Forty Under 40
David Schwab was working his way into the nexus of sports, marketing and national politics at Beltway sports insider Charlie Brotman’s D.C. public relations shop in 1999 when Patrick McGee and Phil de Picciotto attended an event at a Washington steakhouse that Schwab had arranged on behalf of a client none of them can now recall.
They do recall the impression Schwab made. So much so that McGee and de Picciotto, then both working for Advantage, pushed their steaks aside and talked to Schwab about bringing his PR, promotion and celebrity marketing savvy to their agency.
“Right away, we saw a unique combination of expertise, creativity, dedication and reliability,” de Picciotto said. “We didn’t have a position, so we created one.”
Three weeks later, Schwab was working for Advantage. On Schwab’s first day, the company rebranded to Octagon, in deference to its purchase by IPG. Things got easier, and after five years or so working with the likes of Anna Kournikova and John Elway, Schwab saw another opportunity.
“We wanted to work only with brands and guide them through the maze,” Schwab said.
So, instead of pushing Octagon clients, Schwab and the newly christened First Call were now working with his former competitors, such as CAA, ICM and IMG, trying to find celebrity matches for brands.
Since 2005, the business has grown to where it now fashions more than 250 brand/celebrity partnerships annually. They can be anything from a TV ad, like Peyton Manning’s many for MasterCard, or John Stamos’ recent Super Bowl spot for Dannon’s Oikos yogurt, to appearances, meet-and-greets, PR tours and social media campaigns.
About half of First Call’s business is sports. Whether it’s an athlete, actress, dermatologist or attorney, Schwab has booked all of them.
“We forget the word ‘celebrity,’” he said. “It’s about who’s the best influencer. We get just as excited about doing a small program with Kelly Osbourne for Memorial Sloan-Kettering as we do finding the right person for a Super Bowl ad. It’s just about finding the key that fits.”
Title: Vice president, managing director - First Call
Education: B.S., marketing, Miami University (Ohio), 1994
Family: Wife, Erika; children Kate (8), Elizabeth (5) and Matthew (2)
Career: Internship and various stints at Light Rock FM WLTT Rockville, eventually leading to a job at Brotman-Winter-Fried Communications; joined Octagon in 1999
First job: Brotman-Winter-Fried Communications
Last vacation: Paris, in December. We crashed my college roommate’s wedding.
what's on your ipod? Miley Cyrus for my daughter; Black Eyed Peas for me
guilty pleasure: Starbucks in the morning; cabernet at night
best stress release: Coaching my daughters’ soccer teams
pet peeve: Missing details
fantasy job: CEO of WWE
what keeps you awake at night? Clients, and my 2-year-old
business advice: Differentiate yourself.