Jim Poh

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The winner of the Media Lion award at the 48th International Advertising Festival in Cannes this year was not a huge, consolidated, unbundled standalone media specialist with intimidating buying powers. It was a media unit with four planners and two buyers from a hip Florida creative shop, led by an under-the-radar kind of guy named Jim Poh.

He is the VP-director of creative content distribution-otherwise known as the media director-at MDC Communications Corp.-backed Crispin Porter & Bogusky in Miami, which copped the top media award this year for its innovative work on the Florida Anti-Tobacco Pilot Program.

Don't get the idea Mr. Poh is an extreme dude who hangs with the young hunks like Alex Bogusky. "Actually, I'm a geezer here," says Mr. Poh, 43. "It's funny because I never worked at a place before where I was one of the old guys."

He started in the business as a print estimator at New York agency Wells Rich Greene, then moved to Grey Advertising, where he did spot TV and radio buying. After that, Mr. Poh toiled for 11 years in media planning at Jordan McGrath Case & Taylor. In 1996 he moved to Boston to work on the now legendary Volkswagen account at Arnold Communications. Then he jumped to Media First International.

"Jim managed our Boston office. He was very strategic and disciplined," says Richard Kostyra, president-CEO of Media First

Mr. Poh then got wind of a job opening in South Florida.

"When I first heard about the job at Crispin, I didn't think it was that serious," Mr. Poh says. "An agency in Florida, I mean, what the heck is that? But I came down here and was so struck by the energy and enthusiasm at the place that I just had to do it."

On the anti-tobacco campaign, Mr. Poh and his crew started out with a problem: getting past teen-agers' avoidance of ad messages. "We looked at some research and concluded that the cinema was a good place to reach the target." The award-winning anti-tobacco campaign centered on a faux movie trailer for a film called "Secrets of a Tobacco Executive," that got play in theaters, on cable TV, outdoor and in transit advertising.

"It was apparently going to be a conventional TV campaign, and it was the media department that turned it into a movie launch," says Chris Ingram, the Cannes media jury president and chairman of London's Tempus Group. "They followed it all the way through with billboards and activity in Blockbuster Video stores .... that to me is increasingly what media is going to be all about. We won't just be talking about" costs per thousand.

Mr. Poh now is concentrating on a campaign launching early next year for BMW of North America's new Mini Cooper car. He won't reveal the campaign's possible direction except to say: "It all started as a collection of ideas and finding different ways to implement them. It's really pretty cool."

Not bad for an old geezer.

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