Talking East Coast Plans With Initiative West's Alan Cohen

Expanded Innovations Group Gets Dedicated NYC Team

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NEW YORK -- Monday was a busy day for Alan Cohen. The exec VP-managing director of Initiative West announced the East Coast division of Initiative's innovations group and had just landed from a 14-hour flight from Los Angeles to Munich, Germany, to Nice, France, when he called Ad Age from the airport on his way to the International Advertising Festival.

Alan Cohen will have less traveling to do now that he has a team in place in New York.

A lot less travel
Now that he has a dedicated team in place in New York -- with former Los Angeles project manager Dave Rosner acting as director of innovations for Initiative East -- Mr. Cohen will be traveling a lot less once he returns from Cannes.

"Now our clients [on the East Coast] know they won't have to wait for a meeting," said Mr. Cohen, who was jetting from coast to coast on an almost weekly basis.

The innovations group's expansion comes just two years into Mr. Cohen's time at Initiative, during which he has helped clients such as Victoria's Secret, CBS and Lionsgate create nontraditional campaigns. He is also quick to explain the key differences that set his group apart from other agencies' entertainment groups.

"We don't want to be a development department -- that's not what we're about it at all," he said. "We're all about providing an additional service our clients can't get anywhere else. I don't love one-off [partnerships]; there's got to be more of a longer-term payoff if we're going to do it."

Pairing 'Saw III' and MobiEye
Mr. Cohen pointed to a partnership with MobiEye for Lionsgate's "Saw III" as an example of what his group can bring to the table. "It wasn't just a mobile buy, and it wasn't just saying, 'Let's extend what you're already doing in another platform,'" he said. His team created a 24-hour dedicated content channel with the MobiEye program and also executed the first branded-entertainment deal with the humor site ComedyTime and partnered with about 40 broadband sites to get the word out about the horror film.

Mr. Cohen spent 20 years on the network side of the TV business -- 14 in the marketing department at NBC and the last six with ABC, helping launch shows from "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire" to "Alias" to "My Wife and Kids." Even when he was brainstorming ways to find the most interactive means for consumers to access his networks' latest programming, being on the sales side of the table was always a goal for him.

"I began to wonder, 'Where can I get a job to focus on the new stuff?' Then I hooked up with Initiative, and it turned out to be a great thing. It's extremely exciting to be here."

Creating synergy between networks and clients is what excites Mr. Cohen most. "Today when you look at advertising, people don't discriminate between advertising and content. You can be very creative with media and not be producing spots. We're at a place where media meets marketing meets digital, and it seems to be the place to connect with customers and consumers."
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