AT&T Consolidates Its $2 Billion Creative and Media Business with Omnicom

By Patrick Coffee 

It’s Good Friday over at Omnicom after AT&T resolved its quickest-ever review by retaining BBDO for creative and sending its media business to the recently formed Hearts & Science.

Grey and MEC also participated in the review, which followed the close of AT&T’s $50 billion DirecTV acquisition/merger.

Don’t say we didn’t see it coming. Last October, AT&T hired former BBDO New York managing director Fiona Carter to serve as its svp/head of brand marketing after her predecessor Esther Lee left to become CMO at the soon-to-be Snoopy-free MetLife. We also first learned in March that AT&T was fielding pitches for a campaign to promote some forthcoming DirecTV package deal, but that was apparently a standalone “jump ball” event that was not part of the larger review.


Needless to say, this is a huge win. According to the most recent numbers from Kantar Media, AT&T and DirecTV combined to spend nearly $2 billion in U.S. paid media during 2015.*

The full, very long statement from the client:

We’ve completed our comprehensive advertising agency review that combines creative, media, data and analytics under one entity.  We believe this integrated, best-in-class approach is the future for brands wanting break-through marketing innovation, quality and efficiency at scale.

Both Omnicom and WPP presented very strong strategy, creative and media proposals. Each of them enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to create a new integrated agency model for delivering higher levels of service and value across the board. 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. Omnicom has brought together one dedicated team representing the best talent across Omnicom to work seamlessly with us to position AT&T as the world’s premier integrated communications company.  A single integrated team allows us to move quickly, innovate at scale and take a data-driven, holistic approach to reaching consumers and businesses. These capabilities are important as we get ready to launch new streaming video entertainment choices that are built for mobile.

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 9-year partnership.

From Omnicom:

By combining the resources of Hearts & Sciences 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. 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 break-through work with AT&T around their unique integrated capabilities to serve consumers and businesses.

A very humble Grey rep 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.”

On a side note, Hearts & Science has only officially existed for about four months, but it has already won the two biggest single advertisers in the U.S. What’s going on over there?

It’s not clear at the moment whether DirecTV and AT&T will remain separate units, though the combined deal pitch post implies that they will each air their own ads. This is important primarily because past campaigns have been very different in tone: think the car crash PSA versus the Rob Lowe series.

* An earlier version of this post had the total at $800 million, but Kantar has since sent us updated information regarding the AT&T network’s overall spend for 2015.