The situation called for drastic action: The Alexian Brothers, a Roman Catholic religious order that goes back to the Middle Ages, has only 37 members worldwide, with a median age of 65.
With survival of the order at stake, the congregation vowed to do whatever was necessary to attract recruits to its Elk Grove Village, Ill., headquarters - including watching a Madonna video.
For the brothers, immersion in "Material Girl," as well as clips from "Mad Max," "The Grifters" and other Hollywood fare, is not usually part of the job description. But they felt it was essential to select the right director to be the creative force behind their new national TV campaign, which observers say is the first ever for a religious order.
"It's a different era … and in an electronic age, you have to meet people where they're at," said Brother Danny McCormick, who is featured in one of the commercials, which started airing in May on cable networks ranging from MSNBC to the Golf Channel.
Ultimately, the Alexians settled on an advertising agency known for its Bud Light commercials. They liked the way the creative folks portrayed real people, said Patrick Gaughan, who handles vocations recruitment.
...Already, the blitz has elicited more than 75 responses - the usual yield for three months. Not only has the traffic been heavier, but the caliber of candidates is higher than the usual inquiries, said Gaughan.