Just to prove there’s more than awards, yachts and rose going on in the Riviera during the Cannes Lions Festival, B&T is looking at some of the bigger stories that came out of the festival. Here we’re looking at how one company used the week-long gathering to re-embrace its name as a brand and is using it to drive real business growth.
Let’s start with everyone’s favourite guessing game: who am I?
I am a company that has 900 million users visiting it every month. I have the second largest global email in the world. In a bunch of markets, I’m the number one publisher in finance and news. I have the largest independent adtech stack that serves both the buy side and the sell side. I also have a search offering. Who am I?
Once upon a time I was called Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.
Really, still nothing? Okay, I was better known by that name’s acronym. Yet Another Hierarchical Officious Oracle.
Yahoo’s story is one of survival against the odds. Think of some of its 1990s contemporaries such as Netscape, AltaVista and Ask Jeeves, to realise not all big hits from the 1990s are alive today.
AOL, another of Yahoo’s contemporaries from last century was bought along with Yahoo by Verizon and the two were merged and ill-advisedly renamed Oath.
In Australia, Yahoo was best known for Yahoo7, an equally unsuccessful collaboration launched in 2006 spawned from Seven’s reluctance (or inability) to embrace digital, which ended when Oath bought Seven out of the JV in 2018. Seven was forced to write down its investment in Yahoo7 by $75 million following an ASIC investigation in 2016.
That entity became Verizon Media and was headed by Paul Sigaloff, Yahoo7’s then CRO. Most of his executive colleagues were shown the door.
Finally in 2021, Verizon had had enough of its adventures in tech and sold off the assets left from Yahoo and AOL to private equity firm Apollo Global and out of the glare of the public eye.
So why then, you might ask, would this embattled veteran of the Internet age want to rent out an entire beach club in Cannes? A not insignificant investment complete with custom built stands, parties and a live music performance by Fat Boy Slim.
Yahoo’s chief business officer Ivan Markman says Yahoo’s flamboyant presence at Cannes reflects one of the business’ three new core pillars – service.
With its headline event at the beach club called Discover Purple, Markman says it’s a way of reintroducing the legacy brand to the market.
“On one hand, we’re a very large scale, global publisher. But on the other hand, we have leveraged market leading technology, and a lot of the knowledge from the publisher side, as well as a load of first party data, which with cookieless, and so on, it’s becoming a lot more important to serve the broader ecosystem of publishers,” he explains.
The other reason, he says, the business isn’t doing too badly. It would appear Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous maxim was right in Yahoo’s case.
Under the stewardship of its new CEO Jim Lanzone, who was appointed last year moving from the top job at Tinder, Yahoo has had a very strong year says Markman.
Locally, Sigaloff is still in charge and enjoying something of his very own purple patch.
“In Australia, in particular, and the ANZ, more broadly, there has been significant, significant growth and a lot of that is with new technologies. Last year, the [demand side platform] DSP almost doubled year on year, connected TVs more than doubled, digital out of home almost quadrupled. Things are just exploding,” boasts Markman.
He says there’s three things driving Yahoo’s growth. The first is omnichannel.
“Being able to do that really well across all the different forms from TV to all of the traditional digital to native, digital out of home – helping marketers do that really well – it’s not trivial.”
Secondly, data is key to Yahoo and in that regards it’s taking a different approach to the walled gardens (Facebook).
“Because we are a publisher, because we have trusted first-party relationships with consumers, we have an amazing collection of data sets that help us not only personalize their core digital experience, but also use that for planning, measurement, targeting and activation. And that is super powerful as things become cookieless.
“We’re also we’re approaching it differently from the walled gardens. You can think of the walled gardens as saying give me your data, but I’m not sending anything back to you. With us, the way that we thought about it is we’re definitely because we’re a publisher so people first.
“So, let’s say you give your consent to a credit card for them to provide relevant ads to you, you will give your consent to us to personalise for you. And then there may be another publisher, who you will do that same thing. We connect all of those. Because essentially, you’ve given the three of us permission, to be more relevant. We call that connect ID . . . It’s more of a community garden instead of walled garden because those parties can all participate in.”
Markman says one of the things he’s realised is that a lot of publishers just don’t have that know how. To help them, Yahoo is using its scale as a publisher to help anonymously assign intent to an impression through what it terms NextGen Solutions.
“We see billions of impressions every day where it might be, someone opens an app or is on a desktop in Sydney at a certain point in time in the day on something that may have a certain content. We don’t know that it’s you. It’s just an impression. But because we have billions of those. And then we also have one that is identified, we can use machine learning to assign intent without even knowing anything about you. We don’t know that there’s a person, it’s really just an impression.”
The third plank of Yahoo’s offering is the one we mentioned above – service.
Markman explains that all of these things are really hard. And being able to position itself as a trusted partner, gives Yahoo an edge.
He points to Yahoo’s partnership with Marriott as a case in point.
“When you think about Marriott, they have they serve hundreds of millions of travellers every year. They have 1.4 million rooms that have TVs in them. Yeah, they got screens in gyms and whatnot. They have their Marriott Bonvoy App that has 150 million registered users. And then all the hotel sites. So, we launched with them the first travel media network.”
Yahoo may have not had the most easy of adolescent years, particularly in the Marissa Mayer years, but as a young adult company it’s coming into its own. Watch this space.
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