Local Obituaries

Samuel Crispin, founder of award-winning Miami ad agency, dies at 90

AD MAN: Samuel B. Crispin founded an advertising agency in Miami in 1965 that would later become a nationally award-winning powerhouse.
AD MAN: Samuel B. Crispin founded an advertising agency in Miami in 1965 that would later become a nationally award-winning powerhouse.

In the year 2000, the Florida Anti-Tobacco Pilot Project wanted to send a strong message to kids — stay away from smoking.

It hired Crispin Porter + Bogusky, the Coconut Grove ad agency that with its partner, Arnold Communications of Boston, came up with the Truth Campaign. The campaign — tobacco honchos at a mock award show mugging foolishly — earned the agency that Sam Crispin founded in 1965 national recognition: Ad Age called the campaign one of the top 15 of the 21st Century.

“For four or five years, we were on the edge of becoming nationally famous, now we are,” chairman Chuck Porter said in a 2001 Miami Herald story. “Tobacco had a lot to do with it.’’

Crispin, who died at 90 on Monday near Ocala, was a World War II U.S. Navy quartermaster and assistant navigator aboard the USS PERCH. He fell for South Florida soon after the war, and lived in Coral Gables, Coconut Grove and South Miami.

Born in Danville, Illinois, in the heartland of America, Crispin started sailing in elementary school on a small lake there. He joined one of his fraternity brothers at the University of Illinois on a road trip to Miami for a weekend of sailboat racing in the late 1940s and was hooked.

In college he majored in English and pre-med — his dad was a doctor and his mom a registered nurse.

“Dad moved to Florida not knowing what he was going to do,” said son Charles Crispin who, in 1986, would become managing partner of the agency.

By 1949, Crispin began his ad career with Grant Advertising. He then opened a Miami office for Arthur Mogge Advertising, whose accounts included El Nacional and The Tropicana hotels in Cuba.

In 1965, he purchased the agency and founded Samuel B. Crispin and Associates, which would create ads for The Cayman Islands, the Jamaica Tourist Board and Intercontinental Hotels.

“He built a really successful agency and created a hell of a name for himself,” said his son. When he landed the prestigious Intercontinental Hotels account from a rival firm an article once said of Crispin Advertising, “You wouldn’t find a cleaner shop; he does the right thing and you don’t need six attorneys to find out what he’s doing for you.”

By 1988, Crispin, one of the earliest members of the Coral Reef Yacht Club in Coconut Grove — “where Sam’s heart and soul in Miami lived” — was ready to become chairman emeritus and spend more time sailing.

“I used to have an expression that you could put my dad in a dark, cold cave with nobody in it and within an hour he’d have three new friends. He was an absolute magnet,” his son said.

Crispin sold his equity stake to his son and to freelance copy writer Chuck Porter, who later brought in Alex Bogusky. Over the years, the agency has worked on many big accounts, including Burger King, Netflix and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.

“They’ve gone on to achieve much greater things and that was an amazing source of pride for Dad. He was very proud his name was still on the doors,’’ his son said.

“Sam was a terrific businessman,” Porter said. “I was never a great business person. I was more involved in the creative end and so that created a really good partnership for us. We were both Midwestern guys who, coincidentally happened to be in the same fraternity in college. … Big 10 kids moving from the Midwest to Miami. His attitude was, ‘That was the single best thing I did in my life.’ He enjoyed his life.”

Crispin is survived by his wife Karen; his children Cathy Keller and Charles from his first marriage, and four grandchildren. There will be a celebration of life this fall at Coral Reef Yacht Club. The family requests donations to the Samuel B. Crispin Fund, care of the Lauderdale Yacht Club Sailing Foundation, through www.lycsf.org.

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