Bill Koenigsberg

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Among the top 16 media specialist agencies in Advertising Age's list ranked by worldwide billings, only three are not owned by a huge conglomerate.

Only one of the trio is privately held and totally independent of any other company. That would be No. 16, Horizon Media, New York. In fact, it is possible to sit in one small room with the entire ownership of Horizon.

"You're looking at it," says Bill Koenigsberg, Horizon's president-CEO. "We are 100% private."

Mr. Koenigsberg is not only the principal owner of Horizon and one of its founders, he is the embodiment of its stubborn independent spirit. As the rest of the media agency industry bulks up in massive corporate consolidations, Horizon continues to go defiantly solo.

"We are a sensible alternative for many clients who are dismayed and intimidated by the big shops," declares Mr. Koenigsberg. "Look at [Interpublic Group of Cos.]. They are so big they have to restructure the restructuring ... We simply grow and expand."

Mr. Koenigsberg's enthusiasm is infectious, and profitable. He has guided this little-engine-that-could to the heights of success. Agency billings are about $800 million. This year, Horizon has won about $250 million in new business, adding marketers including, International House of Pancakes and Marriott Renaissance Hotels to an already impressive client list that includes A&E Television Networks and Geico Insurance. The agency's employment has risen from 175 last year to 230 staffers today, and in addition to a satellite operation in Atlanta, Horizon has a new Los Angeles office, which currently handles about $150 million in billings.

This month, Horizon will expand further by opening an office in Amsterdam that will be called Eurizon Media, and will be run by Peter Teillers and Mark Strijdven, formerly managing partners in Omnicom Group's OMD Amsterdam office.

"Eurizon will be a pan-European media management company that is strategic marketing oriented," says Mr. Koenigsberg.

Under Mr. Koenigsberg's guidance, Horizon is beginning to reposition itself as a creative communications shop with the goal of crafting more creative media buys, following the model of the communications independents that are a tradition in Europe. Horizon is partnering with Media Kitchen, a new creative media shop that's a joint venture between Kirshen-baum Bond & Partners and Paul Woolmington, former vice chairman of WPP Group's Media Edge.

"As big agencies go for global dominance of media spend, clients are going to require strategic capability. That's where we come in," Mr. Koenigsberg.

Although it sounds like a new tack, Horizon's executives insist the agency has always been an innovative media shop. "We have been doing lead strategy for a while now with all our clients," says Carl Kotheimer, general manager of the New York office and exec VP-marketing.

"Bill has assembled quite a team at Horizon," says Ted Ward, VP-marketing at Geico. "We are a direct response advertiser; we come out of that environment, and yet we also come out of this brand environment in which we are trying to build the brand over time. We have a hybrid objective, and they've been able to help us do both, sell overnight and sell over time."

Horizon also can make decisions without a faceless, publicly owned parent company hovering over it.

"We are not beholden to shareholders, only clients," Mr. Koenigsberg says. "We don't have any outside interference."

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