The appointment will be effective from 6 April, following Barber's brief stint at Visa Europe where he had been its head of issues management since September 2009.
Tim Lefroy, The AA's chief executive, said: ‘Ian's appointment is one of a number of changes planned; we are on a mission to put a more proactive approach in place alongside effective rebuttal and defence of our industry.'
Before joining Visa Europe, Barber had worked as a director at Good Relations since 2007. He was previously at Barclaycard, where he spent six years as head of PR.
He will work alongside Sue Eustace, the AA's current director of public affairs.
Barber said: ‘The industry has a fantastic story to tell, I'm looking forward to putting the AA on to the front foot as the effective, persuasive voice for commercial communications in all its forms.'