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Mayer Touts Apple Ad as Yahoo Tries to Regain Brand Dollars

'Nothing as Creative as Advertising,' Yahoo CEO Says

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Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer said she was going to take a more active role with advertisers in the wake of the departure of COO Henrique de Castro. Today, she did at a meeting of brand advertisers in Los Angeles.

"There's nothing as creative as advertising," Ms. Mayer told attendees at the American Association of Advertising Agencies' Transformation conference.

Yahoo has been making a concerted effort of late to tout its ad products, like Tumblr-powered campaigns, that cater to big-budget brand advertisers. That push is spurred by the portal's struggle to attract brand advertisers to spend the bulk of those budgets on top-dollar, premium ads rather than the lower cost direct-response and standard ad units sold through automated systems.

On Monday Ms. Mayer tried to change the story line.

Yahoo's chief executive surprised at least one attendee when she said that Apple had run banner ads on Yahoo's home page last Thursday.

"Apple spent money on a digital ad?" asked interviewer and GroupM Global chief digital officer Rob Norman.

"They did," Ms. Mayer responded.

That's a nice feather in Ms. Mayer's cap. But one feather won't be enough to pull Yahoo's banner business out of its tailspin. The company's display advertising revenue has declined for five consecutive quarters. And during the company's most recent earnings call, CFO Ken Goldman said the company had sold a lower percentage of the more lucrative premium ads, like the ones Apple ran.

Investors will have to wait until Yahoo's earnings call next month to hear if the banner business is doing better. However on Monday before a room of advertisers, Ms. Mayer invoked a handful of examples to indicate that advertisers are running brand campaigns on Yahoo and seeing results.

Twice during her thirty-minute conversation, Ms. Mayer cited ads that outperformed non-paid content on Yahoo-owned properties (either positive for the advertisers or a negative for Yahoo's original content).

The so-called "native," or sponsored content, ads that food brand Knorr has been running on Yahoo's Food site "have been shared even more than [Yahoo's] original content on those pages," she said. And while the average Tumblr post is reblogged 14 times, the average sponsored Tumblr post is reblogged 10,000 times. Ms. Mayer also pointed to a Tumblr-created microsite that was created to promote the latest "Hunger Games" film as another example of brands creating content on Yahoo-owned properties.

Perhaps not coincidentally, also on Monday Yahoo introduced a new desktop ad aimed at brand ad budgets. Yahoo Motion Ads look like a typical home-page takeover banner but add a bit of animation seemingly inspired by the Tumblr-popularized GIFs.

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