Initiative Forms Branded Unit For CBS, Alan Cohen Heads It

Interpublic Group of Cos.'s Initiative Media will be creating a dedicated media buying and planning unit for CBS-Showtime, under a new umbrella division called Initiative Entertainment, media executives tell MediaDailyNews.

Alan Cohen, who is executive vice president/managing director of Initiative Innovations, will run the new entertainment division as well.

Darkhorse Initiative Media surprisingly won the business last week against seemingly stronger competition--OMD USA and Carat USA, CBS's incumbent agency. Later in the week, another pay TV network, HBO, also shifted media agencies--moving to Omnicom Media's PHD USA from its sister Omnicom agency, OMD.

Cohen, who was instrumental in the pitch for the business for CBS, was executive vice president, marketing, advertising, and promotion for the ABC Entertainment Group, and had previously held senior executive marketing positions at NBC and Fox Filmed Entertainment.

In future moves, the new division Initiative Entertainment could pitch non-competitive TV entertainment businesses--theatrical, video gaming, and other accounts, say executives.

The entertainment division would be in keeping with previous moves by Alec Gerster, chief executive officer of Initiative Media Worldwide. When Gerster was chief executive officer of Grey Global Group's MediaCom Worldwide, he created Grey Entertainment as a division that had a similar structure to Warner Bros. and ABC as entertainment media accounts.

An Interpublic Media spokeswoman would only confirm that a dedicated unit was going to be created.

Concerning TV accounts CBS-Showtime and HBO, OMD seemingly got the short end of the stick last week. Its sister media agency PHD gained a new client; Omnicom's Outdoor Media Group will retain HBO's outdoor media buying and planning assignment.

While both HBO and Omnicom executives confirmed the moves, executives offered no reason for the switch. But media executives speculate that HBO's move was a direct result of the ongoing CBS-Showtime pitch of which OMD was a finalist.

OMD figured it was in a strong position to grab the CBS-Showtime business because of its experienced, already staffed media executives who worked on not only HBO but ABC. OMD only recently lost ABC back in January when the network switched to Wieden & Kennedy, which housed ESPN's creative and media assignments.

OMD needed to show that there would be no conflicts with HBO. So it was moved to PHD, keeping it in the Omnicom Media family. While the move was privately made during the CBS pitch, news wasn't released to the press until after the CBS/Initiative deal was finalized. This freed up OMD to go after CBS-Showtime, a TV account of some $130 million--more than twice HBO's size.

Concerning ABC, executives say the network dropped OMD because ABC didn't have as good a fall media launch as other networks, or versus what ABC did a year ago. A year ago, ABC dramatically turned around its fortunes with stellar launches of "Desperate Housewives" and "Lost."

The complaint was that OMD didn't deliver expected premium radio and outdoor placements for new fall shows, and so Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Primetime Entertainment, made the move to Wieden + Kennedy.

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