"In the end run, the aim is always to gain users," explains Gustavo Entrala, a director of 101, the Madrid-based digital image agency behind interactive advertising campaigns for whisky but also the Vatican.
His latest project, Pope Bendict XVI's personal Twitter account (@pontifex), began on Monday and is already followed by over half a million people, although the pontiff has yet to write anything.
"We don't know anything about theology, but we do about image and its interactive use on the internet," Entrala says. His first trip to Rome two years ago was to present a three-day course on crisis management, imparting knowledge of how to use digital tools and a torrent of ideas on how to improve the pope's image.
"They called us again six months later," Entrala recalls. "We set up the portal News.va, which groups together the different media of the Vatican: television, newspapers and newswires. We convinced them to upload news on the social media networks, and soon afterward they realized they had more traffic on Facebook than the portal."
From then on, 101 and the Vatican set up a permanent collaboration. In June 2011, the pope sent his first tweet. "I had to bring an iPad with me from Madrid to show him how it worked," Entrala recalls. The next thing was to create the Vatican's own channel on Twitter.
Entrala sees no difference between promoting a brand on the internet or promoting an institution. "The Church is one of the best brands in history. It has been on the go for 21 centuries; it has a clear leader and is universal. What more can you ask for," he says.
The next task at hand is to create an application that will make its debut with the Vatican's traditional Christmas greeting. "It will be available on iPhone, Android and also tablets. This will be a big step forward for Catholics," Entrala says.