Howard Bragman on His Early Days in Advertising
Howard Bragman is Hollywood's premier public relations professional. He founded Bragman Nyman Cafarelli Public Relations and Marketing (BNC) in 1989. The Company is one of the most respected public relations agencies in the United States with billings of more than $15 million annually and a blue-chip client roster of celebrities, consumer products and events. In 2001 BNC was purchased by Interpublic, one of the world's largest holding companies for marketing companies. He founded a strategic media and public relations agency, Fifteen Minutes, in 2005.
Bragman is a nationally respected crisis counselor and has provided litigation support for a significant number of high-profile cases and individuals. These include: Joseph Steffan who was kicked out of the US Naval Academy for his sexual orientation; The Lewinsky Family; and Sharon Smith in Smith v. Knoller, a high-profile civil rights and justice trial involving a tragic dog mauling death. Bragman was also an adjunct professor of Public Relations at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communications for six years and has been honored for his teaching excellence by his students and the University. Bragman has written articles for publications including: Advertising Age, The Advocate, The Los Angeles Times and Playboy. A frequent television guest on issues involving the entertainment industry and popular culture, Bragman has appeared on local and network news programs more than 100 times. He has been a featured speaker for numerous groups including The US Conference of Mayors; The UJC Youth Congress; and many others. He is also the author of Where's My Fifteen Minutes?: Get Your Company, Your Cause, or Yourself the Recognition You Deserve.
Bragman: I ended up moving to Chicago and I was interviewed with ad agencies and they said, “Were you the suit or are you the [creator]?” And these were the heydays, the madmen years in advertising. And I said, “Well, I can do both.” I had worked in a small ad agency in Ann Harbor and I said, “I met with clients; I wrote ads; I designed ads. I can do it all.” They’re like, “No, you can’t. Not in a big agency. You have to choose.” Well, I ended up getting a job with a magazine, this little society magazine in Chicago. It was a pretty horrible magazine, but it was a good experience, because it was a tiny magazine and I got to do everything. From lay out the magazine to write stories, assign and edit stories. And after about a year, they wanted to close the magazine. They were losing their shirts and they said, “We’re going to close the magazine. What are you going to do?” And I said, “I’m going to go into PR.” All these people pitched me stories, they’ve never read the magazine. There’s got to be some confidence out there in this world. So I got a job with a little PR [firm] in Chicago and, fortunately, they signed Anheuser-Busch or Budweiser, it’s a client right after I got there. And I spent three years really getting an MBA in PR on Anheuser-Busch’s [dime] because they’re a great company. A lot of different brands, a lot of different celebrities, and I learned how to do just about everything. And after my 3rd year at the Rice Lake Snowmobile Races, when it was 25 degrees below zero in Wisconsin, I said, “Okay, I’ve learned what I’m learning here,” and I wanted a bigger arena, and I went to work for Burson-Marsteller, the international PR firm. And I was there about three years in Chicago. And one cold November day, more than 20 years ago, they said, “Would you like to move to LA?” And I said, “Oh, yeah. I’m out of here.” And Burson-Marsteller is a great company, but LA is a very entrepreneurial market. It’s a very relationship market. It’s not like people will go, “Oh, you work for Burson-Marsteller….” For the most part, they didn’t even know who Burson-Marsteller was necessarily. So in ‘89, I started my own firm in the back of my house and I grew that to a company called Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, which today is the largest entertainment PR firm in the world. I sold the company in 2001, took some time off. And in 2005, I started my current company, Fifteen Minutes, which does a lot of things my other company does, but in a very boutique format. I have two offices, about 20 people, and we represent celebrities, corporations, the business of Hollywood, a lot of crises, a lot of media training, a very eclectic mix of clients. In that time, I taught PR for six years at USC, so I learned… everybody always said PR is too esoteric. It’s hard to teach. Well, I had to learn that discipline. I had to learn how to explain what I do this esoteric thing. And in the course of that, it really made me want to write a book, and that was the germ of “Where’s My Fifteen Minutes?”
Howard Bragman was indeed capable of doing it all at a Chicago ad firm.
The 'People Map of the United States' zooms in on America's obsession with celebrity
- Replace city names with those of their most famous residents
- And you get a peculiar map of America's obsession with celebrity
- If you seek fame, become an actor, musician or athlete rather than a politician, entrepreneur or scientist
Chicagoland is Obamaland
Image: The Pudding
Chicagoland's celebrity constellation: dominated by Barack, but with plenty of room for the Belushis, Brandos and Capones of this world.
Seen from among the satellites, this map of the United States is populated by a remarkably diverse bunch of athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs and other persons of repute (and disrepute).
