As Internet Week kicked off in New York today, Yahoo execs were busy pitching its new advertising platform, Genome, while downplaying the weekend's executive shuffle that saw the ouster of resume-fudging CEO Scott Thompson, the appointment of Fred Amoroso as chairman, and the elevation of Ross Levinsohn, EVP of the Americas and the brand's head of global media, to interim CEO — not to mention three new board members.
"It's very damaging, and speaks so negatively to the (vetting process)," commented "ambi-practioner" Adam Hanft to USA Today. "(Thompson) was hired for strategy, branding and marketing — not computer science."
It was a short run for Thompson, former president of eBay's PayPal unit. Yahoo only named him CEO, its fourth in less than five years, on January 4th. Levinsohn, meanwhile, is stepping up while trying to reassure advertisers — as he did at the brand's recent digital upfront for advertisers with Katie Couric — to put their faith and budgets in Yahoo's original web programming and vision.
Thompson's ouster is but the latest in a series of challenges for the Internet giant, increasingly buffeted by the successes of Facebook and Google and rendered an identity-challenged troglodyte. Levinsohn inherits a reconfigured board, a tarnished brand, and an unknown future.
Levinsohn commented to Yahoo employees in a memo published by All Things D: “Today’s announcements lay to rest the unfortunate and serious distractions surrounding our senior leadership and the composition of our Board going forward. In spite of the very bumpy road we’ve traveled, we are achieving genuine and meaningful successes in the marketplace every day and heading in the right direction.”
Thompson, who last week disclosed he's battling thyroid cancer, made some unpopular moves such as laying off some 2,000 employees, many in user personalization and ad initiatives, in addition to moving Yahoo away from a media content and ad focus despite $5 billion in revenue from display and search ads in 2011.
“Yahoo! is at "extreme risk" of losing its $1.3 billion slice of the display advertising industry, according to Forrester analyst Shar VanBoskirk. Brands are increasingly looking to sexier platforms such as Facebook, and the portal's attempts to diversify into video advertising haven't yet borne fruit. "Yahoo's greatest priority right now should be to solidify its value to media buyers," VanBoskirk argued to Bloomberg Businessweek.
In choosing Levinsohn, who is seen as a lead contender to assume the CEO job full-time, Yahoo is fortifying its crown jewel, online-ad sales. Levinsohn was hired from News Corp's Fox Interactive Media and has deep ties to Madison Avenue, Hollywood and Silicon Valley. The board is looking harder than ever at Levinsohn's (and other contenders') credentials as it ponders its next CEO, who will need to be a business and branding ninja to navigate the bumpy waters that Yahoo is now caught in.
“The world is desperate for leadership. We work with big companies like JP Morgan and Yahoo! and we see it all the time. People, teams, organizations thrive under great leadership and they wilt in its absence,” commented Josh Feldmeth, CEO of Interbrand New York, in a blog post. “Brands articulate strategy. They align and inspire organizations to deliver. They change the behavior of customers and markets. Managing the brand is an essential skill for today's CEO. Walter Kielholz, a great leader in his own right and the chairman of Swiss Re (and earlier, JP Morgan's competitor, Credit Suisse) once told me that he thought the brand was the most powerful tool available to the CEO.”
As for Yahoo's new pitch to advertisers, read more on the Genome platform in the press release below:
Yahoo! (NASDAQ:YHOO), the premier digital media company, today announces Genome* from Yahoo!, an online advertising solution that combines Yahoo! data with interclick’s third party data and advertisers’ first party data along with a premium media footprint to provide marketers with the most complete, custom audience solution in the industry. Anticipated to be available in July 2012, Genome is the culmination of a strategy that was put in place last year with the display ad agreement with Microsoft and AOL as well as the acquisition of interclick, which Yahoo! acquired in December 2011, to create a next generation audience buying solution with greater targeting and personalization capabilities.
