Online Meets Offline

If many dot-com creatives are asking where all the jobs went, uber-portal Yahoo! has a different question: Where are the traditional creatives who will embrace the possibilities of online advertising?

Yahoo! has had recent success with charging for some premium services, but it still relies primarily on interactive advertising for revenue. Of course, that means for most of the past few years, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company has suffered through stomach-churning lows. So Yahoo! held a summit in New York in September to try to excite traditional creatives—and the ad dollars they have such close ties to—with the idea that traditional advertising and online marketing are not mutually exclusive.

In the past year, Yahoo! has hired a number of executives with traditional media backgrounds, including former Reader’s Digest exec Greg Coleman, now executive vp of North American operations at the portal. “This is advertising. We need to talk to advertising people,” said Yahoo! executive director Jerry Sheresh ewsky at the one-day conference, called “Creative Is Key.”

Yahoo! worked at proving its point by stuffing its agenda with a bevy of traditional ad types, ranging from Ogilvy & Mather vice chairman Steve Hayden to Euro RSCG MVBMS Partners’ Tom Messner to director Bob Giraldi. The 250 attendees got to watch the Yahoo! Finance home page appear to rip open for Jaguar, a clickable Web-page corner transform into a Pepsi ad featuring Britney Spears and a dog walk across the monitor and eat a bowl of Ralston-Purina’s Beneful right there at Yahoo! Pets.

From the stage, execs such as Hayden admitted that even the savviest of traditional agencies have a long way to go in fully integrating online into the mix. “One of the biggest mistakes we continue to make [at Ogilvy] is using too much money in the production of general advertising, when we absolutely know that no campaign is going to launch without a significant Web component,” he said.

As for the audience, they were simply happy “seeing that there is a community of people who do online advertising,” said Patrick Clarke, creative director at AtmosphereBBDO.

But it may be a while before both the online and offline communities attend conferences like Yahoo!’s in abundance. While attendance was good, it was more common to see agency interactive creative directors filling the seats than their powerful bosses, who were notably absent. “I’m looking around that room and I’m not seeing people who didn’t already know it,” said Michael Pollock, a former agency production executive who now advises creatively focused businesses.