Right On Marissa!

Yahoo CEO Mayer sticking with exchange biz, for now

All you Yahoo prognosticators can settle down (for now). Right Media isn’t going anywhere.

While Yahoo’s interim CEO Ross Levinsohn had been kicking around the idea of replacing or selling Yahoo’s ad exchange, Sunnyvale’s new boss Marissa Mayer has no such inclinations. According to Yahoo svp of advertising and data platforms Scott Burke, he and Right Media head Brian Silver have had “a lot of interactions” with Mayer since she took the helm in July and that the former Google exec is making “a significant commitment to [Yahoo] being a principal in display advertising.”

To that end, Mayer told Burke and Silver that Right Media and the ad tech that powers Yahoo's guaranteed ad sales "continue to be important strategic investments for Yahoo," Burke said.

“[Mayer] understands the value of display to Yahoo,” Burke said. And, Mayer also seems to get the perception issues plaguing Yahoo’s ad tech business. “One thing we wanted to do here was dispel the notion that Yahoo will be selling its core ad technology,” he said.

In talking with Adweek, Burke and Silver also shed some light on another uncertainty. What’s going on with Michael Barrett? Levinsohn hired the former Admeld CEO as Yahoo’s chief revenue officer in June, but with Levinsohn’s departure, there have been questions as to whether Barrett would follow suit. While no definitive answers were available, Barrett did participate in the talks around Right Media, which suggests he plans on sticking around…for some period of time.

Mayer’s plan for Right Media is only the latest in a string of questions circling the exchange business since Yahoo bought the firm in 2007. For starters, there’s the often-repeated belief that Right Media primarily houses Yahoo inventory—with some other publishers sprinkled in to distinguish it from a single-publisher marketplace. Not true, said Silver.

In fact, per Silver Right Media serves up 10-11 billion impressions daily, a minority of which are generated on Yahoo sites. “I wouldn’t say it’s even close to being a majority,” he said. Silver described Yahoo as an “anchor tenant” but pointed out that AOL has inventory in Right Media as of last fall’s display agreement among Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft.

And what about criticisms that Yahoo hasn’t meaningfully invested in Right Media’s technology since the acquisition? Silver acknowledged that Right Media may have seemed slow to hop on the real-time bidding bandwagon but that was because “Yahoo as the anchor tenant chose not to utilize RTB as a mechanism,” claimed Silver. “Right Media has been fully RTB-enabled for years." That now includes mobile advertising.

Yahoo plans to further invest in Right Media moving forward, Silver and Burke insisted. For example given the growing popularity of audience-based buying, even for guaranteed tier-1 inventory. “It’s important to bring those capabilities into the exchange,” Burke said, which could involve a “unification of marketplaces” that would bring more access to premium inventory through the exchanges.