AT&T Lures Discovery's Chris Schembri to Guide Media

New Role at Telecom Handles $3.3 Billion in Buying and Planning

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SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- AT&T has hired the Discovery Channel's new-media guru, Chris Schembri, to oversee the allocation of its $3.3 billion annual media budget.
Chris Schembri
Chris Schembri

Mr. Schembri, known for creative and out-of-the-box marketing campaigns, will take the title of VP-media services, directing the telecom's media planning and spending. The position is a new one and was created by Wendy Clark, the marketer's senior VP-advertising.

While at the Discovery Channel, where he was senior VP-media planning and partnership, Mr. Schembri, 38, headed a number of innovative marketing pushes, particularly in the digital arena. Last summer, in a deal with Verizon Wireless, he promoted Discovery's popular "Deadliest Catch" by giving away free wallpapers, ringtones, bios of the risk-taking fishermen, show facts and sneak peeks, and even mobisodes. Mobile users also were able to participate in mobile polls and quizzes.

'Gears of War,' 'Halo'
He also spearheaded a campaign last year aimed at boosting ratings for Discovery Channel's "Future Weapons," in which Microsoft gave away downloadable content for its Xbox game "Gears of War." Ratings for the show reportedly were 60% higher than expected, especially given it was going up against the season premiere of Fox's "24" and the Golden Globes.

Another collaboration aimed at reaching the 18-to-34 male demographic involved the release of the "Halo 3" Xbox game and Discovery's "Last One Standing." In that promotion, a Halo video produced by "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson debuted on the Discovery website. "I love innovation," Mr. Schembri said.

Ms. Clark and AT&T executives did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Last fall, AT&T consolidated it media account with WPP Group's Mediaedge:cia. AT&T spent $3.3 billion in marketing during 2006, ranking it No. 2 behind Procter & Gamble on the list of the nation's top marketers, according to Advertising Age's DataCenter. The company had measured media spending of $2.3 billion.
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