Yahoo’s Bartz: Digital Ad Market Remains Volatile

The online ad market is showing signs stabilizing, but is far from returning to its glory days of recent years, which were marketed by robust double-digit spending growth.

But the overall ad industry is set to enjoy an infusion of new spending from Yahoo, which is set to roll out a $100 million global ad campaign centered around the theme Y!ou.

Those were just a few of the topics covered on Tuesday (Sept. 22) during a wide ranging press conference held by Yahoo, which featured several of the Web giant’s top executives including CEO Carol Bartz and Hilary Schneider, executive vp Yahoo U.S.

On the digital ad front, Schneider said that although the volume of inventory the company has been selling of late has provided some hope for the upcoming year, “I wouldn’t go as far as saying we’re in full recovery,” she said.

Bartz added that the market is still volatile. “One sector gets excited another sector goes down,” she said.

Schneider and Bartz and also fielded questions about Google’s push into the ad exchange business, as well as Yahoo’s sliding stock price. “We welcome Google,” said Schneider. “We really pioneered the display adverting space…and we’re proud of the fact that we have the largest exchange. We invested early.”

Meanwhile, Bartz bristled at the constant comparison that is made between Yahoo and Google—by the press and Wall Street. “Yahoo and Google are in different businesses,” said Bartz. “We aren’t a comparable company. We all have taken fairly different perspectives. The closest one [to Yahoo] is AOL frankly.”

But the main focus of Tuesday’s press session was to unveil Yahoo’s new ad campaign, which will tout the company’s personalization features, and the portal’s longstanding mission to serve as the central hub of users’ Web lives. The media support for the Y!ou effort will include multiple platforms, with 50 percent of its reach being achieved through digital platforms.

Among the new taglines for the campaign—which will roll out over 15 months in 10 countries—is ‘The Internet is under new management. Yours.’

But hasn’t Yahoo allowed users to customize their experience for years?  Yes, said Tapan Bhat, senior vp, Integrated Consumer Experiences Search. But even since 1996, when Yahoo rolled out its MyYahoo offering, just 15 percent of its users took advantage of that feature—which was too laborious for some. “People aren’t’ willing to the work,” he said.

Thus, the new Yahoo approach will be one of “incremental personalization,” said Bhat. “this will be something that keeps growing over time.

One area where that approach will manifest itself immediately is Yahoo Search, which has been revamped to allow users to view snippets of search results, which they can use to narrow down searches queries more easily. That should yield a “much more relevant search experience,” said Bhat.

The new search experience is still very much Yahoo-branded, as will remain so, even when the Yahoo-Microsoft search deal is completed, emphasized Bartz. She drew a parallel between the way Yahoo plans to use the Bing search technology and the way that multiple PC manufacturers use Intel chips. “The experience that HP wraps around those chips is different than what Dell wraps around those chips,” she said “It’s not Bing, it’s Yahoo Search.”

And that Yahoo brand still resonates with consumers, despite much of the negativity surround the company in recent years. In fact, Bartz chided the press for being “cynical” and urged then to travel the country to talk to users about Yahoo. “If you get outside of New York City and Silicon Alley, people love Yahoo.”