Yahoo Poaches Washington Post's Kevin Gentzel to Lead Ad Sales

Mr. Gentzel Brought Native Ads to the Post

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Kevin Gentzel
Kevin Gentzel

Yahoo hired Kevin Gentzel as head of advertising sales, according to The Washington Post, where he was chief revenue officer.

Mr. Gentzel will report to Yahoo's Head of Americas Ned Brody, according to a person close to the matter.

Mr. Gentzel joined the Post in June 2013 after spending a year and a half as CRO of the digital video company News Distribution Network. Prior to that, he spent 13 years at Forbes.

Mr. Gentzel's pedigree and relationships with advertisers may help Yahoo reignite its relations with brand advertisers in particular.

"He's got great relationships across the agency and client world for a number of years, between Forbes and The Washington Post and from both a print and digital standpoint," DigitasLBi Chief Investment Officer Adam Shlachter said of Mr. Gentzel on Tuesday.

Mr. Brody is considered by agency execs to be more of an operations guy -- someone well suited to manage the business, but not necessarily the sort of consummate salesperson who can wine-and-dine advertisers into opening their wallets.

Mr. Gentzel's particular set of skills will come in handy.

Heading into next week's third-quarter earnings call, Yahoo's display advertising business has experienced seven straight quarters without generating year-over-year revenue growth. And the company's overall revenue has declined annually for the past five consecutive quarters.

In particular, advertisers appear to have soured on Yahoo's more lucrative and brand-friendly "premium" ads, such as its home-page takeovers and so-called "native" branded-content ads on its digital magazines like Yahoo Food and Yahoo Tech. During the company's most recent earnings call, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said the most-recent period's display-revenue decline was, in part, due to "lower than expected contribution from premium advertising."

During Mr. Gentzel's tenure at the Post, the paper introduced its native-advertising product BrandConnect as well as BrandStudio, which creates content on behalf of advertisers. In 2013, the Post experienced its largest year in digital advertising, the company said. The New York Times recently described the Post as "in the middle of a great run, turning out the kind of reporting that journalists -- and readers -- live for."

His departure comes on the heels of the Post -- which is owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos -- naming former Politico CEO Fred Ryan to the role of publisher, replacing Katherine Weymouth, whose family sold the paper to Mr. Bezos last year.

"It has been an honor to work here," Mr. Gentzel said in a note to the Post's sales team. "It had to be an opportunity of this magnitude for me to even consider leaving The Washington Post, a brand I have long revered, and this team, for which I have the deepest respect and admiration."

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