Michael Nyman has great expectations

Michael Nyman ’86 was at the top of his game. He successfully merged two prominent marketing and communication firms into the nation’s leading culture and entertainment agency. He was working with a group of first-rate clients and, in his words, “life was good.”

Then Nyman’s youngest child, Matt, received a letter from USC asking him to join the football team. Nyman knew the letter of acceptance into the university would soon follow. It wasn’t as if the soon-to-be empty nest was unexpected, but because it happened so fast — and so early in the year — it got him thinking. With added time on his hands, what more could he do?

This opened the door to refocus, and thus Acceleration was born.

Nyman, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree from the School of Journalism in sports information, envisioned an advertising and integrated marketing start-up model, without the need to take an older, established company and turn it upside down to refresh. In this “era of convergence,” he steered away from the routine that he sees a lot of firms in the industry falling back on: shampoo, rinse, repeat.

“If you have a product, for example, soda, that can be consumed by a 10-year-old and an 80-year-old, you now need to come up with ideas on how to market that to each of these audiences differently,” Nyman said. “Five, 10 years ago you could have purchased an ad on a prime-time show, knowing that you’d capture a great percentage of the marketplace. Now everything is aggregated and hypersegmented.”

Nyman’s new business model brings together a collection of specialized mid-size agencies, with expertise in areas such as e-commerce, digital media and search engine optimization, to meet client needs where they are now — and where they might be in the future.

“Clients can’t just have great ideas, they need to be able to get their customers into these distinct markets,” Nyman said. “And, right now, there’s no one platform that’s going to get them there.”

Being open to opportunity is not new for Nyman.

Starting his own PR firm, Bragman Nyman Cafarelli, in the ’90s, Nyman had the momentum and the foresight to stay ahead of ever-changing market dynamics and build close connections between brands and their customers.

In 2009, Nyman was asked to head the merger that combined BNC’s established brand marketing and communication leadership with PMK, a talent powerhouse. PMK*BNC doubled the size of the company in five years and profitability was up five-fold. He served as co-chairman and CEO for the next eight years.

“That, to me, was the ultimate act of merging and delivering,” he said. “It’s my most defining success to date.”

Many awards and recognitions followed, including his being named to The Holmes Report’s inaugural Innovator 25 list for positioning the company as experts in pop culture.

As he begins his new adventure with Acceleration, he reflects on one of the books that influenced his way of thinking about business.

In Only the Paranoid Survive, Andrew Grove, founder and former CEO of Intel, explains the importance of recognizing the difference between noise and static.

“Static,” Nyman explained, “is a little moment in time where something seems off, something unusual may be happening. Noise, on the other hand, is a technological or business transformation that will affect consumer habits and behaviors. Noise can be life-changing if ignored.”

That being said, Nyman concluded, “I’ve definitely tried throughout my career to stay ahead of the noise.” 

A member of the USC Annenberg Board of Councilors, Michael Nyman established the PMK*BNC Think Tank partnership at USC Annenberg. He is often on campus talking to students as part of various alumni lecture series.