The Trouble With Y!ou

Hey there! You, with the oddly placed exclamation point! Yeah, y!ou! As in, “It’s y!ou,” the new tagline for Yahoo’s $100 million global ad campaign, which breaks today in the U.S.

At the very least, the exclamation point after the “Y” is an annoying distraction. Are you supposed to click your tongue or something while saying it? Or is it some sort of Norwegian/Icelandic term for “He who was born in a fjord and now works a keyboard?”

If the creators wanted to convey a modern day, tech-y and text-y kind of word, wouldn’t it be “U!”? Then again, Reebok already let “UBU” (back in the ’80s) and Yahoo is all about the “Y,” but, saying so would copy, which is all about the “O.” But at least it wouldn’t require any special fiddling with the shift keys.

Sorry about the snark, but such an aggressively forced device implanted in such a basic word rubs me the wrong way. It’s too cutesy. In fact, I can’t see that exclamation point hanging around for long. “It’s y!ou” all but begs for a response like, “You talking to m?e?” Or, taking a page from the Saturday Night Live skit, a sarcastic “Really!?!”

The truth is, punctuational desperation is unnecessary. My view is Yahoo is still a strong, likeable company boasting a fantastic name, more than 500 million visitors a month and a history of cool advertising. (Although, it could be all the purple, light-up Yahoo-tinis I’ve drunk at industry events talking.)

I realize the company’s stock price has been in free fall and there’s been turmoil in the last year: changes in the executive ranks, competition with Google and the Microsoft deal morphing from a buyout to a search partnership with Bing. But what CEO Carol Bartz said at a recent press conference — “When you get out of New York City and Silicon Valley, everybody loves Yahoo” — sounded like part of the problem. The campaign comes off as defensive. It also seems generic and amateurish. (Sources say the work is a “collaboration” between Landor & Associates and Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide. We’ll leave it at that.)
Of course, so far I’ve only seen an online video and some print. My hope is the TV will deliver some of the newness and excitement completely missing here.

The video could be a “ripomatic” for any media product. Over quick cuts of photos (dancers, Dalmatians, fireworks, etc.) the announcer says, ” You are about to enter a place where time and space collide, and breed joy and wow. Where news travels faster and where you can consume, share, buzz, destroy, watch and wonder.” Um, is this 1994 and they’re trying to sell us on this new thing called the Internet?

I was surprised to hear that models for the print work were real people plucked off the streets of New York. They certainly cover all of the proper diversity boxes, including a black guy with muscles, an Indian woman, a kid in a rakish hat who is possibly Hispanic, and a Latina teen jumping for joy. But they’re used in such a dated and cliched way that I thought it was stock photography. The result reminds me of student work, or the kind of posters you’d see in your office lobby promoting a blood drive. Take the ad with the kid in the hat. It boasts the copy, “The Internet is under new management — yours.” Since when did a kid that age not think that the Internet was his? Where does Yahoo figure into that?

Some are less obvious, such as one with a photo of a mother and son. The copy reads, “The end of the one-size-fits-all Internet.”