As Verizon Ownership Nears, Yahoo Is Skipping the NewFronts and Bringing Its Video Ads Pitch on the Road

Hitting up cities like New York, Chicago and Los Angeles

Yahoo is taking on a different video ads sales approach this spring.
Getty Images

This spring, Yahoo plans to pivot away from a major pitch to brand marketers at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Digital Content NewFronts (DCNF) in favor of a tour to several major markets across the U.S. The decision comes as its acquisition by Verizon finalizes, a development expected to take place in the second quarter while possibly coinciding with DCNF.

Indeed, Yahoo today said it’s skipping the annual two-week showcase in May, when digital publishers and platforms attempt to convince the biggest advertisers to invest in their online properties. For its 2016 NewFront, Yahoo held a closed-door event for between 300 and 350 advertisers—a count that was about half of the more open event it held in 2015.

According to Yahoo chief revenue officer Lisa Utzschneider, executives will travel to cities including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and more to meet with agency and brand partners. She said the company decided to make the move after agencies said they preferred last year’s more personalized and low-key event at Yahoo’s offices in New York and requested the company visit them.

The company said it decided to make the move after agencies declared they preferred 2016's more personalized and low-key event at Yahoo's offices.

“It was eye-opening having it in the Yahoo space where we really focused on the quality of the content and less about the flash and the sizzle,” Utzschneider told Adweek. “And I had many people come up to me and say, ‘Yahoo, this was your best NewFront yet.’”

Ahead of last year’s NewFront, Yahoo announced plans to streamline its content verticals to focus on four—news, sports, finance and lifestyle—while focusing more heavily on short-form video and livestreaming. A year later, the plan seems to be paying off. Time spent watching video across Yahoo’s properties was up 85 percent, with video inventory growing by 29 percent and time spent viewing ads increasing by 42 percent. In January, the company reported its quarterly earnings, beating analyst estimates with revenue in the fourth quarter totaling $1.47 billion—up from $1.27 billion in fourth-quarter 2015.

For this year’s NewFronts season, Yahoo will likely have a new owner, with its acquisition by Verizon expected to close in the second quarter. Asked how that might affect the company’s pitch to advertisers, Utzschneider declined to give specifics, explaining only that it will be “business as usual” as the companies finished the first quarter.

“We’re going to set very clear expectations this year with our partners that the content we’re going to share is our Yahoo story and our video strategy for this year,” she said.

In its place at DCNF this year on May 1 will be Twitter, which today announced plans to host its own NewFronts event for the first time in New York.