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Advertising for God
U. S. A. | NEWS | NEWS
Regnum Christi member Bob Trussell’s work with Catholics Come Home® has allowed him to put his talents at the service of evangelization.

catholics come home screen shot
Catholics Come Home multimedia advertising has brought hundreds of thousands of people back to the Catholic Church.

This is the second article in a series entitled Inside the Apostle.

December 9, 2011. Bob Trussell had a wife and two small children when he went broke. A recession had hit the Kentucky racehorse business, which was his main source of livelihood, and he—along with many others—was left scrambling for alternatives.

A cradle Catholic, Trussell had started going to Mass again at age 30, after a ten year hiatus following his graduation from Marquette University. Now 40 and faced with an uncertain future, he began going to daily Mass every morning, praying in earnest for guidance.

“I prayed and told God that I didn’t know what to do and I was open to suggestions,” he said simply.

Shortly after that, Trussell happened to meet a Swedish man who was working on a new line of mattresses based on a NASA-developed material that distributed weight evenly. Recognizing the commercial potential of the mattresses, Trussell obtained the US distribution rights and in 1992 launched the Tempur-Pedic company, not without some struggles and sleepless nights.

Twelve years later, he was the CEO of a multi-million dollar company on the New York Stock Exchange. The company currently makes over a billion dollars in sales every year.

“I thought, ‘That’s a heck of an answer to a prayer!’” he recalled.

And out of gratitude to God for a splendidly answered prayer, he began a new chapter in life: the phase of “giving back.”

Advertising as evangelization

God gives each person certain gifts and talents, and professional experience acquired over the years is one of those talents. Trussell soon realized that the creative advertising he had used to make Tempur-Pedic flourish could also be put at the service of the Catholic Church.

 “I learned a lot about the power of the media and about how you can influence people’s behavior and purchasing
robert trussell
Robert Trussell, Chairman of the Board for Catholics Come Home.
through advertising,” he said. “And I realized that advertising done the right way is the same thing as preaching: you’re just putting a certain point of view out there in front of people in an attractive way.”

Armed with that insight, he began looking for others to collaborate with him on an ambitious but very needed ideal: advertising at the service of evangelization, and at the service of the Church.

As if on cue, he met a man named Tom Peterson, an experienced and highly gifted marketing professional who had launched Virtue Media, a pro-life advertising agency that was saving thousands of babies’ lives every year.

“I met Tom and said, ‘I’m in.” said Trussell.

Trussell was eager to expand the pro-life media outreach to general Christian and Catholic advertising. When he proposed the idea, he found that Peterson was already a step ahead of him; pilot ads Peterson had just launched in collaboration with the diocese of Phoenix had brought 3,000 people back to the Catholic Church over the space of a three-week ad campaign.

Following the success of that first campaign, Trussell got involved in building up the support for a new non-profit dedicated exclusively to advertising to fallen-away Catholics, launching Catholics Come Home along with Tom Peterson, its founder and president. Trussell and Peterson’s marketing team produced their first campaign in Lent of 2008 with outstanding results: according to the diocese’s count, 92,000 people returned to the Catholic Church from the three-week campaign.

Serving the dioceses

In his particular role as Chairman of the Board, Trussell is focused especially on finding ways to fund Catholics Come Home on a national scale. Unexpectedly, one of the most effective sources of funding happened on its own, as bishops began talking to each other about the ministry and the results of its advertising campaigns. The bishops were so interested in getting the ad campaigns in their own dioceses that they began fundraising among their own parishioners to cover the ad costs.

“We started getting phone calls from bishops in different places and in different countries. We now have run the ads in over 33 dioceses, helping to increase Mass attendance an average of 10% in partner dioceses. The dioceses have received thousands of parishioner contributions in individual areas , and they have paid for each campaign locally. So we’ve been able to fund the campaigns one at a time,” said Trussell.

In addition, the Catholic Come Home® team has done its own fundraising, gathering over 3 million for an upcoming national ad campaign airing from December 16 through January 9th. Over 400 airings will be seen on CBS, NBC, Univision, FoxNews, CNN, TNT, TBS, major College Football Bowl games on Dish network, and other prime-time and major network spots.  More prayers and funding could help to make this the “largest family reunion in Church history” said Tom Peterson, Founder and President of Catholics Come Home®. 

So far, in the first dozen or so Catholics Come Home® campaigns, the dioceses have  estimated that over 300,000 people have come back to the Church through the ads. The goal for the upcoming national ad campaigns is to bring 1 million souls back to the Church, but with the understanding that even one soul is priceless in God’s eyes. Once the ads are aired frequently in the U.S.,CCH plans to look at other countries: Mexico, Australia, Canada, and especially Europe.

In a recent trip to Rome, Peterson and Trussell visited with bishops and cardinals at the Vatican to share their plans and the results of their work so far. Their response was positive and supportive, although they also said that the United States is the “best starting place” for projects of this kind, and that if it worked in the United States, it could work in other places—but that if it did not work in the US, it would be hard to make it work in Europe.

Meanwhile, the United States has roughly 66 million Catholics, about two-thirds of whom are not practicing their faith. That makes about 44 million lost sheep to bring home to the fold—a sizeable mission indeed.

An entrepreneur at the service of evangelization

Although Trussell’s main role was to help raise support and offer guidance for Catholics Come Home® , fundraising is not his main strength. 

“I realized I was not very good at raising money and I didn’t like it much either,” he said candidly. “But what I can do is launch businesses. I’m an entrepreneur start-up guy.”

Talented individuals with ideas for new businesses began walking into his life, and he began helping them get their businesses off the ground. Right now, Trussell is integrally involved in three such businesses. When and if those businesses succeed, he plans to use the proceeds to fund Catholics Come Home®, as well as a range of Catholic charities, the Focus campus ministry group, and Matthew Kelly’s outreach to confirmation-aged teens. He is also deeply involved with 1380 Real Life Catholic Radio in Lexington, KY.

Through all of these outreach projects, his main goal is evangelization.

“I feel very called to evangelize. Every Sunday, we’re told to go out and teach all nations, and it seems like we don’t do a very good job. I think the reason is that people don’t really know what to do. Catholics tend to be private anyway about their faith,” he said.

In the face of that reality, Catholics Come Home® is an opportunity for everyone to get involved in the common mission of evangelization.

“It’s a great way for people to evangelize, because you’re supporting direct Catholic evangelization with high quality messages that people respond to,” he said.

And ad campaigns are just the beginning. The New Evangelization allows for a wide range of creative responses to the challenge of today’s culture.

“There is a great opportunity to evangelize through the new media, which John Paul II wanted us to do with his call for a New Evangelization. This is all part of that,” he said. “I think that television and Internet and radio can be used in a very good way; we can use these things to turn the culture around.”

To learn more about Catholics Come Home and to support the first ever national campaign for Catholic Evangelization, visit the web site at www.catholicscomehome.org or www.CatolicosRegresen.org.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2011-12-08


 
 


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Sponsored by the congregation of the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement, Copyright 2011, Legion of Christ. All rights reserved.


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