U.S. Hispanic Market Pioneer Ernest Bromley Is Closing Shop

Publicis-Owned Agency's General Mills Business Is Likely to Go to Saatchi and McCann's Hispanic Shops

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U.S. Hispanic ad agency Bromley Communications is closing its doors after 34 years, and Chairman-CEO Ernest Bromley is retiring from the agency business—and planning his next step, a PhD in consumer behavior.

Ernest Bromley
Ernest Bromley

Mr. Bromley said he broke the news to the agency's 40 employees yesterday, and that clients have been informed and some could move to other Publicis Groupe agencies. (Publicis Groupe increased its stake in Bromley to 100% in 2012).

"My desire to go back to school and get a PhD has been in my head since I got my MBA in 1980," said Mr. Bromley, who is 64. "I'm not going away. I'll be very much in the cross-cultural multicultural space, from an academic bully pulpit. Now I can do the research clients won't pay for. I started in research, and that's how I want to end my career. I have a unique opportunity to do it now. Unfortunately I had to close the agency."

Mr. Bromley was one of the early leaders in the U.S. Hispanic market, and a decade ago Bromley Communications was the biggest Hispanic agency. The shop is now No. 22 in the top Hispanic agency ranking in Ad Age's Hispanic Fact Pack, with estimated revenue of less than $10 million.

Much of the agency's revenue comes from a long list of General Mills brands, including Cheerios, Fiber One, Yoplait, Pillsbury, Totino's, Pillsbury and Progresso. Agency execs said many of those brands are likely to go to Casanova Pendrill and Conill, the Hispanic shops for General Mills' main creative agencies, Interpublic's McCann Erickson and Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi. One agency exec said that independent shop Grupo Gallegos might also get one of the General Mills brands.

Bromley also handles Western Union, and just broke a campaign for its money transfers to Cuba in a series of TV spots shot in Cuba. It's unclear where two other accounts, the NBA and car rental company Enterprise Holdings, will land.

Mr. Bromley said that when he broke the news to staffers yesterday "they were surprised a little bit" but that "old-timers" were aware of his long-term plans, although maybe not the timing.

Mr. Bromley came to the U.S. as a young man, after growing up in Mexico City with a Canadian father and a Puerto Rican mother. In 1981, he started one of the early U.S. Hispanic shops, Sosa & Associates, with Lionel Sosa. By 1994, the agency was Sosa, Bromley, Aguilar, Noble & Associates, and was part of the MacManus Group holding company. After several more partners and mergers, it morphed into Bromley Communications in 2000 under the Bcom3 holding company, which was purchased by Publicis Groupe in 2002.

He said the Bromley agency will close sometime between the end of July and late August, depending on how long it takes to wind things up, with a party on Aug. 1 when he'll invite all Bromley's alumni to celebrate the company's legacy.

"It's not like we're bankrupt or anything," he said. "We don't want to leave any clients in the lurch."

Mr. Bromley is full of plans, academic and otherwise. An avid cyclist, he'll compete in the Vuelta Puerto Rico, a 375-mile, three-day bike race that passes through his mother's hometown in Puerto Rico. And he'll take his 95-year-old father fishing, another of his interests, along with wine collecting. He and his wife are also caring for her parents.

"I just had to do something for me, and for my family," he said. "I've lived on an airplane for 34 years."

He expects to start his PhD coursework next year followed by a dissertation, and is planning to narrow his choices down to a few top schools and go visit them to discuss admission.

"I'm used to pitching things," he said.

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