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.
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