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Initiative initiates branding division

Cohen tapped to lead expansion

Media buyer Initiative Worldwide has launched a division devoted to branded entertainment, tapping former ABC and NBC marketing exec Alan Cohen to lead the expansion.

Cohen will serve as exec VP and managing partner for the U.S. branch of Initiative Innovations. Unit, which has been operating for several years in Europe, will focus on finding new programming and marketing opportunities for Initiative clients beyond the usual 30-second commercial.

Initiative CEO Alec Gerster said the division “has been an invaluable resource for us globally.”

As viewers begin to tune out traditional spots, whether through digital video recorders like TiVo or via alternative entertainment resources, advertisers have been aggressively seeking new ways to get their message across.

Media buyer Mindshare North America struck a deal with ABC last year to produce shows for the Alphabet net, which eventually led to last summer’s “The Days.” Ad giant Omnicom launched a unit, led by Robert Reisenberg, to create TV programming as platforms for its clients.

J. Walter Thompson also recently announced it was looking to work closely with Hollywood, while Carat Americas earlier this month launched Carat Entertainment, run by Michael Yudin, to develop branded entertainment properties. Independent companies like Tom Mazza and Jak Severson’s Madison Road also aim to merge advertisers with programming.

Cohen most recently was marketing prexy at 20th Century Fox’s film division. Before that, he spent six years at ABC as exec VP of marketing, advertising and promotion.

Cohen had moved to the Alphabet web from NBC, where he spent 14 years, working his way up to exec VP of marketing.

The exec won an Emmy in 1997 for his work on an integrated programming/marketing campaign.

Cohen will be based in Los Angeles, where he’ll focus on developing entertainment opportunities for Initiative clients.

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