Profile: Coby Low

Jan 27, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Coby Low is a rare senior media agency executive: She has never worked for a media independent, has built a long career for herself in Los Angeles and has worked with a huge media account, Honda America, for 13 years.
Ms. Low is the senior VP and director of media planning for the independent Santa Monica-based creative agency Rubin Postaer and Associates. She runs a media department of some 150 employees, overseeing billings in the region of $800 million to $900 million.
Honda, with its $700 million spend (including Acura), is by far the agency’s largest client. Ms. Low joined RPA in 1989 to work on that account when the entire agency was the size of today’s media department. The firm now has a staff of 750 in seven offices.
Because of its size, Ms. Low says the Honda account offsets any potential disadvantages of being based in Los Angeles or being a midsize independent. Magazine owners in particular beat a path to RPA two or three times a year. She hasn’t been to New York for a decade, other than when she worked briefly on VH1.
Ms. Low was born in Pine Bush, N.Y., famous for UFO sightings. She worked at J Walter Thompson straight out of Colgate University, where her psychology degree included a course in advertising. She says she knew nothing about the industry or how it worked.
“I wouldn’t hire myself today,” she said, laughing. “But 26 years ago things were so much slower. Our clients did not expect the immediate responses they do today, largely because we could not provide them.”
“There is less room for individual negotiation than there was then,” she said. “But it’s more challenging and taxing to try to reach people and create integrated programs. A good idea can now come from anywhere.”
RPA’s other clients include Blue Cross of California, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Missouri and Unicare. To a neutral observer the roster seems dangerously weighted to one client. However, Ms. Low points out that Jerry Rubin and Larry Postaer have worked with Honda America for more than 25 years, starting with the pre-Omnicom Needham agency. She describes the relationship as “very rare.”
Nevertheless, the agency’s size did hold it back on at least one pitch-for Disney. Otherwise it doesn’t tend to pitch for the largest accounts. And Ms. Low likes it that way.
“I like L.A.,” she said. “The agencies and departments are smaller, and it’s more personal with greater client contact. And I got tired of wading through the slush to get to the subway.”