It’s not uncommon for the Church of Scientology to spark debate with its penchant for advertising. Take, for instance, the furor that ensued after The Atlantic published – and then removed — a sponsored article touting the church’s recent accomplishments. On Sunday night, more ad drama unfolded when the controversial religious sect took out a 60-second ad at the tune of $8 million, airing the spot in major markets during Super Bowl XLVII.

Did the Church of Scientology Steal Its Super Bowl Ad Concept From This 1997 Apple Commercial?

Photo Credit: Church of Scientology/YouTube

While some viewers were surprised to see the elongated ad, entitled “Knowledge,” gracing their television screens, this isn’t the first time that the church’s spot has been shown on television. According to the Daily Mail, a shorter, 30-second version aired in select cities during the AFC Championship a few weeks back.

Featuring attractive actors and symbols of knowledge (i.e. books and a library), the ad creates the idea that those who embrace the Church of Scientology’s teachings are truly seeking to enhance their brain capacity. The overall aim was clearly to proselytize — and on a day that offers up the largest-scale television audience of the year.

Did the Church of Scientology Steal Its Super Bowl Ad Concept From This 1997 Apple Commercial?

Photo Credit: Church of Scientology/YouTube

“To the curious, the inquisitive, the seekers of knowledge. To the ones who just want to know about life, about the universe, about yourself,” a narrator’s voice proclaims in the video. “‘Not cute questions, big questions, one’s that matter,” the unseen narrator says. “To the rebels, the artists, the free thinkers and the innovators who care less about labels and more about truth — who believe non-conformity is more than a bumper sticker.”

Watch the one-minute ad, below:

It didn’t take long for social media to light up with criticism of the ad, poking fun at the Church of Scientology and deriding its attempt to advertise during America’s most popular football game. The Daily Mail recaps the response:

If your church has an ad during the Super Bowl it’s stops becoming a religion and starts becoming a punch line‘  Kevin Dent, chief operating officer of the mobile video game network P4RC wrote on Twitter after the spot ran.

Hey America, if The Church of Scientology has enough cash to advertise during the Super Bowl, maybe it shouldn’t be tax exempt,’ IGN.com editor Scott Lowe wrote on the site.

The general consensus on social media was one of confusion, amusement, and wry entertainment. One Twitter user, @JoshCharles, wrote: ‘good game but so-so commercial (sic)… like the bud light stevie wonder and cars. Com wolf one. But scientology? What?’

But everyday viewers weren’t the only ones poking fun at the spot. Bill Maher wrote: ‘I saw an ad for Scientology, I joined, and then Destiny’s Child reunited! That s*** works – thanks, Tom Cruise!’

Did the Church of Scientology Steal Its Super Bowl Ad Concept From This 1997 Apple Commercial?

Critics also compared the ad to a spot that was created by Apple back in 1997 called, “Think Different.” In fact, some claimed that the contents are eerily similar. In the Apple clip, a male narrator makes claims about individuals who have impacted society and changed the course of human history. Images of these people are presented as the ad (also one-minute in length) progresses.

“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble makers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently,” the Apple ad begins. “They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them, because they change things.”

See the ad here:

What do you think — did the Church of Scientology model their ad after Apple’s or is it a coincidence? Take the poll, below:

(H/T: Daily Mail)

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