When you run media buying and sports marketing for a massive advertiser like Anheuser-Busch, there aren't many career moves left that would be considered a promotion. But that 's exactly what Mark Wright pulled off earlier this year when he left the brewer for a top media job at AT&T, the nation's biggest advertiser behind Procter & Gamble.
Mr. Wright, who was named the telecom's VP-media and sponsorships this past summer, said the move wasn't about climbing the corporate ladder. It was "about the opportunity at AT&T," he said. Telecom is "so dynamic, it's growing by leaps and bounds. It's a very competitive category which is appealing to me personally because I grew up in the beer wars."
In an age where so many ad execs move jobs every few years, Mr. Wright's tenure at A-B is remarkable for its longevity. He joined in 1991, after a stint at Bozell Advertising in Dallas, where he served as associate media director, working on accounts such as American Airlines and Dial Corp. At A-B, he started as a field media manager, working with wholesalers on local marketing. He served in several other capacities and was promoted to VP for media, sports and entertainment in 2009. His duties included overseeing Busch Media Group, the company's in-house buying and planning arm. He also was instrumental in negotiating A-B's $50 million-a-year NFL sponsorship deal. The brewer is the nation's 22nd-largest U.S. advertiser, according to the Ad Age Data Center.
At AT&T, Mr. Wright is working with an outside media agency, WPP's MEC. And he's dealing with a much broader base than the sports-loving, majority-male beer audience. AT&T covers the spectrum, from consumer-targeted TV, broadband and phone services to business solutions. "The company in general will have to look at how we can fit into each person's lives," he said.
His responsibilities include managing traditional media, paid search and social nets and handling sponsorship consulting, negotiations and management. He reports to Esther Lee, senior VP-brand marketing and advertising.
Those who know Mr. Wright say he is ready. Coming up through A-B media, "he was trained by the best," said former A-B creative chief Bob Lachky. "And he was always there in the thick of it. He's totally comfortable with the media community and he's well known because he's been around for a while."