AT&T Hires GroupM's Brian Lesser to Run New Ad Business

AT&T said it hired top GroupM executive Brian Lesser to build and lead a new advertising and analytics business that will use AT&T consumer data and content assets.

Lesser, who had been CEO of GroupM North America, will be CEO of the new business and report to AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson.

"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."

AT&T is in the process of acquiring Time Warner, whose Turner unit is among the more sophisticated media companies in using data for advertising sales.

"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."

GroupM said Kelly Clark will assume Lesser’s responsibilities on an interim basis and work closely with Lesser and the GroupM North America leadership to ensure a smooth transition.

“Brian has been a key contributor to 24/7, Xaxis and most recently GroupM, and we are sorry to see him go, but wish him every success in his new role. We will immediately start the search for a replacement,” GroupM said in a statement.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.