Digging through the latest Scientology ad to discover its meaning.
The 30-second Scientology ad that aired on Super Bowl Sunday has garnered over 1.2 million views, becoming the most popular video on the Scientology YouTube channel.
What Made the “What Is Scientology?” Super Bowl Ad So Popular?[/tweetthis]
This is the sixth consecutive year the religious organization has advertised during the Super Bowl. What is this year's ad trying to say? The fast-paced 30-second ad shows a montage of images, some familiar, some foreign, but most of the answers can be found on their website, which the ad implies ad the end, flashing “curious?” across the screen and then displaying their website URL. Our staff went through the commercial to analyze what it’s trying to convey to viewers.
What is the Message in the “What Is Scientology?” Super Bowl Ad?
The main message appears to be simply—What Is Scientology?
It starts with someone typing “what is Scientology?” into the Google search box. Then two voices ask questions. Female voice: “It’s like what do they do in there?” Male voice: “You know, have you met a Scientologist?” Female voice: “Yeah, like what do they believe?”
During the dialog, there is a montage of photos of various Scientology buildings and other images that scroll so fast it is hard to see all of them. While some remain a mystery (a guy playing a banjo?), our staff was able to identify some of them.
1. The first image is the Scientology sign on top of the church headquarters in Hollywood. This complex of buildings is referred to as “the Pacifica Bridge,” which is described as: “Organizations paralleling the religion’s Bridge to Total Freedom. In that respect, and from this single location, one can ascend from introductory services to increasingly higher realms of spiritual awareness.”
The Bridge to Total Freedom, according to the Scientology website is a process to achieve “a higher plateau of existence.” The bridge is a metaphor for the beginning of their Scientology journey to a higher spiritual state which can be achieved by using Scientology’s tools and methods.
2. At the opposite end of the building from the Scientology sign shown in frame number 1 is the Church of Scientology Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard and L. Ron Hubbard Way. Right on Sunset Boulevard is a large sign with an electronic billboard that promotes various activities and events at the church. In this case it is promoting the free personality test the church offers. Los Angeles has the most number of Scientologists of any city and it was in Los Angeles that Scientologists incorporated the very first Church of Scientology.
3. Next is a shot of the Scientology Super Bowl ad for 2013 that appeared on a digital billboard in Times Square in December 2012.
4. These are a set of electrodes connected to an E-Meter being handed to a woman in the Scientology Super Bowl Ad for 2016 The ad speaks of this as an age of infinite answers “except for the one we thirst for, the question that lies at the intersection of technology and spirituality: Who Am I?” A full shot of the E-Meter appears later in the commercial.
5. The next image is a shot of the atrium of the Flag Building in Clearwater, Florida. The Flag Building is considered the religion’s headquarters. At seven-stories-tall and 377,000 square feet, it was the tallest building in the city when it opened in 2013.
6. A Google search for “futuristic Scientology hallway”, although obscure sounding, was actually fruitful. This scene is a stylized rendering of the “Super Power” floor lobby in the Scientology Flag building. Super Power is one of two new Scientology programs released when the Flag Building was opened and is performed exclusively there.
7. This image comes from the 2015 Super Bowl ad. It is a shot of the face of an E-Meter. Scientology.org states: the E-Meter measures the spiritual state or change of state of a person and that it is used in delivering Scientology auditing or spiritual counseling to the individual.
8. Here we have the symbol for infinity which takes on a different dimension in Scientology. It comes from a video on the Scientology YouTube channel called “Scientology Beliefs: The Eight Dynamics Of Life,” the eighth dynamic is described as “the urge toward existence as infinity. This is also identified as the Supreme Being. This is called the eighth dynamic because the symbol of infinity, stood upright, makes the numeral eight. This can be called the infinity or God dynamic.”
9. There is a brief shot of this image in the Scientology Super Bowl Ad for 2015 called the Age of Answers, but we found it comes from a video on the Scientology website that is an excerpt from the book-on-film of Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought. The triangle represents the components of understanding and it is called the A-R-C triangle for Affinity, Reality and Communication. It is described as “the keystone of living associations. This triangle is the common denominator to all of life’s activities.”
10. Next is a shot of Scientology Media Productions, a studio near the intersection of Sunset and Hollywood boulevards. Originally built in 1912, the studio includes sound stages, creative suites, visual effects production areas, editing, audio recording and mixing and foreign language translation and dubbing. This is followed by several shots of electronic equipment, keyboards, mix boards, etc. Presumably this is footage from inside the studio.
11. Scientology has used double-decker buses previously as part of their drug prevention campaigns in London for the 2012 Olympics and in Glasgow for the World Cup in 2015. This likely comes from one of these activities.
After reviewing the ad nearly frame-by-frame, many of the images have appeared in earlier Super Bowl ads. What is new are the shots of Scientology Media Productions. There does not appear to be any significance to the images selected or their sequence. They may even have acted as a subliminal challenge to viewers to recall where the various images came from. But none of this really explains the ad’s popularity compared to their earlier Super Bowl offerings or any other video on their YouTube channel.
However there is one other aspect of this ad, which, in reviewing this, seems to be the overriding message.
What Is Scientology?
As we covered, the video begins with someone searching Google for “What is Scientology?” And it ends with the same blue screen used at the end of all six What is Scientology Super Bowl ads. However, instead of ending with Scientology.org in white letters and fading to black, this year’s commercial first flashes “Curious?”, then “We thought so.”
The only conclusion we can reach is that those who created the ad struck a chord and that people are, in fact, curious about Scientology.
- Pacifica Bridge
- Bridge to Total Freedom
- Personality Test
- Times Square Billboard
- World Religion News
- Flag Building
- Scientology Beliefs: The Eight Dynamics Of Life
- Scientology: The Fundamentals of Thought