Yahoo! aims to (please?)

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Yahoo! extended an olive branch to traditional and online agency media executives at a "Yahoo! Agency Alliance Conference" this month. And the consensus among those who attended is that the battered online media giant is finally making headway with agencies.

The meeting, at the Doral Forrestal in Princeton, N.J., is one of several indications of how the company plans to recover from a dramatic falloff in ad revenue and the perception that it has been uncooperative with agencies. The core message from the summit was, "I want to have a relationship with you," according to Fran Laufer-Powell, managing director, at the @tmosphere unit of Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide.

Murray Gaylord, VP-brand marketing at Yahoo!, Sunnyvale, Calif., said the East Coast meeting was just another in a series of seminars the company has staged for agencies since he joined from the Advertising Council in March 2000 on the eve of the dot-com crash.


"The whole objective of my coming on board at that time ... was to understand that we need to be customer-focused," he said.

Some meeting attendees say the session signaled a new humility. In one panel, "Seeing Ourselves as Others See Us," the company touted what attendees saw as a new flexibility, asking the group to give feedback on "how we're doing and how we stack up against the competition," according to a copy of the agenda obtained by Advertising Age. Yahoo! expressed more willingness, those executives said, to explore rich-media formats, unusual ad units, and other out-of-the-box solutions.

Still, those who attended the meeting said they came away with a wait-and-see attitude about how Yahoo! would perform in the marketplace. The meeting was positive, but short on specifics, said Sharon Katz, VP-director of media at True North Communications-backed Modem Media. "It's like they're trying with their eyes closed."

As another indication of its focus on improving revenue, Yahoo! Broadcast Services will announce today an expansion to its broadband Webcasting services. Working to capitalize on its success with such endeavors as the pet-focused Purina TV, produced with Ralston Purina Co., Yahoo! is launching a roster of marketing Webcast programs tailored toward business-to-business and business-to-consumer clients.

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