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CHICAGO-Martin Nisenholtz, a leading new-media advocate and pioneer, is leaving the agency world to answer the call of a regional phone company.

Mr. Nisenholtz, 39, will join Ameritech Sept. 6 as director of content strategy, a new post from which he will oversee the development of video programming and interactive advertising and information services.

In doing so, he's stepping down as senior VP-director of electronic marketing at Ogilvy & Mather Direct Worldwide, New York. Mr. Nisenholtz joined O&M in 1983 and formed its Interactive Marketing Group, touted as the traditional agency world's first interactive unit.

"It's an opportunity to paint on a very broad palette," Mr. Nisenholtz said of his new post. "Ameritech is getting serious about programming and content, and it goes well beyond marketing."

He added that the decision to leave O&M after 11 years was "agonizing."

Ameritech is awaiting permission from the Federal Communications Commission to roll out digital video networks serving 1.2 million customers in five Midwestern states.

At O&M, Mr. Nisenholtz has been working closely with AT&T to develop advertising and programming content for its planned interactive TV test with Viacom in Castro Valley, Calif.

"It's the difference between being in control of the strategy and working underneath to execute it," Mr. Nisenholtz said, explaining why he decided to jump to Ameritech.

The oft-quoted Mr. Nisenholtz has one of the highest profiles in the new-media arena and is a speaker at many industry conferences and seminars. His loss, therefore, may affect the perception of O&M being on the cutting edge.

An O&M Direct spokesman said a decision on a successor hasn't been made but indicated the replacement will come from within Mr. Nisenholtz's 40-person unit. Among the leading internal candidates is Meredith Flynn, VP-account director.

Of Mr. Nisenholtz's departure, the spokesman said: "Obviously, we think he's terrific. It's going to be hard to say goodbye to him."

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