Upfront 07

Yahoo Woos TV Media Buyers at Its 'Infront'

Aims to Grab More of the Dollars Chasing 18- to 34-Year-Olds

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Yahoo kicked off a new era in TV upfront history by inaugurating its own "infront" conference at a theater here last night. The message to classically trained TV media buyers: The age of digital media is here, and Yahoo is laying its claim on the dollars chasing 18- to 34-year-olds.
Yahoo's chief sales officer, Wenda Harris Millard, said moving dollars online is about 'replacing hope with certainty.'
Yahoo's chief sales officer, Wenda Harris Millard, said moving dollars online is about 'replacing hope with certainty.' Credit: Ira Block

Yahoo CEO Terry Semel seemed a little nervous as he strode out on stage, cutting a more bashful figure than the typical broadcast-network chief. "Times are a-changing, and changing quickly. There is no doubt in my mind the world has gone fully digital," he said before reeling off facts and figures on broadband penetration.

Mobile search and IPTV
Mr. Semel also touched on Yahoo's mobile search service and internet-protocol TV. Yahoo has been doing IPTV in Japan for awhile, he said, and is working with AT&T domestically on its IPTV program. "We should very much be part of your early planning."

At one point Mr. Semel pulled a series of cue cards out of his pocket and mulled, "Oh, what else did I want to talk about now?" Apparently that was it, and he moved on, introducing Wenda Harris Millard, Yahoo's chief sales officer.

"We're not here to trash television," she said. But, she noted, 17% of a consumer's time is spent online, and only 6% of ad dollars are spent there. While people always say it's not about the money, "that spread of 11 points ... that's very much about the money," she said. Moving dollars online, she said, is about "replacing hope with certainty. ... We're here today to gently coax new thinking as media plans are created."

Time spent on Yahoo
Among the other stats touted: Yahoo has 7 million affinity groups, 75 million search users and a 29% higher conversion rate in search than Google. And time spent on Yahoo properties accounts for 13% of total time spent online -- "more than MySpace, Facebook and Google combined," said Jeff Weiner, senior VP-Yahoo search.
Terry Semel wants to be part of buyers' 'early planning.'
Terry Semel wants to be part of buyers' 'early planning.' Credit: Ira Block

For a first go, it was an admirable attempt, though the program was notably light on entertainment compared with the broadcast and cable upfront presentations -- which might have been the point. The only hint of relief from what at times felt like an investor roadshow came from Yahoo Chief Marketing Officer Cammie Dunaway, who quoted a survey about how sleep is the new sex -- which she said was true at her house, anyway.

TV buyer reaction was, as always, mixed. Some said they wished they had heard some of the offerings a bit sooner than yesterday, while others said they had wanted a little less marketing speak and a little more talk about what Yahoo can do for them.

More case studies
Audience members thought the presentation could have used a few more case studies of effective advertising partnerships beyond the Nike and Doritos examples offered by two of the speakers, as well as a better explanation of how Yahoo can offer integrations between online and TV. Still, the presentation reminded the crowd that Yahoo does come up with its own content and can attract big audiences to boot.

"Relationships are critical" for Yahoo, said Greg Coleman, exec VP-global media sales. "We need to sit down and talk deeply." He added that workloads are "out of control, and we have to be careful about where we focus our time." The idea being, we guess, to focus time on Yahoo.

"Today is not about theater," Ms. Millard said. "You won't see 'Desperate Housewives,' no indoor pyrotechnics. We don't even have Paris or Britney. But we do have an enormous respect for your time" -- though some might have wondered about the wisdom of the animated, onscreen "Gus the Gopher," who took some 15 minutes to demonstrate what Yahoo can do on cellphones.
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