Why AT&T Went With Omnicom And What's Next For the Carrier

Marketing Will Focus On Digital, Mobile and Be Less 'Broadcast-Centric'

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AT&T on Friday wrapped one of biggest industry reviews in some time. The review itself was by some standards relatively short, having started in June, taking about 60 days total. And there apparently wasn't much time for sitting around waiting by the phone -- there were negotiations and meetings, according to people familiar with the matter, that went right up until the announcement Friday morning.

Lori Lee
Lori Lee Credit: Courtesy AT&T

Ad Age caught up with the two executives at AT&T leading the review, Lori Lee, senior exec VP-global marketing officer, and Fiona Carter, senior VP-brand marketing, advertising and sponsorships. Both execs came into their current roles late last year; Ms. Carter, an Omnicom and BBDO veteran herself, joined AT&T in October. Ms. Lee was named to her role in December, replacing Cathy Coughlin. Ms. Lee has been with AT&T since 1997.

Here's a look at some reasons why the carrier went with Omnicom and what's next for the brand.

Omnicom had a 'slight' edge thanks to Hearts & Science

Hearts & Science is a new media agency launched earlier this year after the holding company won the bulk of the North American Procter & Gamble account in December. Hearts & Science will now handle work for the two biggest ad spenders in the country. Though Ms. Lee and Ms. Carter said that both Omnicom and WPP had been excellent partners for the duration of their relationships, Ms. Carter said AT&T wanted to choose a holding company that seamlessly integrated creative, media, data and analytics.

Fiona Carter
Fiona Carter Credit: Courtesy AT&T

Omnicom, she noted, had a "slight edge" in the review because the team presented a "holistic performance" showing how BBDO and Hearts & Science would meld data and analytics with the creative. "They had great chemistry, insights and meeting of the minds" in creative and media, said Ms. Carter, adding that Hearts & Science is built for an digital and analytically enabled world, unencumbered by more traditional foundations that can be found in legacy media agencies.

Ms. Lee said that it was very clear that the Omnicom team presented a "tightly integrated" and a very targeted approach to different consumer segments.

AT&T wants more digital advertising

TV is a huge part of the advertising budgets of Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. AT&T will still invest heavily in TV, but the company plans on investing more in digital and mobile, especially as it expands its presence in over-the-top and video that will be consumed on mobile.

"We have historically been broadcast-centric, and you're going to see the advertising become much more digital, mobile and targeted," said Me. Lee. "It fits in with the company we're becoming."

AT&T wants to be a 'mobile-best' marketer

AT&T is becoming not just a service provider, but an entertainment company. It's taken steps by expanding its work with Fullscreen to create content geared toward young people, and its introduction of DirectTV Now, a streaming service. Many people will be watching that content on their mobile devices, so AT&T's ambition is to have mobile be at the center of its consumer-facing entertainment offerings.

"If we're going to play our role as a unique brand, we have to be more culturally relevant, more entertaining and more modern -- not only throughout broadcast and traditional but also digital and mobile," said Ms. Carter. "And with these media comes a need to customize and make that content that much more relevant and engaging. Our ambition is to be a mobile-best marketer."