With Warner Media deal closed, AT&T has been hyping new approach to advertising

In Santa Barbara, California, this week AT&T announced its advertising and analytics business will now be called Xander, a nod to company founder Alexander Graham Bell, and headed by CEO Brian Lesser, formerly the CEO of GroupM North America.

At a high-level, AT&T’s assets and customer insight create a strong advertising value proposition. Despite an ongoing challenge from the Department of Justice, AT&T is moving full-steam ahead after acquiring the now-named Warner Media, which includes HBO, CNN, the Turner networks, Warner Brothers Studios and other properties. Combining premium content with a huge wireless and wired distribution network, coupled with consumer data collected over time, should let the operator serve up increasingly relevant ads across multiple platforms.

“Our purpose is to make advertising matter and to connect people with the brands and content they care about,” Lesser said in a statement. “Throughout AT&T’s 142-year history, it has innovated with data and technology, making its customers’ lives better. Xandr will bring that spirit of innovation to the advertising industry.”

This whole concept is something company CEO Randall Stephenson has been discussing for some time, most recently at the Goldman Sachs Communacopia Conference.

On stage at that event, Stephenson said, “Two plus years ago we started down this path. We said if we’re going to be relevant in media, you’re going to have to have a few elements. It begins with premium content. Time Warner, getting the deal done and getting it closed this year…kind of checks the box on premium content.”

He continued: “If you’re going to own premium content, we think it’s an imperative that you have direct to consumer capabilities. Media companies need to work and go aggressively in getting directly to the consumer.” AT&T has around 170 million “direct to consumer relationships,” as Stephenson described them.

The next step is ad technology. “Advertising models will be very, very important. We think we have the elements that are gonna be required to stand up a very impressive advertising business.” Stephenson noted the Turner advertising inventory would be coupled with consumer data insights collected across AT&T’s businesses.

That combination of content, distribution, analytics and advertising positions AT&T as a “modern media company,” Stephenson said.


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