AT&T invokes Alexander Graham Bell as it names its ambitious high-tech ad division

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Xander CEO Brian Lesser.
Xander CEO Brian Lesser. Credit: Courtesy Xander

AT&T is nodding to Alexander Graham Bell in the name of its nascent advanced advertising unit: Xandr.

Led by CEO Brian Lesser, until now using the placeholder name "AdCo," Xandr combines AT&T's various advertising and analytics businesses, including its AdWorks addressable division and the newly acquired ad tech giant AppNexus.

AT&T announced the brand name for the unit on Tuesday at its Relevance Conference, taking place this week in Santa Barbara, California.

"Xandr is a name that draws inspiration from AT&T's rich history, including its founder Alexander Graham Bell, while imagining how to innovate and solve new challenges for the future of advertising," Lesser said in a statement. "Our purpose is to 'Make Advertising Matter 'and to connect people with the brands and content they care about."

AT&T in August 2017 hired Lesser, who previously lead GroupM's North American business, as it prepared to acquire Time Warner. With Lesser, AT&T is looking to make TV advertising more targeted and automated as the industry strives to compete with digital ad behemoths like Google and Facebook.

AT&T also said it has struck deals with cable operators Altice USA and Frontier Communications to aggregate and sell their national addressable TV advertising inventory. Addressable advertising allows marketers to send commercials just to households that fit certain parameters, like having a household income of $100,000 and residents who are in the market for a new car.

The pacts are the first step in AT&T's goal of creating a large, unified national TV marketplace where advertisers can shop for highly targeted audience segments.

Xandr will also collaborate with A4, Altice USA's advanced advertising business, to help expand A4's nationwide addressable digital advertising capabilities.

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