Yahoo CEO Mayer has advertisers' attention, but can she get their dollars?

Mon Oct 14, 2013 7:05pm EDT
 
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By Jennifer Saba and Alexei Oreskovic

NEW YORK/SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Three weeks ago, Yahoo Inc Chief Executive Marissa Mayer strode into a Manhattan hotel and was greeted like a rock star by hundreds of advertising executives who snapped pictures as she sat down for an interview with journalist Charlie Rose.

That same audience a year ago would have been grousing that Mayer had not done enough to engage Madison Avenue, which is arguably Yahoo's most important constituent since the Internet company derives more than 75 percent of its revenue from ad sales.

"I think that Marissa has gotten a bit of a bad rap," said David Cohen, the chief media officer at UM, the global media arm of Interpublic Group.

The industry perceived Mayer as not caring about advertising, choosing instead to focus solely on products, Cohen said.

Ad agency executives say that over the past six months Mayer and her team have been working hard to change that perception, courting advertisers at key industry events, hosting lunches and attending meetings with agency representatives that include Yahoo executives like Chief Operating Officer Henrique de Castro, Senior Vice President and head of Americas Ned Brody and Chief Marketing Officer Kathy Savitt.

The charm offensive has impressed many on Madison Avenue, but getting advertisers to actually spend more on Yahoo's Web properties will not happen overnight, industry experts said.

The shift to advertising exchanges, which allow marketers to instantly buy placement for their ads across a broad constellation of websites, has pushed down the prices that online publishers such as Yahoo can charge.

That was painfully apparent in the second quarter of this year, when Yahoo's display advertising revenue slid 11 percent due in part to a double-digit decline in ad prices.   Continued...

 
Marissa Mayer, President and CEO of Yahoo!, speaks on stage during a fireside chat session at TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2013 in San Francisco, California September 11, 2013. REUTERS/Stephen Lam