Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz is speaking at the 4A’s ad agency confab this morning in San Francisco, and she’s her usual frank-speaking self. She’s using the occasion to answer people’s continuing questions about Yahoo’s vision and relevance–and she says the latter is something nobody should doubt. “You better friggin’ care,” she says.
What sets Yahoo apart from the many other big Internet properties out there? Art, science, and scale–though she notes her marketing people didn’t like the algorithm duh, acronym that would make. (Everybody has data on the brain here.) Lots of targeting, work on measurement, etc. Targeting is a huge focus for Yahoo right now–as it is for every Web site and marketer alike.
“We have so much data at our fingertips,” and Yahoo techies are working hard to turn that data into insights about consumers and targeting.
On the the art side: “There really is a human side” to marketing. “It’s not all algo-driven,” she adds after mangling the word “algorithm,” while also avoiding a specific mention of Google and its algo-driven search engine and ad system. Next quarter, Yahoo will introduce Digital Adventures to work with agencies to be more creative on all media. Come up with off-the-wall ideas and test them.
Video will also be a big focus. Much more engaging, but Yahoo needs much more of it.
It’s on to Yahoo’s scale: Bartz notes that Yahoo is one of the few Internet properties that has television-level reach and scale. Talks about various properties but quickly turns to search–and the recently approved deal with Microsoft. Interesting, she specifically thanks people here for their support through letters to Justice. (Now, folks here better hope Yahoo and Microsoft make something of that support, and well before the 2012 final target date for the full realization of the pact. Otherwise, marketers will simply have one fewer choice instead of a credible alternative to Google.)
Bartz now addresses the perception–which Bartz acknowledges is all too true–that Yahoo is tough to do business with. “We know we need to be more responsive. We know we need to get the friction out of the system.” Any problems, she says, write firstname.lastname@example.org.
And after noting that tomorrow is Yahoo’s 15th birthday, it’s a wrap. Honestly, Bartz offered nothing new about Yahoo’s direction. But Yahoo’s presence here–it’s also a founding sponsor of the confab–is a sign that it’s trying to repair a reputation with traditional ad agency types that was damaged in recent years during Yahoo’s many struggles.
It’s still uncertain how well Bartz can restore Yahoo’s relevance amid social networks like Facebook and Twitter and so many other sites and services. But it may well be that Yahoo’s survival depends even more on wooing traditional marketers and agencies looking for alternatives to television and other mass media than convincing the peripatetic digerati that the company is still cool.