The multitalented Dwayne Johnson, boxing legend Muhammad Ali and Apple co-founder Steve Jobs dominate the West Coast. Right down the middle, we find actors Chris Pratt and Jason Momoa, singer Elvis Presley and basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. The East Coast crew include wrestler John Cena, whistle-blower Edward Snowden, mass murderer Ted Bundy… and Dwayne Johnson, again.
The Rock pops up in both Hayward, CA and Southwest Ranches, FL, but he's not the only one to appear twice on the map. Wild West legend Wyatt Earp makes an appearance in both Deadwood, SD and Dodge City, KS.
How is that? This 'People's Map of the United States' replaces the names of cities with those of "their most Wikipedia'ed resident: people born in, lived in, or connected to a place."
‘Cincinnati, Birthplace of Charles Manson'
Image: The Pudding
Keys to the city, or lock 'em up and throw away the key? A city's most famous sons and daughters of a city aren't always the most favoured ones.
That definition allows people to appear in more than one locality. Dwayne Johnson was born in Hayward, has one of his houses in Southwest Ranches, and is famous enough to be the 'most Wikipedia'ed resident' for both localities.
Wyatt Earp was born in Monmouth, IL, but his reputation is closely associated with both Deadwood and Dodge City – although he's most famous for the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, which took place in Tombstone, AZ. And yes, if you zoom in on that town in southern Arizona, there's Mr Earp again.
The data for this map was collected via the Wikipedia API (application programming interface) from the English-language Wikipedia for the period from July 2015 to May 2019.
The thousands of 'Notable People' sections in Wikipedia entries for cities and other places in the U.S. were scrubbed for the person with the most pageviews. No distinction was made between places of birth, residence or death. As the developers note, "people can 'be from' multiple places".
Pageviews are an impartial indicator of interest – it doesn't matter whether your claim to fame is horrific or honorific. As a result, this map provides a non-judgmental overview of America's obsession with celebrity.
Royals and (other) mortals
Image: The Pudding
There's also a UK version of the People Map – filled with last names like Neeson, Sheeran, Darwin and Churchill – and a few first names of monarchs.
Celebrity, it is often argued, is our age's version of the Greek pantheon, populated by dozens of major gods and thousands of minor ones, each an example of behaviours to emulate or avoid. This constellation of stars, famous and infamous, is more than a map of names. It's a window into America's soul.
But don't let that put you off. Zooming in on the map is entertaining enough: celebrities floating around in the ether are suddenly tied down to a pedestrian level, and to real geography. And it's fun to see the famous and the infamous rub shoulders, as it were.
Barack Obama owns Chicago, but the suburbs to the west of the city are dotted with a panoply of personalities, ranging from the criminal (Al Capone, Cicero) and the musical (John Prine, Maywood) to figures literary (Jonathan Franzen, Western Springs) and painterly (Ivan Albright, Warrenville), actorial (Harrison Ford, Park Ridge) and political (Eugene V. Debs, Elmhurst).
Freaks and angels
The People Map of the U.S. was inspired by the U.S.A. Song Map, substituting song titles for place names.
It would be interesting to compare 'the most Wikipedia'ed' sons and daughters of America's cities with the ones advertised at the city limits. When you're entering Aberdeen, WA, a sign invites you to 'come as you are', in homage to its most famous son, Kurt Cobain. It's a safe bet that Indian Hill, OH will make sure you know Neil Armstrong, first man on the moon, was one of theirs. But it's highly unlikely that Cincinnati, a bit further south, will make any noise about Charles Manson, local boy done bad.
Inevitably, the map also reveals some bitterly ironic neighbours, such as Ishi, the last of the Yahi tribe, captured near Oroville, CA. He died in 1916 as "the last wild Indian in North America". The most 'pageviewed' resident of nearby Colusa, CA is Byron de la Beckwith, Jr., the white supremacist convicted for the murder of Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers.
As a sampling of America's interests, this map teaches that those aiming for fame would do better to become actors, musicians or athletes rather than politicians, entrepreneurs or scientists. But also that celebrity is not limited to the big city lights of LA or New York. Even in deepest Dakota or flattest Kansas, the footlights of fame will find you. Whether that's good or bad? The pageviews don't judge...
Average waiting time for hitchhikers in Ireland: Less than 30 minutes. In southern Spain: More than 90 minutes.
- A popular means of transportation from the 1920s to the 1980s, hitchhiking has since fallen in disrepute.
- However, as this map shows, thumbing a ride still occupies a thriving niche – if at great geographic variance.
- In some countries and areas, you'll be off the street in no time. In other places, it's much harder to thumb your way from A to B.
Technology may soon grant us immortality, in a sense. Here's how.
- Through the Connectome Project we may soon be able to map the pathways of the entire human brain, including memories, and create computer programs that evoke the person the digitization is stemmed from.
- We age because errors build up in our cells — mitochondria to be exact.
- With CRISPR technology we may soon be able to edit out errors that build up as we age, and extend the human lifespan.
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