The Player: Kerry camp taps Margolis to devise media strategy

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Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry has called for a "regime change" in Washington D.C., and it's the job of his media guru, Jim Margolis, to ensure the senator is part of it.

Mr. Margolis, 47, was enlisted to devise Sen. Kerry's media messages to start later this year. The move marks his return to the Democratic presidential media wars that he hasn't much participated in during recent cycles, when others handled campaigns for President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and Sen. Bill Bradley.

Advertising, in fact, is expected to play a more crucial role than ever in this election. More states have moved their primaries forward in an effort to win a greater role in selecting the nominee-and benefit from the media attention and spending-leaving Democratic presidential candidates less time to reach voters with their messages through state visits. Gov. George Bush in 2000 captured the GOP nomination in mid-March, but the Democratic primary battle may finish by February's end.

Mr. Margolis is a partner in Omnicom Group's GMMB (formerly Greer Margolis Mitchell & Burns), which is slated to buy all the media for the Kerry campaign, but Mr. Margolis will have some help in creating ads.

Mr. Margolis started his career by leaving college to do field work in an unsuccessful but surprisingly close Democratic congressional campaign in Kalamazoo, Mich. He went back to school and after graduating became campaign manager for the same candidate's second run. He then ran his first successful congressional campaign, in part by hiring Frank Greer as the campaign's media adviser.

After becoming a congressional aide at 21, he worked on former Vice President Walter Mondale's presidential effort and ran Mr. Mondale's primary campaigns in several states in 1984. After the election, he left his post as deputy director of communications, heeding Mr. Greer's plea to join what became GMMB.


Some ads Mr. Margolis has produced have been controversial, such as those aired last year for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee on behalf of Tom Strickland. One ad accused Sen. Wayne Allard, R-Colo., of hypocrisy for claiming to be a reformer, but having taken $108,000 in campaign contributions from accounting firms. Mr. Margolis' non-political ads include various efforts for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, including a recent Covering the Uninsured effort and actor Rob Reiner's "I am your child" campaign in California to promote early childhood development efforts. He has also created public service campaigns for Cisco Systems promoting Nobel laureates.

Mr. Kerry's campaign manager, Jim Jordan, who as executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had previously enlisted Mr. Margolis' help in senate races, also tapped him for the presidential bid.

"Jim is absolutely the best in the business," said Mr. Jordan. "In his dealings as a strategist he is smart, low-maintenance, easy to work with. He understands how to win campaigns."

Fast Facts

Name: Jim Margolis

Age: 47

Now: Partner, GMMB, Washington, D.C.

Challenge: To create a presidential campaign strategy for Sen. John Kerry

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