AT&T Hits Reset in Ad Business with Xandr

Brian Lesser, the former Group M executive is one year into leading AT&T and under his guidance, the company has just launched an analytics and advertising company: Xandr.

The business unit has made sales rep deals for the first time ever with cable operators; Frontier Communications and Altice USA. The idea is for them to pool their ad inventory and sell it.

The company already sells advertising for its multichannel video program.

AT&T has revamped its ads business with the new launch which is currently running $2billion in business. It covers AT&T’s AdWorks, TV business, data and analytics, and ATT.net.

The company, AppNexus, which bought AT&T just last month, will be a brand under Xandr. The name comes from AT&T’s history. It is a spin on the first name of the company’s founder, Alexander Graham Bell.

During a press briefing, the CEO of Xandr, Lesser, says that their growth will zoom in on key areas including premium content, advanced ad technology, data, and distribution. The company has over 170 million relations with direct consumers across broadband, wireless and video.

AT&T is planning to share more data with advertisers than other digital media platforms. Advertisers may get specific returns on investments and KPIs for campaigns but ‘they do not leave more informed than they were when they came in’, said Lesser.

AT&T claims the ability to do this without compromising privacy.

‘There is a sweet spot where we can keep the privacy of our customer,’ he continues. ‘Yet we are able to give anonymized data to our advertisers to help them learn something about consumers. We refer to this as a community garden.’
Regarding linear TV efforts, Lesser says ‘We don’t really expect for there to come a time when traditional linear TV will be fully self-serve but we hope to apply the tech to the selling and purchase of TV inventory efficiently.’

This will cover addressable ad business, to provide engaging and non-interruptive advertising according to Lesser.

The company is trying to formulate new concepts for advertiser messaging that will include video screen overlays and icons to give the consumer more information in what Lesser calls ‘a mixed reality experience.’ This could cover even TVads working with voice home speaker assistants.

‘You need the ability to control the content you produce, how it is distributed, and the data and technology if you will achieve these things,’ he says. The company bought DirecTV three years ago and has just completed a deal for Time Warner costing $85.4 billion.

As head of AT&T, Lesser saw the need for the company to have a large scale ads tech that is well established. The company would take digital media to the next frontiers, so they bought AppNexus.

‘Our company was already going in that direction. We were working on improving TV advertising beginning with linear TV, addressable TV and what we have come to refer to as data-driven linear TV. That is the use of data to index the advertising. We were also working on digital video and OTT.’

Regarding measurement Lesser says that there is bound to always be a third party research company that set upon verifying their ad results.

‘That is alright. The only downside is that most third-parties do not stop there. They also validate the performance of the ad.’

Yet, according to the man, there will come a time when advertisers will use attribution of their data to validate the performance of their campaigns. Consequently, third parties will only be left to confirm where and when the ads ran.
Lesser, speaking of the future, says the following: ‘We are not looking for Nielsen rated performance. Rather, we want to deliver enough data to the advertiser without abusing the privacy of our customer. The advertiser can then evaluate their performance based on their standards.’

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