Billboards from God
By Tom Kuntz, July 18, 1999
WHETHER it rains or freezes, and even if you don't have a plastic Jesus on the dashboard of your car, you might have a hard time avoiding reminders of God on highways across the country this summer. Since last fall, billboards and signs bearing the messages here have appeared on roads in some 40 states from Alaska to Texas.
They were originally commissioned by a Florida resident, insisting on anonymity, who paid the Smith Agency in Fort Lauderdale $150,000 to produce a spiritual but nondenominational ad campaign "that people could relate to in a 90's kind of way," said the agency's president, Andrew Smith.
The result was arch one‑liners purportedly from God but conceived by a very mortal Smith ad executive, Charlie Robb.
After the billboards appeared last fall in Broward County in Florida, the Washington based Outdoor Advertising Association of America took notice, and took the campaign nationwide. It persuaded many of its more than 800 members, billboard companies and the like, to display the messages as a public service.
So far, they've appeared in 10,000 places ‑ a commitment of $15 million in ad space and production costs, the association says. Last month the ads won the Smith Agency an Obie, outdoor advertising's Oscar.
Mr. Robb said that after working on campaigns for mundane products like beer, becoming God's adman was "bizarre." But he added, "There is no downside to what we're selling here."
Not everyone's ecstatic. Some say the ads are too flippant and slick a way of promoting God. And, in a bow to non‑Christians, a message with a reference to Sunday (immediately following) was dropped when the campaign went national.
Let's meet at my house Sunday before the game. - God
C'mon over and bring the kids. - God
What part of "Thou Shalt Not ... didn't you understand? - God
Loved the wedding. Invite me to the marriage. ‑ God
Tell the kids I love them. ‑ God
That "Love Thy Neighbor" thing ‑ I meant it. ‑ God
You think it's hot here? ‑ God
Need a marriage counselor? I'm available. - God
Have you read my No. 1 best‑seller? (There will be a test.) - God
I don't question your existence. - God
Will the road you're on get you to my place? ‑ God
Follow me. ‑ God
I can think of 10 things that are carved in stone. ‑ God
Big Bang Theory ‑ You've got to be kidding. ‑ God
Don't make me come down there. ‑ God
Need directions? ‑ God
My way is the highway. - God
I love you…I love you…I love you. - God
Keep using my name in vain, I’ll make rush hour longer. - God
We need to talk. – God
you have any idea where you're going? - God