Women to Watch 2009

Elisa Steele

Chief Marketing Officer, Yahoo

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As Yahoo's first chief marketing officer in almost 18 months, Elisa Steele is charged with guiding the portal through perhaps its most challenging period: Revenue is down in a soft year, the troops have endured multiple management changes and the company spent the better part of last year fending off an unwanted advance from Microsoft.

Elisa Steele

The 42-year-old mom of two grade-schoolers jokes that, seven weeks in, she "can't remember life before Yahoo," and it's clear she's had a busy baptism into the company, where she's trying to make marketing more global, integrated and leadership-driven. In her short tenure at the portal, she's overseen a review with longtime Yahoo agency OgilvyOne, which will be expanding its duties to include global marketing, and she will be naming a strategic brand agency shortly.

One of her big challenges, under new CEO Carol Bartz, will be helping various divisions and groups cooperate with and support each other. One means to that end are "brand dashboards" -- internal tools that give every Yahoo division data and insights to help inform their work.

"Elisa has really good 'intuition radar' for detecting disconnects," said Anil Gadre, former CMO of Sun Microsystems and now an exec VP at Sun. "She knows that impactful programs only happen when marketing's internal clients really understand customers, and her collaborative style of leadership naturally pulls people together."

A programming dashboard, for example, might offer up insights about market segmentation, user profiles and how customers are solving online problems. One for business-to-business products might show how advertisers perceive Yahoo's ad products, what kinds of experiences they are having with the competition and what kinds of marketing problems they're commonly trying to solve.

"Brand experience is the experience of our products online but also how people communicate with Yahoo, what happens when they call Yahoo -- it's any touch point anyone in the outside world might have with Yahoo," she said.

Ms. Steele started in sales before moving to integrated marketing management. She talks a lot about value-based management -- creating transparency around leadership and helping people trust each other, something she's concentrating on at Yahoo.

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