AT&T named Brian Lesser to build and lead an advertising and analytics business using the company's unique customer data and growing content assets.
Lesser will be CEO of the business and report to AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson.
The tech-savvy media executive who in 2015 rose to CEO of North America for WPP’s GroupM unit joins AT&T as it is poised to become an even bigger media player, with its acquisition of Time Warner pending regulatory approval.
Lesser was also the founder and CEO of Xaxis, GroupM’s programmatic buying unit. As CEO of Xaxis, Lesser grew the unit to $1bn in revenue in five years.
GroupM is the world's largest media investment management organisation, overseeing more than $100bn in marketer’s advertising budgets.
"Brian is a terrific executive and one of the best there is in harnessing technology and data to create targeted advertising," Stephenson said.
"Once we complete our acquisition of Time Warner Inc., we believe there is an opportunity to build an automated advertising platform that can do for premium video and TV advertising what the search and social media companies have done for digital advertising."
Lesser is a good fit for AT&T with experience in both media and technology. His experience within programmatic buying will be key to his new role.
AT&T has been pushing the addressable and so-called programmatic TV marketplace for years, mainly via its DirecTV assets, which have one of the biggest addressable TV advertising footprints in the industry.
Programmatic buying typically refers to the use of software to purchase digital advertising, as opposed to the traditional process that involves human negotiations and manual insertion orders.
"Advertising is evolving from broad messages delivered through traditional media channels, to customized, individual content coordinated across all connected devices," Lesser said.
"AT&T has amazing assets for creating engaging advertising experiences for consumers. I am excited to work with Randall and the entire AT&T team to build a world-class advertising and insights business."