Even the nine-year-old son of AT&T's top ad exec knows TV advertising is broken

Brian Lesser
Adam Galica | CNBC

As the fight between television companies and digital platforms for ad dollars continues, one of the titans of the media industry is under pressure to reinvent advertising.

Brian Lesser, CEO of AT&T's advertising and analytics unit, was hired from WPP to make the ad experience better for viewers.

But even his nine-year-old son has identified one of the problems with TV advertising. "Dad, I keep seeing the same commercial over and over. That's bad, right?" he asked, according to an interview with Lesser published on industry website Ad Age on Monday.

Simply put, it's Lesser's job to make commercials more relevant to people. He told CNBC in June that AT&T has the technology that would allow TV and mobile to be better connected to each other for more relevant advertising.

"Everybody still hates advertising when it interrupts the content. It's our job to reduce the load on consumers, make it a better experience," he said. This might result in people seeing fewer TV commercials.

AT&T's Brian Lesser on the future of advertising

Instead, AT&T would gather information on viewing habits and mobile phone data to understand what someone might be looking to buy, and would show an icon for a relevant brand on TV offering to send a fuller pitch to that person's phone, according to Ad Age.

Telecoms company AT&T bought Time Warner for $85.4 billion in a deal that closed in June, in a bid to dominate the business of selling targeted advertising on internet-connected TVs and devices. It wants to develop a platform to sell personalized ads on video content regardless of where that person is watching and whether they have a cable or satellite subscription.

It is thought that the technology will also allow AT&T to sell ads against content owned by other companies, giving it a better chance of getting more of U.S. advertisers' estimated $70 billion ad budget.

Legacy TV networks have been slow to develop technology that can precisely target audiences, known as "addressable advertising," compared with online platforms where it's easier to create and deploy such tech.

Lesser joined AT&T around a year ago after running GroupM, WPP's media buying arm.

  • CNBC's Michelle Castillo contributed to this report.