Advertising Week 2014

Video Is 'Display 2.0': Marissa Mayer Woos Advertisers With the 'Yahoo Brand'

Yahoo CEO Touts Native, Video and Premium Publications

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Fast Company Managing Director Robert Safian interviews Yahoo CEO Mariss Mayer during Advertising Week.
Fast Company Managing Director Robert Safian interviews Yahoo CEO Mariss Mayer during Advertising Week.

As she kicks off her third year at the helm of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer is courting advertisers aggressively. She met with 500 advertising and agency executives, representing 350 brands, during the second quarter.

And during Advertising Week on Thursday, the CEO worked to convince marketers that her company is many things -- premium publisher, media platform, social channel, native and video ad force, and, critically, quality brand -- all worth their investment.

"One of the things we've had through our history is a personality and a point of view," Ms. Mayer said during an interview with Robert Safian, managing director of Fast Company. "Yahoo has a brand, a value, a perspective."

Ms. Mayer said Yahoo has been improving and expanding its offerings with products like its News Digest curation app, the music service Screen Live and seven new online magazine verticals, several of which are stacked with expensive talent. Brands that run ads on these digital publications saw lift "around the order of 30%" higher than identical ads running among "lower quality content," she said, citing an internal study.

Ms. Mayer also talked up the recently introduced ability to thread sponsored posts from Tumblr, the social publisher Yahoo acquired in May 2013, across multiple Yahoo properties. And she spoke highly of native ads; Yahoo launched its native ad network in August.

But the Yahoo chief was most enthusiastic about the potential for video.

"Yahoo's advertising business is really about search and display," she said. "Display 2.0 is really video. The ability to tell a story, to hold a user's attention for longer, to get a richer message across, we think that's where some of the best advertising will happen in the future."

When asked who Yahoo's competitors were, Ms. Mayer skirted the question. "One of the key metrics for us is time spent," she said. "We are really jockeying for that time that users want to spend. We say, 'Spend it with us. Here's our brand.'"

She added, "There are a lot of competitors in that space, but the good thing is that there is a lot of time."

She did not address renewed speculation about a deal with AOL, chatter that recently sparked up again alongside increased pressure on Ms. Mayer to improve Yahoo's financial position. In its most recent quarter, Yahoo's total revenue shrunk by 4% to $1.08 billion, with $436 million coming from display advertising and $428 million from search.

"It may sound strange," Ms. Mayer said, addressing a question on concerns over flattening growth, "but we think of ourselves as the world's largest startup."

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