Esther Lee Leaves AT&T to Lead Global Marketing for MetLife

Lee Led Large Branding Efforts, Including Carrier's 'Rethink Possible' Campaign

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Esther Lee, senior VP-advertising for AT&T, is leaving the wireless carrier for insurance conglomerate MetLife, where she will serve as exec VP-global CMO.

Esther Lee
Esther Lee

Ms. Lee will begin at MetLife on January 12, reporting directly to chairman-CEO Steven Kandarian.

"As MetLife focuses globally on meeting evolving consumer needs, Esther's deep understanding of international brand and marketing dynamics and her success in leading the growth of established worldwide brands such as AT&T and Coca-Cola will be tremendous assets," Mr. Kandarian said in a statement.

Prior to joining AT&T, Ms. Lee served as president and CEO of North America for Euro RSCG and global chief creative officer for Coca-Cola. Her arrival at the carrier, in 2009, signaled an unprecedented turn toward a brand marketing focus, rare in the telecom industry. She spearheaded several large-scale branding efforts, including the "Rethink Possible" campaign.

"We appreciate her many contributions to our global marketing efforts during an exciting period of growth and change in our business, and wish her all the best in the future, said Fletcher Cook, an AT&T spokesman

The carrier has not named a replacement. Ms. Lee's departure marks the second high-profile marketing exit in recent months for AT&T, the nation's second-largest advertiser. Daryl Evans, formerly the VP-consumer advertising for AT&T Mobility, left in October.

Ms. Lee will have a smaller budget at her disposal -- MetLife does not crack the top 100 national advertisers, while AT&T ranks as the country's second-largest ad spender, according to the Ad Age DataCenter. However, MetLife has aggressively courted event sponsorship. It sponsored the 2014 Super Bowl stadium, but opted to buy cheaper spots before and after the game. Its most recent CMO, Beth Hirschhorn, departed in early 2014. Ms. Lee will replace Maria Morris, MetLife's president of global employee benefits, who was serving as interim CMO.

"This is an exciting time to be joining MetLife," Ms. Lee said in a statement. "As MetLife is undergoing a transformation to become a global, customer-centric brand, marketing will play a pivotal role."

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