MEDIA MAVENS;FILLING LEADERSHIP VOID THROUGH BOLD CLAIMS;J. WALTER THOMPSON USA;JEAN POOL

By Published on .

Media buyers are often loathed, but the animosity usually comes from worn-down media sales reps unhappy with their negotiating prowess and expertise.

Jean Pool, however, is detested by her agency peers.

Opinions notwithstanding, Ms. Pool has helped give J. Walter Thompson USA's media business a shot in the arm-and has established herself as a central figure in that shop's media department.

It all started in 1993 when J. Walter Thompson North America became the first blue-chip ad agency to begin publicly bidding for buying assignments from new clients.

In a bid, an agency agrees to deliver commercial costs at lower than normal industry rates.

While other full-service agencies undoubtedly have bid on occasion, few were so public and brazen as Ms. Pool, who headed JWT USA's massive $560 million spot broadcast unit. She, along with JWT North America CEO Ron Burns, sent elaborate direct mail pieces to the top 100 advertisers, offering to undercut their current agency's spot buying costs by at least 15%.

The move sparked closed-doors meetings between top agency executives at the American Association of Advertising Agencies, who informally rebuked Ms. Pool's public assault.

It also brought at least $50 million in new media-buying assignments, some of which led, in turn, to full-service JWT assignments.

The letter-writing campaign alone picked up media accounts from Showbiz Pizza Time's Chuck E. Cheese restaurants, White Castle System, Rich Products Corp.'s Sea Pak frozen seafood, and Hudson Foods. And all but the last assignment eventually got JWT into a full-service account.

Ms. Pool's aggressive bidding approach also got JWT in the door for the National Dairy Board's milk account, but the agency ultimately lost out over creative and strategic issues.

"We understand that if you don't have a good media department, you can lose business. But if you do have a good media department, you can also win business," says Ms. Pool.

Since the spot bid letter-writing campaign, Ms. Pool has taken a decidedly quieter approach to new-business pitches. Still, she's emerged as a highly visible and vocal leader in JWT's media department, helping fill a void created by the departure of former JWT media chief Richard Kostyra, who left in 1993 to start his own independent buying company.

The opinionated and brash Mr. Kostyra was a central figure in the media industry and Ms. Pool has assumed that legacy. She was recently being promoted to exec VP-director of North America media buying services for the agency and oversees $1.8 billion in media billings.

And while she is also opinionated, Ms. Pool's tenacity benefits her client, says Floyd Gelini, president of Blair America.

"Jean generally encourages a compatible relationship with TV sellers," Mr. Gelini says. "However, she is passionate when it comes to her client's needs."

In this article:
Most Popular