In an industry with no shortage of mercurial personalities, Riesenberg has carved out a sterling reputation as a team player and his even-keeled personality and straightforward business style have won him many friends on both sides of the aisle; he'll need to muster all of his people skills to make the transition into the Omnicom culture a smooth one, considering that a few feathers may have been ruffled as a result of the move.
By choosing to create Riesenberg's new standalone unit within its Omnicom Media Group—led by CEO Daryl Simm—to act as a branded-production entity, Omnicom CEO John Wren and his entertainment point man, Exec VP Bruce Redditt, rejected a path—at least for the time being—that would have created a formal internal cluster marshaling the skills and resources of three Omnicom units: Davie-Brown Entertainment, OMD Entertainment and Radiate Group.
Redditt insisted that Riesenberg's hiring should be kept in perspective. "I'm not going to comment on any individual proposal out of the hundreds of proposals that came to us out of respect for the people that were involved other than to say it wasn't a decision about one proposal over another. We don't run the company like a reality show contest." He said it was more an acknowledgment of an experienced leader in "an area that is increasingly important to clients."
Riesenberg, whose credits include NBC's "The Restaurant" and TNT's Emmy-winning Johnson & Johnson Spotlight Presentation, will collaborate with numerous Omnicom units in developing branded-entertainment properties. "Within Omnicom we are blessed to have a people and a culture that like to work together," said Redditt. On the other hand, it is important to point out that "a little healthy competition" between units has historically been fostered at many Madison Avenue holding companies.
"I'll be heading up the [new] company as opposed to working for a company. That is appealing because I'm a lot more in charge of the vision of where advertisers and branded entertainment at Omnicom should go," said Riesenberg.
Tera Hanks, president of Davie-Brown, for one, embraces Riesenberg's addition. "I don't look at Robert at all as competition. I look at him as a tremendous new resource."
Riesenberg's charge to evolve the holding company's business model from a fee-based packaging and marketing-services entity to the potentially more lucrative model of content creation and ownership—potentially in some cases generating backend annuity revenue streams—is similar to the one that Hanks and her team are pursuing.
"I look at Robert with his track record and experience in crafting new kinds of deals and business models as a go-to person to help us figure out how to package and structure deals," added Hanks. She acknowledged that her clients like Pepsi-Cola and Hewlett-Packard, have committed budgets in '04 to look at nontraditional marketing opportunities.
Redditt again sounded the cry for collaboration. "A good idea can come from anywhere. It could come from Guy McCarter [OMD Entertainment executive] or Tera Hanks," said Redditt.
%%PULLQUOTE_LEFT%% According to an exec close to the situation who did not wish to be named, McCarter was one executive who was disappointed with the results. "Guy respects Robert very much for what he's done in the space," the exec said, "but at the same time he really wanted the chance to be able to run his own thing." McCarter is currently senior VP-director of OMD Entertainment, operating under the umbrella of OMD, one of Omnicom's major media services companies.
McCarter, who was travelling at presstime, could not be reached for comment.
Lest anyone think Omnicom is done, Redditt was quick to point out that Riesenberg's recruitment was just the first move on the company's part to position itself for the future in the entertainment space.
Could any moves include tapping into the West Coast talent pool? Execs close to the situation said Omnicom's search, which ultimately led to Riesenberg, had included West Coast-based entertainment executives.
As for IPG, it wasted no time in naming Frances Page to replace Riesenberg. Page's new title will be principal-strategy and business affairs. Previously, she had been Magna Global Entertainment's VP-sales and client service. She comes to the forefront as a relatively unknown player in the branded-entertainment community.
IPG implied that it would weather Riesenberg's departure without missing a beat in a statement released by Bill Cella, worldwide chairman-CEO, Magna Global. "Interpublic has the broadest range of entertainment and sports-marketing assets in our industry. The growing importance of our broader convergence team ensures that Interpublic will continue leading the industry in developing programming and other brand-building content for our clients."
Riesenberg's departure comes on the heels of the recent exit of Interpublic Sports & Entertainment Group CEO Mark Dowley, who left to become a partner at talent agency Endeavor.