The Church of Scientology has launched a deeply creepy advertising campaign. They're buying spots on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, and seem to have stolen the ad playbook from their arch-enemies in the pharmaceutical industry.
The ad—it's new to us, though we're not sure how long it's been in circulation—is awash in blue tones and features assorted lost souls struggling with an "unexplainable emptiness that can only be filled by one thing—the truth." It looks exactly like an ad for one of the anti-depressants that Scientologists regard as tools of a fascist psychiatric regime. Except at the end, you don't get a pitch for Paxil, you get a glowing Scientology logo directing you to the group's web site. (For comparison, see this old Effexor ad.)
And it's been working: According to the rough stat guide of Alexa.com, the reach of Scientology.org has seen a bump in the past month.
Traffic aside, the ad's real purpose is clearly branding: It's a slick, well-produced effort designed to position the church as a mainstream provider of spiritual answers and not a cult that relies on the slave labor of children. It's certainly miles ahead in that regard from Scientology's earlier efforts: