New Legacy Media Chief’s Challenge

The American Legacy Foundation’s goal to create a “world where young people reject tobacco” is getting tougher. With money from the Master Settlement Agreement running out in April, Legacy’s media buying budget is being slashed from a high of $113 million in 2000 to a projected $50-60 million this year.

But for the strategist charged with executing the “Truth” campaign’s media plan, that doesn’t matter. This mission is personal for former Universal McCann svp/group media director James Geoghegan, because his wife is a breast-cancer survivor.

“It makes you start to think about things differently,” said Geoghegan, 43. “I certainly don’t want my two teenage children to be smokers, and I want to do a little bit to make the world better.”

This week, the native New Yorker becomes president and CEO of Media Head, a New York startup where Legacy is so far the only client. Independent R.J. Palmer Media Services, New York, will handle buying.

Geoghegan declined to say how he will approach a task he agrees is formidable. But solutions will likely include less costly marketing methods such as sponsorships or online promotions. Legacy evp of marketing Chris Cullen has said he would like to emulate the ONDCP plan, which includes a formula linking paid ads with pro bono placements.

Still, “Notwithstanding the best efforts from Jim and R.J. Palmer, it is unrealistic for Legacy to expect that awareness levels of ‘Truth’ will remain the same,” said Rich Hamilton, CEO of Zenith Optimedia, who engineered the ONDCP plan.