Jordan Ogren

March 24, 2022

Are churches going too far with this marketing tactic?

At the center of marketing is something I struggle with:

Tracking and targeting people.

To run ads, you must target someone based on their data. I get this.

It could be location, whom they follow, or if they have children. But what if you got more specific and possibly went too far with targeting?

That’s what churches have recently been doing through a service called Gloo.

“A small company called Gloo has put itself at the forefront of an effort to analyze Americans’ personal data and online activities to help churches reach people most likely to be open to their messages and join their congregations.” – Wall Street Journal.

What kind of people do they think are likely open to their messages?

“The company has said in marketing materials that it can predict the characteristics of people who might have a marriage in trouble, be suffering from depression or anxiety, or have a propensity for a drug addiction, based on data analysis.” — WSJ.

Hold up… Targeting someone going through a divorce is something Jesus would do (WWJD)? Is this going too far?

The churches would argue no. They would say they have the “good news” and want to share it with those who need it. 

They would argue that it’s a net positive if they reach and “convert” these people in the end.

But what if a recreational marijuana company took the same approach? 

They targeted people most susceptible to trying weed to reduce their anxiety or get through a divorce. 

Weed can be a net positive for people struggling with things similar to what Gloo targets.

Or what about a gambling company?

They realized that people struggling with finances might be more likely to go all in.

The gambling example may be more malicious, but I don’t see much of a difference between the church and weed company.

Each believes their product or service can help the person in need.

But what about the person who is going through a divorce? Is it fair to them to be seen as an easy target and get bombarded with church ads? 

Not everyone sees the church as a net positive—especially the (far right) fundamental churches.

Should they be using such personal data to target people who are vulnerable?

Personally, I would rather a friend of the church reach out and assist me during a time of need than be targeted as a “lost sheep” and seen as a way to add to the tithing bucket.

Maybe I am a little too harsh on the church. Maybe I expect the only organization to respect personal data and play “fair” would be the church.

But maybe they have for far too long and now want to get their hands dirty in digital advertising.

What are your thoughts on churches (or any company) using this type of personal data to target vulnerable people?

Is it right?

🧠 + ❤️ // JO