Ungar’s synagogue ad fits Jewish tradition of humor

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Tom Ungar of The Ungar Group/Chicago just may be the biggest mensch there is in Chicago’s advertising community.

We first discovered Ungar himself, his agency and his shop’s diverse client roster a while ago. Right from get-go we were pleasantly surprised — and impressed — by his ability to take some of the least glamorous products imaginable, like power tools for instance, and make fascinating ads for them.

That’s not easy to do, but The Ungar Group demonstrated it can be done.

Though it is not immediately apparent when in his actual presence, Tom Ungar also possesses a rather odd, but very real sense of humor.  And that is infused in much of the work that comes from his boutique ad shop.

Humor, of course, is omnipresent in advertising.  But it has long been our belief that everybody responds differently to any given humorous ad.

There are plenty of so-called funny ads that we find wretched.  But we must admit we have always — well almost always — appreciated the amusing twists Ungar and his agency comrades manage to insert in many of their ads.

Synagogue aims to grow its congregation

Tom UngerWhich brings us to the latest project from the House of Ungar, as it were.  It’s yet another slightly off-the-wall print ad and e-mail campaign for Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah, a conservative Jewish synagogue in north suburban Wilmette.

Yes, the synagogue’s name is a mouthful. But that didn’t stop Ungar from signing on to help the synagogue market itself and grow its congregation, which in recent years has dropped in size nine percent from a peak of about 650 families.

We have by no means done any formal research, but it just may be that the congregation-related challenges facing Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah reflect those of many other churches and synagogues in the Chicago metropolitan area and far beyond.

Ungar attributed the drop in BHBE’s congregation count to, among other things, “an uncertain economy, the natural order of life and a shift in demographics.”  Ungar also noted  “young families continue moving farther away from the North Shore, because real estate is more affordable.”

Yes, the world in many ways weighs heavily on all our shoulders these days, and churches and synagogues are not immune.

Copy catches synagogue’s overarching sensibility

Hence the decision to launch the new ad campaign for the Wilmette synagogue.  The best part of the new print ad Ungar has whipped up for Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah comes at the very top, right where it should be.  “We’re not perfect,” is the proclamation made in the headline.

And what a wonderful way that is to dispel any concerns that hubris may be a part of the warp and woof

of this synagogue.  Nothing can be more off-putting than excessive arrogance in a person or a group of people who gather for religious reasons.

The rest of the ad tries to simply lay out the argument for BHBE with a bit of wit and lot of straightforward talk.

Beth Hillel Bnai Emunah ad

Ungar’s ad copy touches on that staple of Jewish life, bagels, and the congregation’s passion for them. The ad also brings up something one might not immediately associate with a Jewish synagogue — zumba classes.  If you are somewhat baffled by that reference — as we were — a quick Google search reveals zumba classes are exercise classes with a Latin music influence. At a Jewish synagogue?  Who knew!

Ungar’s ad also goes on to talk about the broad range of programs in the youth department and the “thought-provoking Rabbi” and the synagogue’s balanced budget — a claim many governmental agencies have a hard time making.

Of course, this BHBE campaign won’t necessarily ensure more congregants eventually join the synagogue.  But whatever the ad’s ultimate impact, it still does a very nice job of capturing the synagogue’s overarching sensibility — that absence of pretense and the approachable, caring nature of those who gather there.

Agency credits: Tom Ungar, creative director, copywriters; Carolyn Tubekis, art director, designer, Mark Ingraham, art director. 

Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com

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