Yahoo’s Bartz Sounds Off on the Advertising Industry, AOL and More




Leave it to Yahoo’s CEO Carol Bartz to stir up a little controversy from time to time. It seems like that’s the best way for Yahoo to get in the news these days. In recent months most stories are more about what Yahoo used to be and people trying to figure out what it will be. For any business, especially in the Internet advertising space, news of progress and innovation is a better message wouldn’t you say?

So when AdAge sat down with Bartz she had boat loads to say and the most interesting came at the end of the interview when she called out the advertising industry.

For an industry that’s based on creativity and inspiring people, I don’t know why it’s so afraid. I don’t think it should be afraid to just try some crazy new stuff. But when I talk to people about online marketing, they just seem to freeze. … I thought this was going to be a much racier industry that wore black and got out there and rock and rolled and I see it being a little shier. I mean, I’m the crazy lady.

Well, she may not get arguments on certain parts of that statement for sure but she certainly isn’t afraid to speak her mind.

The interview had some other moments not the least of which was her offering the standard line as to why Yahoo has struggled as of late and what will pull them out in the future. Notice the first point of the answer is not about innovation but circumstances.

Growth will come from multiple areas. One is the economy coming back. We’ve all been victims of the world economy for the past two years. So that’s No. 1. Two is we really believe we’ve made advancements in the world of display advertising — how to measure, how to get better ROI. So we think we can help online branders come online. The third issue is there’s immense growth internationally to bring new-to-net users online and then downstream to monetize them.

Hasn’t Google and other profitable online players been experiencing the exact same economic conditions? Personally, I believe this line of thinking needs to be struck from corporate speak. Yes, things have been bad but we need to hear about companies that are not waiting for things to change but rather innovating to make things change. Enough excuses already. Sure the economy sucks. Get over it.

As for Yahoo moving forward? It appears that she pushes back on the concept of Yahoo being a content company.

It’s a bit too simplistic to say we’re only a content company. The amount of science and technology that we have behind our sites and our ability to target and the insights we give with precision to the client, it’s much, much more than content. The content is to draw the user in, the technology is for the advertiser to find an audience at scale. It has both sides and always will have.

Another bit of wisdom that should bring a smile to anyone’s face is her impression of what AOL is doing in its push to be the content machine of the Internet. Asked about what makes the two companies different she responds:

Generally it’s not different, we’re just a lot bigger. The fact of the matter is, what they’re trying to do at AOL — and I shouldn’t speak for AOL, they’re very capable of speaking for themselves — but I think it’s like a mini Yahoo.

Mini-Yahoo. Good one!

Lastly, you can look for Yahoo to be spending some money for acqusitions. When asked about whether or not the purse strings will be loosened she responded:

Absolutely. We’ve been very forward about this. Last year was looking internally — I hired a new team, restructured the company. This year it’s about what technologies: Do we need to fill in the blanks, what analytics, what tools?

…..whether it’s acquiring an audience — a group of female bloggers, or whether it’s acquiring some better analytics tools that help us guide campaigns with our partners, or whether it’s technology. Last year we bought at company called Zoobut, which is better photo technology, so it let us do very modern photos in our mail. It’s that sort of thing — audience, technology and tools.

So look for more than just updates about how the whole Microsoft – Yahoo thing is going this year. At the very least we should have some great quotes from Yahoo’s c-suite to keep us wondering where it will land eventually.

  • Dean

    Is it me or is Bartz inching ever closer to becoming a Tina Fey SNL skit?