Denver Focus on the Family plans to distribute 5,000 stress balls during Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, part of an effort to reach more people during the holidays with its faith-based advice on everything from eating disorders to depression and sex.
The balls carry the name of the conservative Christian ministry's advice Web site, www.troubledwith.com and the Colorado Springs-based group has also been running ads since last week on an electronic billboard in Times Square.
Web site creator Steve Watters said Focus on the Family had been looking for new ways to reach people with the advice it has built up over the past 25 years. It's information that has traditionally been sought by people who listen to the ministry's radio shows, including the ones by its founder, psychologist James Dobson. But listenership has not been growing in recent years, and most people who call for help are now in their late 40s, Watters said.
In the spring, Focus on the Family launched its first national television advertising spot on ABC's "Supernanny" to promote its parenting advice. The group had been looking for a less expensive way to market the advice site and was able to purchase space on the billboard during the last two weeks of November. The timing around the holidays seemed like a good way to target people who might be struggling with personal and family problems, Watters said.
"It's supposed to be the happiest time of the year, but for a lot of people it's just a reminder that things aren't working out so well in their lives," he said.
Making the ad and placing it on the billboard and television is costing $130,000.
Watters hopes the information on the site will lead people to restore broken relationships or tackle difficult issues rather than try to throw themselves into the overindulgence of the holidays.
The advice is faith-based. For example, the information on talking to teens about homosexuality includes an article debunking the idea that people are born gay.
Watters said Focus on the Family hopes that people not only try to solve their problems but also reach out to God.