AT&T Consolidates Its Creative and Media Business with Omnicom

Company beat out WPP after $50B DirecTV acquisition

Telecommunications giant AT&T consolidated its advertising business with Omnicom after a closed creative and media review that pitted the holding company against arch rival WPP. BBDO will retain the creative business, while the recently formed Hearts & Science unit will be media agency of record.

This review, which began in June, came nearly two years after the company entered talks to acquire DirecTV in a deal worth an estimated $50 billion. BBDO had been the incumbent agency on the AT&T business since 2007, and Grey served as agency of record for DirecTV since 2010. The two aforementioned agencies competed on the creative portion of the review while Hearts & Science, which officially began operations in April with America's largest single advertiser P&G as its flagship client, went up against WPP's MEC on the media side.

AT&T has a longstanding relationship with Omnicom, and last October the company hired former BBDO New York managing director Fiona Carter to fill the svp/head of brand marketing role.

"We've completed our comprehensive advertising agency review that combines creative, media, data and analytics under one entity," AT&T senior executive vice president and global marketing officer Lori Lee wrote in a statement. "We believe this integrated, best-in-class approach is the future for brands wanting breakthrough marketing innovation, quality and efficiency at scale."

The statement continued: "It was a thorough and thoughtful evaluation, and a tough decision because both firms presented outstanding ideas and both have done terrific work for us in the past. We thank them both for their efforts. We have selected Omnicom via its BBDO and Hearts & Science units to be AT&T's integrated creative and media agency."

This news marks a significant win for the Omnicom network. According to the most recent numbers from Kantar Media, AT&T and DirecTV combined to spend nearly $2 billion on measured media in the U.S. for all of 2015.

"By combining the resources of Hearts & Science and BBDO, we are extremely pleased to have won the business and look forward to continue working with AT&T to build an integrated creative, media, digital data and analytics team that can deliver the best in advertising and marketing ideas, execution and results," an Omnicom spokesperson told Adweek. "This is an opportunity like none other. AT&T is a unique, premier brand that is constantly innovating for its customers and we're privileged to expand our partnership with them. We look forward to developing breakthrough work with AT&T around their unique integrated capabilities to serve consumers and businesses."

A representative for Grey wrote, "We have had an amazing run on DIRECTV and been privileged to help grow that brand with years of award-winning campaigns that struck a chord in pop culture. We wish AT&T and their agency partners continued success."

The AT&T statement also thanked Grey and MEC for their work on the business: "We expect a smooth transition of the work to Omnicom will happen over the coming weeks. Like Omnicom, WPP is a world-class group and we appreciate their hard work and nine-year partnership."

Over the past few years, both creative shops created standout campaigns for their respective clients. For example, BBDO's "It Can Wait" AT&T PSA and Grey's quirky DirecTV campaign starring various versions of actor Rob Lowe both earned plaudits from the trade press.