Marissa Mayer, Programmatic Buying, and Display’s Growth Potential

When Marissa Mayer participated in her first earnings call as Yahoo’s CEO, she was asked a very interesting question. From AdExchanger.com:

During the Q&A portion of the earnings call, Mayer was asked point-blank by Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Youssef Squali: if she had to choose one, where is the bigger growth opportunity for Yahoo? Search or display?

Mayer initially indicated that search was where the money was. But as she spoke, appearing to work out her thinking in mid-answer, she seemed to step back a bit and suggest that over time, display could be the real driver as programmatic buying becomes the dominant way online ads are bought, sold and placed. Ultimately, the impact of her statement was to suggest that the company still has a lot to work out when it comes to defining its vision.

First off, let’s have a primer. What is “programmatic buying”? Essentially, it does away with the traditional negotiated IO and RFP process. An advertiser or agency would instead work directly with exchanges or Demand Side Platforms (DSPs), for example, to buy the right impression at the right time for the right price. Programmatic buying can use 1st- or 3rd-party data to make even more intelligent decisions. In a sense, this is about making display a lot more like SEM. The days of display being viewed as strictly upper-funnel are nearing an end.

Search Marketing from the Display Perspective

Before joining PPC Associates in February, I spent the previous few years at Progressive Insurance. Opportunity for exposure to various digital marketing channels was abundant. The display team sat next to the search team, but we didn’t have much knowledge of the other’s day-to-day activities. However, both teams had, at the very least, a functional understanding of the other’s channel. So when I left Progressive, I left an existing cross-channel marketing team.

PPC Associates, on the other hand, brought me on board as the company’s first-time display guru. So for the first time I’m bringing the knowledge and experience to a new team. I still have lots of knowledge-sharing to accomplish, but I’ve loved all the discussions about display advertising. Getting to write display advertising posts on historically search-focused sites has been an added bonus.