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Cooperstein Helps Initiative Stay Current

Jan 28, 2009  •  Post A Comment

Is it “selling out” when you leave a cutting-edge television network aimed at democratizing the media with user-generated content to join a media-buying agency and work for product marketers?
No, says Ezra Cooperstein, who left Current to join Initiative as VP and director of its Innovations unit.
“I think we’re in a moment of convergence in many different levels, and one of those convergences is between brand and content,” Mr. Cooperstein says. “And I think it’s a natural extension. If you’re a creative and you understand the consumer, naturally you can float between these sides of what was very much two different sides of the industry. Now as they come together, the best thing you can possibly do is try to really engage yourself on both sides.”
At the ripe old age of 28, Mr. Cooperstein said he was looking for a new set of challenges—and not just a more corporate-sized paycheck.
“You reach a point where you spend four and a half years building something and you really look for something else that’s really different but allows you to build on what you’ve developed and the knowledge base and the relationships that you’ve cultivated,” he said. “This is about personal growth for me, and a company that I think is on an amazing trajectory.”
Mr. Cooperstein is following his old boss from Current, Jason Meil, to Initiative. Mr. Meil joined as managing director for the Innovations unit.
He sees Initiative as a company that “gets the future of what a media agency can be.”
That future goes beyond placing media and entails a bigger role in marketing.
“How do you take some of the things that are breaking in new media and new technologies and new platforms and help businesses leverage those emerging technologies and platforms?” Mr. Cooperstein said. “That’s where our group steps in.”
Of course, some of these new technologies appeal mainly to the young and the hip. If that’s the target audience for a marketer, fine.
“Now if you said we’ve got a brand that wants to engage with an older generation, we would come up with an entirely different set of executions,” he said. “We certainly can tailor a set of approaches toward any demographic and psychographic, and I think that’s what’s so exciting about the future of technology is that micro-targeting. And the true control of message through the media and the ability to constantly iterate and change as you get almost real-time data on what’s working and what’s not working.”
Mr. Cooperstein said the Obama presidential campaign was a model of how a marketer should surround an audience with messages using all of the old and new tools in the arsenal.
“Obviously in a short period of time with lots and lots and lots of money you have an advantage, but I think it’s a great model for people to look at for that idea of 360 media engagement,” he said.
Mr. Cooperstein grew up in Santa Cruz, Calif., and always wanted to be in media. After graduating from UCLA, he landed a job as an assistant at RKO Pictures, which was trying to develop projects based on its library.
On the one hand, the job was a foot in the door in the media business. On the other hand, he learned he didn’t want to be in feature films.
“The pace was too slow for me, and I think I really wanted to be in more of an entrepreneurial environment,” he said.
On a whim he moved to San Francisco, where he met Jamie Daves, a founding employee of Current TV, when the channel was still in the process of securing financing and distribution.
With that connection, Mr. Cooperstein landed a job working in programming. The network’s first plan was to hire 50 of the best young creatives, and his job was to find them. Then Current changed its model and he was put in charge of building the viewer-created content department.
Eventually the network changed its model again when it found it couldn’t be successful running content randomly across its schedule. As VP of development and programming, Mr. Cooperstein was creating and scheduling 30-minute programs, including “Supernews,” “Infomania” and “Current Music.”
Since joining Initiative, Mr. Cooperstein said, he’s jumped in to work with clients Dr. Pepper, Lionsgate and Carl’s Jr., which has a branded entertainment project in the works.
In his spare time, Mr. Cooperstein said he’s an avid runner training for his first marathon. He wants to run the New York Marathon, but hasn’t gotten in yet. He also plays a lot of tennis, and “I hang out at the beach and have a pretty laid-back L.A. life,” he says.
Who knew: Mr. Cooperstein has a collection of vintage safari helmets. “The first one I got was sort of cool, and now every time I see one at a swap meet or something like that, I’ll pick it up.” He sees them as symbolic of how one’s life is a search for the unknown. “That’s what life is about. It’s a journey. So you better enjoy it, and wear a helmet while you’re at it.”

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