Howard Bragman on His Early Days in Advertising

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.

Related Articles

A controversial theory claims past, present, and future exist at the same time

Our experience of time may be blinding us to its true nature, say scientists.

Back to the Future.
Surprising Science
  • Time may not be passing at all, says the Block Universe Theory.
  • Time travel may be possible.
  • Your perception of time is likely relative to you and limited.
Keep reading Show less

Six disastrous encounters with the world’s most hostile uncontacted tribe

From questionable shipwrecks to outright attacks, they clearly don't want to be bothered.

Culture & Religion
  • Many have tried to contact the Sentinelese, to write about them, or otherwise.
  • But the inhabitants of the 23 square mile island in the Bay of Bengal don't want anything to do with the outside world.
  • Their numbers are unknown, but either 40 or 500 remain.
Keep reading Show less