AT&T has a long history in communications and networking. Now, like cable giant Comcast, the company has its sights set on digital media and addressable television advertising.
In addition to its current broadband and mobile services, AT&T is experimenting with an IP-based television system called U-verse, a combined Internet/satellite TV service called Homezone, and an entertainment portal of sorts at AT&T Blue Room. Advertising is clearly at the heart of several of these initiatives, but will marketers pay any heed as the cable and telephony giant tries to remake itself as a cross-platform media giant? ClickZ recently sat down with Karl Spangenberg, VP of integrated advertising and commerce in AT&T’s entertainment services division, to discuss the company’s three-screen approach to media sales and why marketers should care.
Q. When did AT&T create an entertainment division?
A. Entertainment Services formed last July.
Q. And what’s your role?
A. I’m here to leverage our platforms and the audiences we accumulate through consumption of media on platforms where we serve it. That would be online, television and the handset. Hence, what you hear us talk a lot about is the three-screen experience from an advertising [and] marketing point of view.
It takes a fair amount of technology infrastructure to serve and track and manage ads not only on television, mobile and broadband, but then across them. How do we measure the effectiveness and control the frequency? In many cases we will have a person that is a subscriber to AT&T Yahoo Broadband, so we have them as a customer of our DSL service; they may also be subscribing to U-verse, which is our new IP TV product; and they might be a Cingular/AT&T Mobility subscriber. So how do we, with the consideration of privacy, utilize that information and knowledge so the advertiser has an opportunity to have those dollars be well deployed and get the desired result?
Q. What’s the relationship of AT&T’s networking services to its media services? Who are your competitors?
A. We’re really a networking company that’s building a media and entertainment company on those assets and adding capabilities to them as necessary. It’s a way to signal to Madison Avenue that we understand what it takes to be in this game.
What we’re really trying to do at the start is give our customers a great experience as they consume media across our various platforms. As that becomes edifying, we start to build some scale, and as we have scale I can go to marketers and let them participate in that. What we’re working very hard to do is come up with a differentiation of how we go to market and how these advertisers can spend their dollars with us that can be more advantageous than other places they can put it. In many ways I’m competing with dollars that can go into direct marketing, to out-of-home, to radio or online.
Q. When should advertisers expect to these advertising opportunities with AT&T to emerge?
A. 2007 is more a year of trial and build. As we get into 2008 we will build those trials into meaningful communications. We’re in the game [and] we have a take on the value we can bring. When you start to place and manage a campaign so you are getting touch points… across these many platforms, that’s a way to make your dollars work harder and be more productive. The question is, how do you prove that and how do you substantiate that, and that’s going to require some trials and some research and feedback.
Q. Why should advertisers and consumers take AT&T seriously as a media company?
A. We have over 100 million customer relationships. That’s significant. And… that I work in entertainment services, that I can make those assets available in an effective way and affordable way, is something I want advertisers to know.
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