AT&T Ad Unit Now Called ‘Xandr’ in Nod to Alexander Graham Bell

(Bloomberg) -- AT&T Inc. named its new advertising and analytics division “Xandr,” making it the home of technology businesses including AdWorks and AppNexus.

The name unveiled Tuesday won out over two other undisclosed titles that AT&T was considering and “draws inspiration” from Alexander Graham Bell, the founding father of U.S. phone service, according to the company, which was hosting advertising executives at a resort in Santa Barbara, California.

As the telecom industry diversifies into content and consumer marketing, the companies have invented new names for acquired businesses. AT&T recently rechristened Time Warner Inc. as WarnerMedia. Verizon Communications Inc. named its ad unit Oath, while AdWorks and AppNexus are the two largest components of a division that AT&T has operated for some time.

Not all new names do well in the court of public opinion. Tronc Inc., the former Tribune Publishing Co., was said in June to be rethinking its name change. Mondelez International Inc. was going to jettison its widely disliked name as part of a merger with Hershey Co. until the talks collapsed.

AT&T is hoping that Xandr, using data on customers and targeted technology, can drive billions of dollars in advertising revenue. Through instant customer profile analysis, AT&T says it will be able to aim compelling ads at TV and mobile-phone audiences.

170 Million

AT&T says it has 170 million mobile phone and TV subscribers, a ripe audience to receive targeted marketing. The company has also signed on cable provider Altice USA and Frontier Communications Corp. as TV advertising partners.

“Never before in the history of man has there been as much great content as we have now, and never before has it been delivered more conveniently,” Brian Lesser, the head of AT&T’s advertising business, said at the meeting. “With all that great content, and all that great targeting, everyone still hates advertising.”

Lesser said he joined AT&T after two decades in the advertising business when the company’s chief executive officer, Randall Stephenson, pledged that the initiative would be important to the company, its board and shareholders. AT&T will combine four pillars -- data on its customers, programming from WarnerMedia, distribution via its mobile customers and DirecTV customers, and advertising technology -- to take on the leaders in online advertising, Google and Facebook, Lesser said.

Name Check

The AT&T conference was reminiscent of Zeitgeist, an annual event hosted by Alphabet Inc.’s Google, the world’s largest online advertising company. Speakers at the event ranged from Stephenson to New York Times reporter David Sanger and media moguls Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman.

During his presentation, Lesser acknowledged the name Xandr might attract critics.

“We hope you love the name,” Lesser said. If not, “We’ll put enough resources behind Xandr that you’re going to love it eventually.”

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