BROOKYLN, N.Y. — Ads around Brooklyn bring a new meaning to Joan Osborne’s lyrics, “What if God was one of us?”
In a new ad campaign launched by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn this month, people in the borough and neighboring Queens have a new way to view Jesus: “The Original Hipster.”
The ads feature the bottom half of a man – meant to be Jesus – wearing robes with a pair of dirty red Converse sneakers peeking out from the bottom.
In a news release, the diocese refers to Seth Meyers’ joke on “Saturday Night Live” that Converse sneakers are why more Catholics are returning to the church, and says the marketing campaign is “showing a cooler and more welcoming side of the Catholic Church.”
Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood, near Queens, is considered to be the “unofficial East Coast birthplace of hipsterism,” as a 2012 article in Forbes put it.
Monsignor Kieran Harrington said he understood the importance of relating to the people of the area.
“Jesus appears (in these ads) like people of the L train,” he said. “What is a hipster anyway? Someone who stands against the (mainstream) culture. Jesus stood against the culture.”
Ten months ago, the conversation started about creating such a campaign to let people know there are a variety of different faces who attend the church.
Harrington says these particular ads were a collaboration with the ad and PR agency Ruckus. Now they are found in places where the church doesn’t usually advertise, including bus stands, restaurants and gyms.
The ads have generated online buzz in Salon, the Gothamist and other sites, and traffic on the diocese’s website has gone up 400%, Harrington said.
As for what kind of ads to expect from the diocese next, the monsignor said: “It’s for you to find out.”