Brian Lesser named as CEO of AT&T’s new business unit
AT&T named Brian Lesser to build and lead an advertising and analytics business using the company's unique customer data and growing content assets.
Lesser will be CEO of the business and report to AT&T Chairman and CEO Randall Stephenson.
The tech-savvy media executive who in 2015 rose to CEO of North America for WPP’s GroupM unit joins AT&T as it is poised to become an even bigger media player, with its acquisition of Time Warner pending regulatory approval.
Lesser was also the founder and CEO of Xaxis, GroupM’s programmatic buying unit. As CEO of Xaxis, Lesser grew the unit to $1bn in revenue in five years.
GroupM is the world's largest media investment management organisation, overseeing more than $100bn in marketer’s advertising budgets.
"Brian is a terrific executive and one of the best there is in harnessing technology and data to create targeted advertising," Stephenson said.
"Once we complete our acquisition of Time Warner Inc., we believe there is an opportunity to build an automated advertising platform that can do for premium video and TV advertising what the search and social media companies have done for digital advertising."
Lesser is a good fit for AT&T with experience in both media and technology. His experience within programmatic buying will be key to his new role.
AT&T has been pushing the addressable and so-called programmatic TV marketplace for years, mainly via its DirecTV assets, which have one of the biggest addressable TV advertising footprints in the industry.
Programmatic buying typically refers to the use of software to purchase digital advertising, as opposed to the traditional process that involves human negotiations and manual insertion orders.
"Advertising is evolving from broad messages delivered through traditional media channels, to customized, individual content coordinated across all connected devices," Lesser said.
"AT&T has amazing assets for creating engaging advertising experiences for consumers. I am excited to work with Randall and the entire AT&T team to build a world-class advertising and insights business."
The Talent War for Skilled Tech Workers
Post-pandemic, our biggest problem might be a lack of skilled tech talent. As companies move forward with their digital transformation plans, they aim to hire new staff and train their current employees. Out of 750 UK companies polled in a Studio Graphene digital report, 45% plan to hire new tech staff in the next 12 months and more than half (53%) intend to invest in training for their current workers.
Companies are realising that their survival now depends on a limited pool of qualified technology workers. Among the hardest-hit economies are those in Brazil, Indonesia, and Japan, but even the United States and the UK will experience the squeeze. “It’s pure supply and demand”, said Alan Guarino, a Korn Ferry vice-chairman. “Companies are paying more...but there’s still a shortage of high-skilled workers. Technology is the thread that runs across every aspect of business”.
Which Jobs Are In Demand?
According to a 2021 IT salary report by Robert Half Technology, the most in-demand tech jobs of the year include information security professionals, cloud architects, database administrators, systems analysts, and DevOps engineers, among others. But in those fields, it’s difficult to find hires with significant experience, multiple specialisations, and a high level of expertise. And multinationals such as Google, Apple, and IBM usually scoop them up.
Regardless of the exact role, companies need workers who can implement advanced security systems, target cloud and network vulnerabilities, document risk points and failures, and abide by new industry tech regulations. This will likely mean that companies start to take certifications like the ones pioneered by Google and Amazon, instead of insisting on four-year undergraduate degrees.
But even as coding boot camps and year-long certification programmes have ramped up to try to close the gap, smaller tech firms and startups struggle to compete with their bigger counterparts. Remote work doesn’t help matters. “Hire-from-anywhere policies will only heat up a tight candidate market”, said Ryan Sutton, a district president of technology staffing services at Robert Half. “Companies who were already having a hard time recruiting are no longer just working against local competitors, but potentially desirable companies across the country”.
How Can CIOs Solve the Crisis?
As governments try to do their part—Poland offers residency and potential citizenship to skilled tech workers, India offers broad IT, telecommunications, and cybersecurity programmes, and the Netherlands lets its foreign employees earn 30% tax-free income—company executives must take measures of their own.
Some CIOs have started looking to other countries to source expert talent. In the United States, where 80% of U.S. employers state that tech recruiting is a significant challenge, some firms are looking to Mexico, where 20% of college graduates have engineering degrees. As a result, tech companies such as Cisco and Intel have sourced labour from both the U.S. and Mexico.
To compete, here are some first steps:
- Invest in cybersecurity and cloud development training programmes
- Hire based on skills and expertise, not necessarily degrees
- Outsource to other countries with high percentages of skilled engineers and programmers
Overall, companies that broaden their search for talent and upskill their current employees will be best equipped for digital transformation. As Ritam Gandhi, founder and director of Studio Graphene, said: “Our research shows that, on the whole, UK businesses have adopted a long-term mindset [towards] technology and innovation”.