Robert Riesenberg

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There's a fair amount of excitement on a TV set when the producer drops by. However, when Robert Riesenberg, director of Magna Global Entertainment, New York, a unit of Interpublic Group of Cos., recently stepped onto the Georgia set of a Mary Tyler Moore TV movie that was packaged by Magna, no one seemed to notice. "They just see me as the advertiser," says Mr. Riesenberg in his nonchalant way.

Mr. Riesenberg, 52, is more than just the advertiser. He's in charge of a TV programming unit that theoretically rivals many Hollywood production giants. In February, Mr. Riesenberg was promoted from exec VP-broadcast and programming at sibling Universal McCann Entertainment Group, where he had created TV programming with such McCann-Erickson Worldwide marketers as Coca-Cola Co. and Johnson & Johnson. Now, as director of Magna Global Entertainment, a media negotiation unit for all Interpublic media entities, he has extended the scope and vision of his work.

"By moving me to Magna," says Mr. Riesenberg, "that puts me at the Interpublic level and allows me to go to all of the Interpublic clients."

Already, Magna has packaged "Door to Door," a Johnson & Johnson vehicle, and "The Sweeter Season," the TV film starring Ms. Moore and Burt Reynolds. An NBC music special backed by Interpublic clients will be announced shortly, Mr. Riesenberg says. So far this year, Magna has 20 hours of programming on the boards.

"Not only are our clients open ... and eager to meet with us, but even the networks are open and eager," he says. "For the first time that I can remember, the networks are coming to me and asking if we can work in partnership on projects. That was never the case in the past. You'd have to do a heavy sell job on them to get them to take your programming."

Besides Coca-Cola and Johnson & Johnson, Mr. Riesenberg has worked on projects with Marriott Corp., Lowe's Home Centers and General Motors Corp. "We've expanded that list considerably," he says. "We are working with about 15 different advertisers at this point."

Mr. Riesenberg points out that what he does is a lot more than just product placement. "Product placement can be a byproduct of what we do, but it has to be non-intrusive and tasteful," he says.

So is he an adman or a Hollywood producer?

"I'm a little bit of both," Mr. Riesenberg says. "I cross both disciplines and speak both languages."

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