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CBS Moves Media Buying to OMD

Follows Alan Cohen out of Initiative to New Shop

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- CBS Corp. has abruptly moved its media-buying business -- which encompasses promotions for the Showtime cable operation as well as the CBS broadcast network -- to Omnicom Group's OMD from Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative, without a review.
Alan Cohen
Alan Cohen

On the surface, the move might come as a surprise. Initiative sparked buzz for CBS with a number of innovative promotional efforts. Among Initiative's work for CBS were print ads with a lime-tasting flavor strip to promote "Cane," a now-canceled drama starring Jimmy Smits as the head of a sugar empire. Initiative also helped create ads on the doors of supermarket frozen-food containers that would reveal a promotion for the drama "Moonlight" when they were opened.

Follow the leader
In fact, CBS is merely following the executive who supervised the business at Initiative. Alan Cohen, a media executive who has worked for ABC, NBC and 20th Century Fox, was named CEO of OMD's U.S. operations in April, and assumed the role June 1.

"We have moved to OMD because of Alan Cohen and his leadership team there," said George Schweitzer, president of marketing at CBS, who cited Mr. Cohen's "depth of experience in TV and entertainment marketing," as a reason to keep the business under his aegis. Mr. Cohen has taken some Initiative executives who were working on CBS's business with him to OMD, said Mr. Schweitzer, who also noted that OMD came in second when CBS last held a review for the business.

Mr. Schweitzer said CBS had informed Initiative of the move this morning. An Initiative spokesman wasn't able to offer immediate comment.

Not a major blow
The CBS business certainly won't break Initiative's finances -- combined spending on CBS and Showtime media is valued at about $135 million, according to a person familiar with the situation. At the same time, work on the CBS business helped Initiative demonstrate some of its creative capabilities.

When CBS moved its business to Initiative from Aegis Group's Carat in March 2006, it was seen as a grace note for the Interpublic agency, which had been struggling with account losses. Since that time, Initiative has won major business from Hyundai/Kia and Cadbury Schweppes.

Mr. Schweitzer said he expected the typical 90-day transition period for the account to move between agencies.

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