In the mid-1980s, more than ever before, television advertising was about big budgets and excess. Bucking that trend was Scientologist and marketing whiz Jeff Hawkins, whose understated, minimalist TV ads for L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics helped launch the book onto the best-seller list—and arguably sparked a worldwide interest in the religion.
Hawkins’ ads featured simple questions like, “Why are you unhappy?” in white print against a black background, backed by edgy music supplied by Hawkins’ friends, and finally, a shot of the Dianetics book splashed against a volcano. The ads cost around $2,000 to make, yet within months of their first nationwide appearance, Dianetics made the New York Times Best Seller List for the first time since its initial publication in 1950—and a special commemorative edition of the book was printed to mark the occasion.
Hawkins estimates he made more than $200 million for the church in his 35 years of marketing Dianetics. Nevertheless, he ultimately paid for his success by being thrown out of the church in 2005. Now living in Portland, Hawkins is writing a book about his experiences in Scientology.
And boy, is he pissed….
August 9, 2008