If advertising has a patron saint, it is Bernie Flanagan. Whenever the welfare of advertising was at stake, he was on the front line. As chairman of the American Advertising Federation in 1987, he was instrumental in helping defeat advertising tax initiatives at the state and national level. His famous "ax the tax" rally captured national attention and was featured on the NBC Nightly News. Of course, the tax was rescinded.
Flanagan spent most of his career with Dow Jones, joining the company in 1955 as an advertising sales representative and climbing the ranks to become corporate vice president, marketing and advertising in 1990. He also served as publisher of Barron’s and president of the Magazine Group in the late 1970s. Bernie has been a tireless leader, volunteer and primary supporter of industry groups like the AAF, the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
Flanagan has served for many years on the board of the Advertising Club of New York and the AAF. He also generously offers his time and vast experience to advertising clubs. He developed a program from his Creative Leaders Series, a campaign he initiated for The Wall Street Journal, called "A Meeting of Minds," which he brings to clubs across the country. He was one of the first supporters of the AAF’s Advertising Hall of Achievement, and has served as judge for many years.
He eloquently argued the benefits of advertising in the midst of recessions. He persuaded Dow Jones to embark upon a corporate image campaign and encouraged other advertisers to do likewise. From this belief in the power of branding came the corporate leaders series of ads he initiated at The Wall Street Journal, which focused on the value of corporate advertising. And he was the first chairman of Ad Day New York, created to convince New York politicians of the value of advertising to the city.
Flanagan is also proof that creativity is not the sole province of ad agencies. He was responsible for innovations like the regional editions and special issues’ sections of The Wall Street Journal. His Creative Leaders Series at the newspaper was a tribute to the ad business that extolled the virtues of industry creativity.
On a lighter note, Flanagan, along with six other executives at a meeting, decided that camaraderie and
fellowship were sadly missing from the fast-paced advertising industry of the 1990s. In 1993, they founded the Chumley Society and elected Flanagan the first Imperial Gherkin. The group meets irregularly at Chumley’s in Greenwich Village, an old-time speakeasy. Today, the Society numbers about 1,000 members, with chapters in Los Angeles and Detroit.
The New York chapter of the Business Marketing Association named him publication executive of the year in 1989 and again in 1993. He is also the recipient of the Silver Medal and the Bart Cummings Gold Medal.