Genome, designed to leverage data to dramatically improve advertiser ROI, can provide marketers with actionable insights enabling them to conduct campaigns that help meet their objectives, and overcome an ever-evolving set of industry challenges that include the proliferation of data, fragmentation of technology, and outdated planning and buying techniques. Genome can help marketers organize and navigate the chaos of the data ecosystem while delivering results that can build brand value, increase conversion rates, and grow revenue. Genome combines the best of the technology, data, analytics, and media from Yahoo! and interclick; from Yahoo! – premium media and unmatched user data with proven targeting capabilities – and interclick – unified technology stack, third-party data partnerships and expertise in analytics and audiences.
“Marketers have asked us for a solution that capitalizes on our vast data and our answer to that is Genome,” said Rich Riley, executive vice president, Yahoo! Americas. “With Genome, we can help marketers transform consumer information and insights into actionable online media executions that enable them to attain the right context and audiences.”
“It is great to see Yahoo! continuing to lead in providing unrivaled access to their premium inventory through automated buying systems, as well as making their data and audience technology available to agency customers through our buying platforms,” said Josh Jacobs, president of Accuen Media, Omnicom's Trading Desk. “Our customers value the scale and quality of Yahoo!'s audience, and we are excited to take advantage of the increased access Yahoo! is enabling.”
Genome will bring to market a comprehensive online advertising solution that can benefit the entire advertising industry. Key features of this next generation audience buying solution include:
· Unmatched data set: In order to provide a multi-dimensional view of consumers, Genome provides access to an expansive and diverse data set comprised of Yahoo!’s proprietary data – including registration, search and behavioral data – as well as integrated advertiser information and data from industry-leading partners.
· Premium media footprint: Genome allows marketers to directly access Yahoo!’s guaranteed and non-guaranteed premium inventory, as well as inventory available from the Yahoo!, AOL, and Microsoft partnership announced in November, and comScore top 1,000 publishers – all in transparent and brand safe environments.
· Actionable insights and analytics suite: From predictive modeling techniques to information design, Genome’s analytics helps marketers sort the big data landscape. This portable suite leverages leading campaign and user analytics to anticipate, optimize, and measure audience performance, turning insights into actionable media executions; marketers can carry their strategies across media plans with partners.
· Best-in-class audience technology: This proprietary data valuation technology is designed to work with massive data volumes, real-time marketplaces, and multi-vendor solutions, with increased efficiency to help meet marketers’ marketing goals. Genome’s core technology is OSM, a unique and interconnected technology stack that manages diverse data sources to provide an innovative approach to uncovering optimal audiences at scale, resulting from Yahoo!’s acquisition of interclick.
· Privacy: As a recognized leader in developing privacy-enhancing tools for consumers and a member of the NAI and DAA, Yahoo! understands the importance of consumer trust and privacy. Yahoo! provides transparency about our data collection and use practices and extends several tools to empower consumers to manage their experience, such as a global opt-out, Ad Interest Manager for visibility and control over specific interest categories, and Yahoo! is now among the first in the world to support Do Not Track.
INTERNET WEEK ACTIVITIES
Today, Rich Riley, executive vice president, Yahoo! Americas, joins Billy Beane, the Oakland A's general manager, whose story was depicted in Moneyball, and industry leaders on Internet Week’s main stage to discuss the importance of data in a premium online advertising ecosystem.
Yahoo!’s “Big Data Big Solutions” panel at Internet Week on Monday, May 14, 2012, features the following speakers: Acxiom Chief Marketing Officer Tim Suther; Citibank Senior Vice President, Head of Online Display Acquisitions Michele Morelli; Digitas Vice President, Group Director, Media Michael Lampert; NEO@Ogilvy Senior Partner, Managing Director Sean Muzzy; Yahoo! General Manager, Genome from Yahoo! Peter Foster; and Forrester Senior Analyst Joanna O’Connell.
Panelists will address changes in the online advertising ecosystem, including the explosion of data, fragmentation of technology, outdated planning and buying techniques, and the need for truly actionable insights.