Stankey: WarnerMedia, Xandr Must Work Together Better

Advertising ‘critically important,’ AT&T COO said
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In the wake of the sudden departure of Brian Lesser as CEO of AT&T’s Xandr ad unit, AT&T COO John Stankey said Xandr and WarnerMedia must work more closely together.

In a memo to Xandr staffers Tuesday, Stankey re-emphasized that advertising is important to AT&T as it launches its direct-to-consumer streaming service HBO Max.

“Advertising is critically important to the future of media, and I believe platforms that evolve to accommodate both subscription and ad-supported formats will be a natural content aggregation point for the industry — not to mention a preferred experience for the customer,” he said.

But he added that AT&T must approach the market in a unified manner.

"There is still much more that needs to be done to integrate and coordinate more closely our go-to-market functions between Xandr and WarnerMedia,” he said. “I will be working with the respective leadership in the coming weeks to achieve this objective — acknowledging that our inability to work from the office will likely create some challenges.”

WarnerMedia and Xandr had planned to have a joint upfront presentation in May. That event has been canceled, like almost all other upfront events, because of the coronavirus crisis.

Lesser, who joined AT&T three years ago from media buyer GroupM to run AT&T’s advanced advertising unit, resigned last week. Sources indicated that he sought the job of CEO of WarnerMedia, a post Stankey, who was named to the additional post of COO of AT&T last year, plans to eventually relinquish.

Related: Xandr Targeting Linear Ads for Disney, AMC Nets

Stankey called Lesser’s departure “unexpected,” saying “while I am disappointed Brian will not be with us for the next chapter, I want you to know that our commitment to making advertising matter has not changed.”

Stankey also said AT&T was committed to Xandr’s Monetize and Invest platforms. Just as Lesser was resigning last week, Xandr made big news as The Walt Disney Co. and AMC Networks agreed to let advertisers use Xandr Invest to plan and buy campaigns using ad inventory from their linear TV networks.

For the interim, it appears that Kirk McDonald, Xandr’s chief business officer, is in charge of Xandr. Stankey's memo did not mention when a new unit CEO might be named.

The memo also addressed how the company was dealing with the coronavirus situation.

“The widespread impact of the coronavirus continues to challenge all of us like nothing we have seen before. Priority number one is taking care of yourself and your loved ones,” Stankey said. “We will do everything we can as an organization to keep you informed as we work together to serve our customers during this stressful and uncertain time for everyone.”

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