What Spurred Yahoo to Add Goodby to Its Roster

Q&A: Marketing VP Penny Baldwin Explains Why Portal Took Action Amid Current Brand Blitz, and What's to Come

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Yahoo yesterday surprised the marketing world when it announced it had named a new agency to take over creative duties on the U.S. portion of the biggest integrated campaign push in its history -- just weeks after the rollout began.

Penny Baldwin
Penny Baldwin
The internet giant referred to its appointment of Goodby Silverstein & Partners as an expansion of its agency roster, and has been careful to note Ogilvy & Mather -- which created the "It's You" brand blitz -- remains agency of record. Of course, a new U.S. shop translates into a shrunken roster spot for Ogilvy, which has handled domestic and creative work for the marketer since in 2003. Yahoo in 2008 spent about $50 million in domestic measured media, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

In a statement, Brian Fetherstonhaugh, chairman-CEO of OgilvyOne, had this to say: "The Ogilvy team performed a truly Herculean act to relaunch Yahoo in the U.S., U.K. and India with over 1,000 creative assets in 100 days. Early results are really positive. We look forward to continuing to work with Yahoo and help them expand this message around the world where [two-thirds of the] world's internet population live."

"It is a great time to be working for [Yahoo] because of the conditions in the market -- they're poised to come back with a much a better product offering," said Jeff Goodby, co-chairman of San Francisco-based Goodby Silverstein. "I'm very happy to be working with Ogilvy -- I used to work there myself -- and I'm sure we can work side-by-side."

Ad Age snagged a few minutes with Yahoo Senior VP-Global Integrated Marketing and Brand Management Penny Baldwin, who joined the company a few months ago after a lengthy agency career working at shops such as Arnold and Y&R, to ask her some questions about the move.

Ad Age: Why is now a good time for Yahoo to expand its agency roster?

Ms. Baldwin: Yahoo has aggressively expanded its marketing initiatives. We are a much different organization than we were even six months ago. We have much to accomplish in the next phase of our brand revitalization initiative and as our need-set expanded, so did our need for resources. We have been planning to expand our portfolio of agency partners for several months, and now that our multiyear effort is under way and our campaign is in full swing in the U.S., the time was right. This move was made to optimize our mix of agencies for the long-term as part of the normal course of business.

Ad Age: One question on some people's minds is why, when you recently did one of the biggest marketing launches in Yahoo's history, would you not have announced Goodby sooner and had them participate?

Ms. Baldwin: There's a couple of good reasons for that. We had to get familiar ... get a lay of the land. There was a getting-up-to-speed-time for [Yahoo Chief Marketing Officer Elisa Steele] and I, plus we were staging the revitalization brand on a worldwide scale. It was important to focus on getting the brand launched right, which we believe we did. Only then could we focus on "What are we doing about optimizing the mix for the long term?"

Ad Age: How did you choose Goodby? Did you hold a pitch, or was it based on the agency's credentials?

Ms. Baldwin: We really don't want to go into the process, but that process was significantly aided and abetted by the fact that I've been in this business 28 years so I knew who to speak to. ... [Goodby and Ogilvy] are two equally important partners. Ogilvy has the important charter of helping us grow worldwide. It's equally important for us to make sure we maintain and grow our customer franchise in the United States. It's our biggest market and, of course, we are located here.

Ad Age: Is this it regarding the expansion of your agency roster? Are we going to hear of any more agencies you're adding anytime soon?

Ms. Baldwin: I think we're going to remain open to ideas and new agency partners. But we don't have any immediate plans to add another partner.

Ad Age: Now that you have a new U.S. agency, are we going to see the "You" campaign go away? Will there be a shift in the creative work?

Ms. Baldwin: We remain completely committed to the campaign. ... We believe that it's a bang-on strategy and completely appropriate. While I can't get into all the data points to support that, internal research shows it's working and we're very encouraged by that. Is there going to be an evolution of the campaign? Yes. There was always going to be. We now want to push that idea to be even more hard-hitting, and by that I mean show specific examples of how our products deliver on personal relevance. For example, deliver photos in your new e-mail product, search engine gives you more relevant results. The next phase will hold consumers by the hand and show them how we do all of those things.