The Church of Scientology ran a 60-second commercial in several major metropolitan markets including New York and Los Angeles during Super Bowl XLVII on Sunday causing a stir among viewers.
“To the curious, the inquisitive, the seekers of knowledge,” an unseen narrator says.
“To the ones who just want to know about life, about the universe, about yourself.”
The controversial Church of Scientology aired a shorter 30-second version of its Knowledge spot in select cities during the AFC Championship two weeks ago. The video reportedly ran on television for the first time more than a month ago.
The Scientology organization paid close to $8 million to air the spot during Super Bowl game, which is the largest one-day televised event in terms of ad spending.
The Scientology ad features attractive young actors as well as images of caverns, scriptures, outer space and a mysterious looking fortuneteller stroking a crystal ball, among other cryptic scenery that runs over soft, hypnotic music.
“Not cute questions, big questions, one’s that matter,” the unseen narrator says.
“To the rebels, the artists, the free thinkers and the innovators who care less about labels and more about truth.”
The ad is similar to Apple’s classic Think Different commercial from 1997, Buzzfeed and other media observers noted.
The reaction on Twitter and other social media sites was one of mockery, with several jabs from people in the video game industry.
“If your church has an ad during the Super Bowl it’s stops becoming a religion and starts becoming a punch line” Kevin Dent, chief operating officer of the mobile video game network P4RC wrote on Twitter after the spot ran.
“Hey America, if The Church of Scientology has enough cash to advertise during the Super Bowl, maybe it shouldn’t be tax exempt,” IGN.com editor Scott Lowe wrote on the site.
The Church of Scientology and its network of corporations, non-profits and other legal entities bring in more than $500 million a year from the organization’s paying members and other revenue sources according to a 2008 report in Upstart Business Journal.
The church is run like a franchise as each of its locations is separately incorporated and has its own local board of directors and executives responsible for that church’s activities and financial operations.
The first Scientology church was incorporated in December 1953 in Camden, New Jersey, by the religion’s founder L. Ron Hubbard, his wife Mary Sue Hubbard, and their colleague John Galusha.
L. Ron Hubbard, a science fiction writer, said at that time: “A civilization without insanity, without criminals and without war, where the able can prosper and honest beings can have rights, and where man is free to rise to greater heights, are the aims of Scientology.”
The church’s current members include several celebrities. Among them are actors Tom Cruise, Jason Lee and Juliette Lewis, rapper Doug E. Fresh, musician Beck and television host Greta Van Susteren.
Church of Scientology has come under fire in recent years for alleged accounts of bigotry, deceptive means of recruitment and smear campaigns against its opponents, among other reported violations.
The Scientology commercial’s YouTube page, which went live on December 18, had just 60,000 views as of Sunday night, compared with more than 7 million views for Volkswagen’s much talked about Get Happy Super Bowl commercial, which was posted on YouTube last week.