Wenda Harris Millard

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The Internet in 2000 "will be even bigger than even the most optimistic analysts predict."

Wenda Harris Millard

Advertising age, 11/01/99

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Having witnessed the dot-com high life at DoubleClick in the late '90s and the low-life mosh pit at Ziff Davis Internet in 2000-2001, Wenda Harris Millard last month joined ailing Yahoo! while still believing the Internet is the best marketing "toolbox" to come along since TV.

Ms. Millard, Yahoo!'s chief ad sales officer, sounds excited about reviving the fortunes of the ad revenue-challenged portal. Yahoo! has always been a groundbreaker among Web companies. Yet advertisers seem less and less impressed with its position as one of the Net's top properties. According to data from Nielsen NetRatings, the property had a unique audience of 31.8 million people for the week ended Oct. 14, up from 27.7 million a year ago. But ad sales have crashed; the company reported third-quarter net revenue of $166.1 million, slightly more than half the revenue it generated during the third quarter of 2000.

Ms. Millard, 47, believes there's nothing intrinsically wrong with online marketing that some well-focused public relations, research and education couldn't fix. Asked where the still-young online advertising industry went wrong, she has an unusual answer: "I'm not convinced it went all wrong. The biggest crime on the Internet is youth."

She sees a medium that became waylaid by a laundry list of misconceptions characterized by a marketing youth core who promised, "It's going to slice, dice, mince and chop." The Net eventually turned off marketers who had come to expect the world from the Internet and not gotten it, she says.

With most of the dot-com riffraff gone, Ms. Millard feels people who have continued their commitment to Internet advertising are poised to bring out its potential. "We're who's left, so I think [among those] left in the industry, there's a lot of sincerity."

But even the upbeat Ms. Millard has concerns. Chief among them is that given the low cost of Internet media and high cost of labor to create digital marketing, "the economics of the Internet do not work for traditional agencies."

She's also concerned about the lag in research of the Internet consumer vs. what marketers know about how people use other media. "We don't really understand how the user consumes the medium," she says. So don't be surprised if Ms. Millard's early time at Yahoo! is focused on figuring out what those 31.8 million weekly Yahoo! visitors are doing. "From that understanding," she says, "I think we'll be better equipped to find creative that's compelling." For the online ad field, that's compelling.

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