Bruce Silverman is one of America’s best known and well respected marketing-communication and branding experts. A broad-view strategist, he served as executive creative director at four of America’s largest advertising agencies, as President/CEO of the principal U.S. unit of the world’s largest media planning and buying shop, as co-producer of three Broadway musicals, as the author of a book on how to write complaint letters, as instructor at two major universities, as a forensic expert witness, and as co-founder of three successful media-related companies. He has lived and worked in New York, London, Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles, and his latest venture has offices in Beijing and Shanghai.
A long-time board member of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, his 38-year advertising agency career included C-level positions at Ogilvy & Mather, Bozell, BBDO/West, Asher/Gould and Wong Doody. He was the creative mind behind “Don’t Leave Home Without It” for American Express, “Bullish on America” (Merrill Lynch), “Something Special in the Air” (American Airlines), “Not made in ‘Nooo Yawk Ciddy” (Pace Picante), “The Shell Answer Man” and a dozen other award winning campaigns for such clients as IBM, Hershey’s, International Paper, Baskin-Robbins, Coldwell Banker, Sizzler, the California Department of Health Services, Suzuki, Pabst, Sanyo, Mattel, Greyhound, Armour, Zale’s and Post.
As President/CEO of the Initiative Partners division of Interpublic’s giant ($22 billion in annual billings) Initiative Worldwide, he supervised media planning and buying for Disney, Sega, Carl’s Jr., Taco Bell, Albertson’s, Acura, Kia, Chevrolet, Bally’s Health & Fitness, Six Flags, America Online, the United States Navy and Yahoo!
Bruce established his consulting practice in 2005. In addition to advising a number of global, U.S. and Chinese companies and operating his portfolio of media-related companies, he is a member of the Board of Directors of Triton Media, Inc., Newsletters for Hire, Inc., 24/6, Inc. and Dynasty Visual Effects and Animation LLC.
A graduate of Adelphi University in New York, Bruce is a confirmed theater and arts junkie, a world traveler and an over-the-top Lakers fan. Bruce was a founding board member of the Los Angeles Children’s Museum and later served as Chairman of the Resource Development Committee of the Starbright Foundation. He is an active member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, the Dean’s Advisory Board of UCLA Extension and is a director of the Los Angeles chapter of the Forensic Expert Witness Association.
What are you working on right now?
Bruce’s latest venture is Dynasty Visual Effects and Animation LLC, a company that offers a cost-effective way for advertisers and television stations and networks to produce “effects heavy” and fully animated commercials and promos at very low cost by utilizing production resources in China. In addition, he continues to be very involved with his roster of consulting clients.
3 Trends that excite you?
1. The ability to reach consumers in very up-close-and-personal ways via wireless and social media.
2. The adoption of new technologies by terrestrial radio networks and stations, which offer advertisers multiple ways to reach and interact with loyal listeners.
3. The “inching closer and closer” of cable and satellite operators to offer one-to-one messaging.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I still do it the old-fashioned way. I write and write and write and write and edit and edit and edit and edit. and then try stuff out on my wife, friends and relatives. I was taught a long time ago that there is nearly always more than one way to effectively execute against a strategy, so I try to come up with as many ideas as I can. and then focus on in on the one or two ideas that are most involving.
What is one mistake that you made, and what did you learn from it?
I left a great agency for a good one because they doubled my salary. I should have stuck with the great one; jobs like that are very rare. You’re much more likely to do your best work when you’re surrounded by huge talents. I made a lot of money at “good agencies,” but I enjoyed myself much more, did my best work and felt better about myself at the great one.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Find a way to become involved with China.
What is one tool, product, service, piece of software, or book that has helped you bring ideas to life?
I got into advertising many years ago after reading David Ogilvy’s book, Confessions of an Advertising Man. It made me desperate to work and learn from him, and I was fortunate enough to spend my first 13 years in the business at O&M. As marketing communications moves ever more towards a Direct Response model, virtually all of David’s teachings are proving to be timeless. Confessions is pretty hard to find these days, but Ogilvy on Advertising, his second book, is still in print and contains great lessons for just about everyone working in advertising today, which is pretty amazing, considering that it was written well before the word “internet” existed!
Is the traditional advertising agency business model still valid?
No. Most agencies carry too much baggage and want to do the kind of work they like to do rather than the work that needs to be done. And most agencies are still siloed (even if they say they’re not); a deadly recipe in the age of integrated communications.
Do you have a philosophy of life?
I try to follow the advice contained in the old Scottish proverb, “Be happy in your work for you’re a long time dead.”