AT&T Zigs While Verizon Zags
Yesterday I posted an update about Verizon’s continued challenges combining its cellular customer data with Oath’s digital media sales. Now let’s visit the other big player in the telco-trying-to-be-a-media-giant game, AT&T. For some background take a look at this AdAge interview with AT&T’s Brian Lesser. Mr. Lesser is the CEO of AT&T’s Advertising and Analytics unit, who came over from WPP a year ago with the charge of remaking Ma Bell’s entire ad business.
In 2016 AT&T laid out an audacious strategy to acquire TV content (primarily from Time Warner and Direct TV), in order to run a data+content play. Their vision is a traditional TV version of what Verizon is trying to do on the digital side – understanding their customers’ viewing patterns and serving ads using targeting tools not available in the TV marketplace today.
As an example, picture watching TV at home with no commercial breaks. Instead, AT&T connects your viewing patterns with your mobile phone data and other information about you to figure out that you’re in the market for a new car. Then it inserts an icon for an auto brand on the screen and offers to send you an engagement-based ad on your phone. The viewer wins in this scenario because they’re not bombarded with as many ads while watching TV. Auto advertisers would also benefit if they could be sure the viewer was in the market for a car, since they can efficiently focus their messaging on a soon-to-be buyer.
How close is AT&T to making this vision a reality for TV ad delivery? According to AdAge they’re still a ways off. But if/when they do get it right, this model could upend the TV ad market as we know it.