Last April, producers of “The Chosen,” the popular faith-based series on the life of Jesus Christ, launched an unconventional new marketing campaign featuring the Prince of Darkness.

First they advertised the show using billboards in cities nationwide, then made it appear as if the billboards had been defaced with words such as “The Chosen is boring” and “Chosensux.com.” The “graffiti” directing people to a website called “The Chosen is Not Good.”

The URL also led people to a commercial, made by “The Chosen,” depicting a Satan character in hell with his demons as they scheme to get people to stop watching the show because of its positive impact.

The campaign’s main objective: gain new viewers.

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Nearly six months later, is the campaign working? The answer is yes, said Jeremiah Smith, a vice president with “The Chosen.”

“The campaign has by all measures been highly successful,” Smith said. “When we set out to do it, we were trying to reach an audience of people who just wouldn’t watch ‘The Chosen’ unless there was some sort of impetus to do so.”

Brad Pelo, executive producer and president of “The Chosen,” talks to news media.
Brad Pelo, executive producer and president of “The Chosen,” talks to news media at the Salvation Army’s Camp Hoblitzelle in Midlothian, Texas, on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. | Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

The good news was echoed by Brad Pelo, the show’s president and an executive producer.

“We have a lot of anecdotal feedback from people who said, ‘I would have never watched your show if I hadn’t seen those ads because I’ve never seen a Christian show willing to make fun of itself,’” Pelo said. “I think it’s that epiphany for some — if they feel safe enough to make fun of themselves, then maybe it’s safe enough to watch.”

Smith told about one woman who had never heard of “The Chosen” but took an interest after seeing an advertisement telling her not to watch it. “So, of course, I had to,” she wrote to the show.

“It’s anecdotal, but it’s the reason why we made the campaign,” Smith said. “There’s a certain group of folks who would love the show if they just gave it the time of day but for different reasons might be cynical about faith-based media, specifically about a Jesus show, because they think, ‘Oh, I’ve seen that before.’ That was the intention of the campaign.”

Initially, some of the core fans felt duped by the defaced billboards and there was some blowback by fans who thought it was a bad idea. Creator Dallas Jenkins issued an apology.

“We actually had people say, ‘Thanks for the apology, the campaign’s awesome, now that we understand it,’” Smith said. “Honestly, since then, it’s been nothing but positive. You will get the occasional person who might not get it, and that’s OK. It’s not aimed at them. But for the people that we’re hoping for it to appeal to, it definitely did.”

Months later, the campaign has continued with the “The Chosen” Satan character posting every week on social media as if he’s just another online influencer.

Jeremiah Smith, vice president of creative for “The Chosen,” talks to news media.
Jeremiah Smith, vice president of creative for “The Chosen,” talks to news media at the Salvation Army’s Camp Hoblitzelle in Midlothian, Texas, on Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. | Ben B. Braun, Deseret News

How the campaign was developed

“The Chosen” team developed the “devilish” campaign with distributing partner Angel Studios, Pelo said.

“There were multiple explorations,” Pelo said. “Who should we pick on? The devil makes a great victim for us. The team creatively came up with the concept — what if the devil was essentially a wannabe social media influencer who is trying to get everyone to not watch ‘The Chosen’?”

In one of the videos, Satan enlists the help of three influencers — a mommy blogger, a video gamer/streamer and child who opens toys — to help him hamper and hinder “The Chosen.”

“His interaction with them kind of spins out of control from there and creates all sorts of funny options,” Smith said.

‘The Chosen’ is Not Good campaign in numbers

The fake devil has developed a social media following:

9 videos from ‘The Chosen’ is Not Good campaign

The campaign has continued with an ongoing video series where witty devil tries to come up with ideas to foil the series. Most go horribly wrong.

“That’s the joke,” Smith said. “No matter what he does, people just keep watching ‘The Chosen.’ We were really wanting to use that little bit of disruptive irreverence to get people to ‘Hey, what is this?’ and take it farther.”

Here are nine videos from the “The Chosen is Not Good marketing campaign.

1. The first video: “Stop watching ‘The Chosen’ ... It is Not Good.”

2. “The Devil Reacts to a Jesus Show”

3. “I’m Leveling Up” (The video features Natalie Madsen, former cast member of BYUtv’s popular sketch-comedy show, “Studio C” and now with JK! Studios.)

4. “I Broke into Angel Studios and Stole ‘The Chosen’”

5. “All the Places You Shouldn’t Watch ‘The Chosen’”

6. “Bad Lip Reading of ‘The Chosen’”

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7. “Devil Reacts to Environmentally Irresponsible Miracle”

8. “IPhone 13 Unboxing with the Devil”

9. “The #1 Reason to NOT Watch ‘The Chosen’”

Learn more about the ad campaign at thechosenisnotgood.com.

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