COHEN ARRIVES AT HORIZON TO EXPAND NAT'L BUSINESS: MEDIA INDIE BRINGS ABOARD EXPERIENCED TV EXEC WITH HIGH PROFILE

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Horizon media, the New York-based independent media buying service that will be a decade old next year, has hired its highest profile executive to date: Aaron Cohen.

Mr. Cohen, 58, spent 19 years at NBC, rising to become VP-national sales before he left for the other end of the negotiating table. He then spent six years at Grey Advertising and another eight years at what was N.W. Ayer & Partners' Media Edge operation before leaving last year to test the waters of consulting work.

ON THE HORIZON

Mr. Cohen this week takes on another corporate role as exec VP-director of national broadcast at Horizon Media, the consummation of a mating dance between Mr. Cohen and Bill Koenigsberg, president-CEO of Horizon, that lasted almost three months.

"I think I spoke to everybody but the mailman there," Mr. Cohen said jokingly about his new abode. "I wanted to make sure this was a good fit for me and for Horizon."

"We had been looking for a very good, high-profile person for a while," said Mr. Koenigsberg. "Aaron's name kept coming up."

At Media Edge, Mr. Cohen was involved heavily with big-spending client AT&T Corp. Horizon has no mega-client like that, but that doesn't concern Mr. Cohen.

Horizon is "starting to grow in the national broadcast area with some significant clients, led by Geico Insurance," he said. "I hope to leverage what I know to help current clients expand their ideas in the national arena, and . . . to help lead Horizon into the promised land of more national business.

"If having me on board helps Carl [Kotheimer, exec VP-director of marketing] get into more pitches, that's an added bonus."

Mr. Cohen says his year as a consultant -- Cohen Media Services -- was an eye-opener. First, he said, it was a relief to realize he could actually do it. "I found that with all my experience in sales, marketing and programming that I could either answer almost every question that came up by my clients myself, or I knew where to go to find the answer," he said.

FINDING A NICHE

With advertisers' massive consolidations of media buying at one shop or at fewer shops, and more full-service ad agencies spinning off their media operations into large units, where does a midsize media independent like Horizon fit in?

"This business is talent driven," said Mr. Koenigsberg. "That's the advantage of having someone like Aaron at a shop our size."

Mr. Cohen seconds the notion that a personal touch is important.

"I wonder at what point the giant media shops become so impersonal that the client becomes a number and loses the input of the most creative executives at those shops," he said.

But there's also the question of whether it is harder for midsize independents to compete, given that marketers are squeezing their media buyers on fees and commissions.

"Not at all," Mr. Cohen said. "It can be self-defeating for a client to underpay. By paying a half-percent less . . . that could mean the difference between the media shop hiring experienced people to work on your account or not.

"It's the difference of shopping at Saks and Kmart," he continued. "Though some would like it to be so, you can't shop at Kmart and get Saks quality clothes. We think we're Saks."

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