Renegades collide: Father Bob and Ferrier talk evangelising

By AdNews | 11 August 2017
Father Bob & Adam Ferrier

Bringing a Catholic Priest and an advertising strategist with a background in consumer psychology together to speak at an event might be considered bizarre.

And it was – it was slightly chaotic, but a novel change of tone and pace from the rest of the Summit.

South Melbourne’s infamous Father Bob Maguire and Thinkerbell’s Adam Ferrier (who is rumoured to be flirting with selling his fledgling agency to PwC right now) came together in conversation to close last week’s AdNews Media + Marketing Summit in Melbourne.

The premise was clear: what can both men, reputed to be renegades by their peers, teach us about marketing? What are their guiding principles for spreading a ‘message’? Both have hard tasks at hands: ‘consumers’ are wary of brands and the besmirched Catholic Church. Neither party has any easy run of it.

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Father Bob said that in his line of work, marketing is called ‘evangelising’. However, he warned that even the “best stories can be told in the worse possible way.” And, noting the trouble his Church is facing, he also made a pointed reference to being “judged on what you do, and not on what you say”.


Brands face the same. Ferrier was in agreement that a brand’s ability to attract customer less depends on strategy, but more on the value of the product itself, and is judged less on what it says, but more on what it achieves.

Ferrier also added that there appear to be two streams dominating the brand landscape: those who run with the Ehrenberg Bass/Ritson approach, and those who are more concerned with letting the product talk for itself.

However, he warned that, “Most people do not want advertising in their lives. Therefore, trying to win over hearts is over-rated. What you need to do is become constantly present.”

Both men are known to court controversy when it matters, however, Ferrier admitted that when he courts that attention, he becomes “anxious,” “when I f*ck up,” he said, “I don’t like it. It’s not a process I enjoy”.

Father Bob called upon the audience to “market the one thing the human race needs right now – mutual aid – that is, both sides of the fence – rich and poor – to help each other.”

Rather poignantly, he noted that he believes religion should be “parked in a cave for the next 100 years” and give way to a new type of spirituality.

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On Monday 4th September at the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne, the Father Bob Foundation will celebrate Father Bob’s 83rd birthday, throwing him a party to both honour him and his achievements, and to kick off a fundraising campaign to ‘find a home for those who home the homeless’. Mike Brady is the ‘Entertainment Director”, and will be performing on the night. You can purchase tickets here.

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