 2007

Is there more to life than this?

Alpha Course ads have been springing up all over town on bus shelters and billboards. These slickly-produced ads are part of a new compaign to promote the Alpha Course on behalf of the local churches who run the program. You should already know my distaste for Alpha. If not, click the "Alpha Course" tag below to see what I've said previously.
As slick as the ads are, Alpha is still using the clipart-esque man carrying a question mark logo, which is extremely cheap-looking.

That said, my main interest in the ads is not their production values but rather what they portray. Of course, they make no mention of God or Christianity in them. Instead, the two different ads have a photo with a caption "Is there more to life than this?" The slogan is typical, but the photos are odd. One shows a young man in climbing gear standing triumphantly at the top of a mountain; the other is of a small group of happy, attractive younger people drinking and stuff. I know they are attempting to appeal to younger people, that much is obvious. But I tell you, if I'm climbing mountains and living it up with cool friends, I'm not too worried about finding "more to life." Life would seem pretty good, thank you.

To me, it would make more sense if "Is there more to life than this?" was attached to photos of my life: dull grey cubicle, family sedan, taking out the trash, etc. More people would be able to associate with that than with climbing mountains and being popular. Also, more people would be searching for meaning and that elusive "more" when their lives are boring and monotonous. I think they missed the target on this one.

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At August 17, 2007 10:19 a.m., Blogger TheBrummell said...

I also find the Alpha course ads rather strange. The strangest thing about them from my point of view is the way this expressly Christian organisation nowhere presents a cross or any mention of its religious affiliation on the advertising.

I didn't realize Alpha course was Christian until I saw one of the old ads, perhaps five years ago, on a church. Not in front of the church (there was one there, too), but a giant 2-story-tall banner hanging on the outside wall of a medium-sized urban church.

I just checked out the website (sound off, of course, as my usual precaution). No crosses or other obvious "We're Christian" symbols to be seen. Weird. Do they not start on the Jebus-stuff until after you sit down at the first meeting?

I agree that their party-people-having-fun ads seem sub-optimal. I like your suggestion that they'd probably do better with ads showing boring everyday kinds of drudgery, like cubicles and trash day. But, I can't speak with any certainty, since I'm far, far outside their target demographic (evolutionary biologists don't generally find themselves lost and confused, walking into free-bad-coffee meetings in church basements on weeknights a la Fight Club. We're generally too busy writing papers and running gels in the evenings).

At August 17, 2007 3:30 p.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

Yeah, it doesn't bode well that they are trying to lure people in without telling people what the deal is. Kind of untrustworthy. Maybe it works, though. Remember GABBO.

I didn't learn about Alpha until my wife told me of the course that she wanted to take. I did some quick research and didn't like what I saw. The course manual she brought home confirmed as much.

Their prime audience seems to be weak Christians who are trying to get more informed about their faith (prime targets for misinformation), plus disinterested nonreligious relatives of people who are religious. These are brought in with offers of free food. I don't know how many just see ads and wander in, but based on this new campaign, they seem to be trying to increase the number of these.

Yeah, people like us are outside their typical demo. If the likes of us go, it'd be more for free food and to see how much we can argue with them before they kick us out.

Hey, you're a poor student; you could reduce your grocery bills if you went, then write us some nice juicy articles on the experience.

At August 17, 2007 6:03 p.m., Blogger Necator said...

I read this the other day on a sign outside a church:


How about:
no god
fewer wars

Anyway...KA, if you thought you were an idiot, check my recent post
about how I nearly killed my wife.

It should knock your socks off.

At August 18, 2007 7:23 p.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

Wow, you nearly killed your wife? That's bad. It should make a good story though.

All I know is that, if I did that to my wife, I'd use the next year to run as far away as possible, because once she's able to walk again, she would hunt me down and kill me. Glad your wife understands and I hope the recovery continues to go well.

At August 20, 2007 11:26 a.m., Blogger TheBrummell said...

Off-topic, but the other day I was in Whitby. I stopped there for fuel on Friday evening on my way to Kingston, and again on Saturday on my way back to Guelph.

I didn't see any Aardvark royalty, sadly.

As for the alpha course ads (back on-topic), I saw the guy-on-mountain one the other day on a bus shelter. I'm still just confused by them. I'm not planning on visiting a Guelph-area alpha course for the free food and argue-until-booted experience. I'm a poor student, but I'm not masochistic.

At August 20, 2007 12:34 p.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

Not surprising that you didn't see me. In real life, I look a lot less like an aardvark then my profile pic lets on.

Why'd you head to Kingston? It's a nice, small place but not a whole lot goes on there.

At August 22, 2007 11:56 a.m., Blogger TheBrummell said...

A friend of mine moved to Kingston ("K-town") in May, to do a post-doc at Queen's. The visit of another good friend from out west over the last couple of weeks, plus the availability of a vehicle, triggered a visit.

My father grew up in Kingston, but I've spent effectively zero time there, so it was nice to walk around and see some things that occassionally come up in conversation with my family, like the spatial distribution of towns around Kingston (Grandmother used to live in Belleville, uncle used to live in Napanee, etc.).

No family connections that I know of to Whitby. We just stopped for fuel, of the hydrocarbon and carbohydrate varieties.

At August 23, 2007 10:02 a.m., Blogger King Aardvark said...

I feel sorry for your uncle ;-)

At May 03, 2008 10:39 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went on an Alpha course and found it to be surprisingly good. I knew in advance it was going to be about Jesus (which is why I went - time to find out what all the fuss was about). What I liked about the course was the freedom to debate, discuss and disagree without people trying to ram stuff down your throat. We met in a community hall so there wasn't a cross or stained glass window in site - for me this was good as it was neutral territory. BTW in England the guy standing at the top of the mountain is known to just about everyone (his name is Bear Grylls). He is a very famous explorer. He flew above Everest solo in an open microlite aircraft!. Anyway the reason I say this is that he did an Alpha course and found it so worthwhile that he now does the advert. The crowd of young people drinking include some celebs including a famous model.
Once you've done Alpha let me know if you liked it or hated it. Doing the course is definitely the best way to decide (seriously you really can go with your own opinions and they'll listen to you!).

At May 03, 2008 11:32 a.m., Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry I think I used the wrong term. It was a parachute above him and a big propeller on a back pack - you can probably find it on youtube it was an amazing adventure. Anyway he does all the most exhillarating stuff you can possibly do (he's made tonnes of TV programs showing him doing the most scarey stuff) and yet he went on an Alpha Course. So although some of our lives are a bit cubical filled even those having a great time still find they are looking for something else (whether or not you'll find it on the Alpha course is a different question but for me it was certainly worthwhile).


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