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The 'He Gets Us' commercials promote Jesus. Who's behind them and what is the goal?

A screenshot of one of the 'He Gets Us' campaign advertisements, this one on Reddit.
Patrick Wood
A screenshot of one of the 'He Gets Us' campaign advertisements, this one on Reddit.

Welcome to a new NPR series where we spotlight the people and things making headlines — and the stories behind them.

Jesus Christ is now the center of a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign funded by the founder of Hobby Lobby and others, that is apparently just getting started.

Who is he? Well, in Christianity, he's known as the son of God. But in this scenario, "He" is the center of a marketing campaign that has spread far across the U.S., spanning between billboards, banner ads online, and a forthcoming Super Bowl commercial.

  • The ads all stem from the central idea that "He Gets Us". They discuss how "He" (Jesus Christ) was a refugee, had disdain for hypocrisy, and was also unfairly judged like other marginalized members of modern society. 
  • In one of the commercials, a black and white slideshow of photos tells the story of Central American migrants who must flee their home to avoid persecution. At the end, it is revealed the story being told is that of Jesus and his parents, Mary and Joseph.
  • The ads are reportedly funded in part by the family that owns the notably religious craft store chain Hobby Lobby, according to Christianity Today, as well as other evangelical groups, including a foundation called The Signatry. Other donors have kept their identities anonymous.
  • What's the big deal? It's part of a well-funded campaign that is just getting started.

  • The advertisements are part of an effort to shift away from a negative public perception of Christians, and towards Jesus, says Bob Smietana, national reporter for Religion News Service, in an interview with NPR.
  • Smietana says that the campaign is attempting to appeal to groups that may have felt excluded or repelled by the church in recent years, like members of the LGBTQ community, different races and ethnicities, those who lean more liberal politically, or people who have kept up with scandals of abuse.
  • The group behind the campaign has also purchased an advertisement slot for this Sunday's Super Bowl, one of the most expensive brand platforms out there. The estimated costs for those ads will run around $20 million.
  • In an interview with Christianity Today, the branding firm for the campaign said the plan included investing $1 billion over the next three years, a budget comparable to that of a major brand.
  • What are people saying? Smietana told NPR the campaign comes at a time of decline in organized religion:

    "I think spending that much money, again, is a kind of admission on their part that there's a problem. And, you know, there is a problem for organized religion in America. It's declining, congregations are declining. And these ads, too, are a way to chide their fellow Christians to say, 'This is what Jesus is like, and maybe we know it, and maybe we're not acting like Jesus.'"

    "But I think it goes back to the problem that American evangelicals in particular face is that their political ambitions and their deeply held religious beliefs and ethical beliefs are in conflict right now. So the things that will help them win politically will alienate people."

    And, of course, social media had some thoughts:

    So what now?

  • The upcoming Super Bowl is expected to see a boost in viewership, with an estimated 100 million-plus people watching the broadcast
  • It means a lot more people will probably be sending out confused tweets about a "Jesus Commercial" — a search term on Twitter that already was flooded after "He Gets Us" ads aired during Sunday's Grammy awards.
  • Learn more:

  • Read about how Congress has taken the reins of a prayer breakfast from a secretive Christian evangelical group, by NPR's senior political correspondent Domenico Montanaro.
  • Dive into this insightful exploration on faith by Linah Mohammad and Ashley Brown: Muslim-American opinions on abortion are complex. What does Islam actually say?
  • Read about recent research that finds America's Christian majority is on track to end.
  • Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

    Manuela López Restrepo
    Manuela López Restrepo is a producer and writer at All Things Considered. She's been at NPR since graduating from The University of Maryland, and has worked at shows like Morning Edition and It's Been A Minute. She lives in Brooklyn with her cat Martin.