Ever since AT&T hired GroupM honcho Brian Lesser last August to lead its new advertising and analytics business, he’s been on a hiring spree.
And many of the recruits share one thing in common: They’ve earned their programmatic stripes in some capacity.
Time will tell how the AT&T Advertising & Analytics division will develop should the Department of Justice succeed in blocking AT&T's proposed acquisition of Time Warner, a merger seen as essential to Lesser's remit.
But it's increasingly clear from his recruiting activity that Lesser, who directly reports to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, is not waiting for legal clarity.
LinkedIn reveals about two dozen staff working part-time or full-time for the AT&T Advertising & Analytics organization, including a former senior attorney with the Federal Trade Commission, a former Deloitte consultant and numerous internally promoted or transferred AT&T staffers with backgrounds in sales, data science, HR and other functions.
Below we review some of AT&T Advertising’s key lieutenants:
CEO Brian Lesser: Lesser rose through the ranks at WPP, first as a VP of product management at the ad tech firm 24/7 Real Media before its acquisition by GroupM in 2007.
Lesser helped found WPP’s global trading desk Xaxis four years later and grew it into a $1 billion business within five years. In 2015, he was promoted to CEO of GroupM North America, which managed more than $100 billion in media spend annually.
Lesser also helped oversee the launch of GroupM’s launch of the data and technology unit mPlatform in 2016, which helped the media buying unit evolve away from a nontransparent trading desk model.
Lesser reports directly to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, and his mandate at AT&T is to take his operational know-how and translate what Google and Facebook have accomplished in search and social advertising to premium video and TV.
CMO Kirk McDonald: McDonald joined AT&T Advertising in November and previously was president of digital exchange PubMatic for close to six years, where he was instrumental in priming PubMatic to compete with the exchange heavyweights, from AppNexus to Google.
Prior to that, he was president of digital for Time Inc.
McDonald understands the publisher business – and the tech infrastructure powering it all.
Back in 2011, he predicted more media consolidation as publishers build, buy or partner their way to data and dynamic content expertise. Turns out he wasn’t far off, considering AT&T’s own impending merger with Time Warner and Meredith’s acquisition of Time Inc.
Chief Data Officer Tim Barnes: Hired in January, Barnes is the former head of engineering and product for the ad tech platform AudienceScience.
AudienceScience served as CPG giant P&G’s programmatic buying platform for years, until it lost a bake-off with competitors – and its marquee brand client’s business – last summer. That blow proved too heavy a burden, as AudienceScience ceased operations in June 2017.
Barnes also has diverse knowledge of the data business.
Before AudienceScience, he was SVP of Microsoft’s global business intelligence group via the Razorfish acquisition in '07 and VP of products at Publicis Groupe’s VivaKi. So his past work gives him versatility across multiple client verticals, including global brands, enterprise tech giants and agencies.
Chief of Staff Christina Beaumier: Beaumier is a former SVP at Xaxis who worked alongside Lesser and came on board with AT&T Advertising and Analytics in November.
In between Xaxis and AT&T, Beaumier spent a year at Google as a strategic partner lead for video distributors and telco. But it’s Beaumier’s background as an advanced TV voice and product lead for Xaxis that should prove useful for AT&T.
Beaumier was an early advocate of breaking down the siloes between linear broadcast, connected TV and digital video, and she predicted that TV would eventually be traded programmatically.