Get Online Advertising Right, Or Get Out Of The Way

Former Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz was sent packing this week for failing to meet performance goals, according to The Wall Street Journal and several other sources.

The Journal points out that Yahoo’s focus on producing content is part of the problem at the portal.

“People tell me that content is king, but that is not true at all,” says Rishad Tobaccowala, chief strategy and innovation officer at Vivaki, the digital-media unit of Publicis Groupe SA. “Most people make money pointing to content, not creating, curating or collecting content.”

Of course, the big tech companies that point to, rather than create, content–Facebook and Google–are growing like well fertilized weeds.

Another problem for the Yahoo’s of the tech and media world…declining rates for display advertising and unfilled inventory.

Both AOL and Yahoo are under pressure from “advertising exchanges,” the lingo for services that allows advertisers to bid for ad space across a multitude of properties that reach a particular type of user. Increasingly, marketers will turn to the advertising exchanges directly to buy high volumes of cheap online ads instead of negotiating with big publishers like Yahoo and AOL for more expensive ads.

If there’s a lesson here, it’s that having boatloads of content isn’t enough to get the job done. Instead publishers must bring the right content to the right person at the right time in the right place. That’s why real time ad buying (which includes practices like retargeting and creative optimization) is on the rise.

Not that these new avenues for optimizing online advertising are simple to put into place. “Retargeting demands unique banner ads, custom landing pages, and ongoing optimization. So unless you have the time to truly research, learn, build-out, and measure another channel, you might want to hold off on retargeting,” says Joanna Lord, CMO & Co-Founder at



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.