Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia's Wenda Harris Millard Speaks!
When I was recently in New York, I enjoyed a delicious breakfast with Wenda Harris Millard, who was recently named co-CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO), aka the House Martha Built With Her Trusty Glue Gun.
Millard (pictured here) went to MSLO after many years of building and running Yahoo’s (YHOO) ad business (previous to that stint, she worked at DoubleClick in its earliest days).
She was also recently made chairman of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the prominent interactive ad trade group.
Nonetheless, Millard left Yahoo under a cloud, as she and the company parted on the way online ads should be sold going forward and then got into a bit of a tussle of just who left whom, especially with Yahoo President Sue Decker.
Without going into the complicated and conflicting details, some of which became personal and became very public, it was definitely not the way Yahoo should have rewarded Millard–who is well-liked and well-known in the ad industry–after years of loyal service.
As I wrote in a post on her Yahoo departure a year ago:
But I did have an idea about how cloddishly that Yahoo could handle Millard’s departure, in a vain attempt to make it look like they are on the ball in a time of management turmoil that seems only to roil and boil more as time goes on. The decimation of executive ranks there is like watching an online version of “Ten Little Indians,” or for you kids, “Hostel.”
And when you badly treat an employee who has worked pretty hard over the years for you as Yahoo did Millard, you have to wonder how in the world the company is going to attract top talent from the outside–let alone keep those valuable employees on the inside from bolting.
But Millard’s departure–which seems to be a case of her looking for and getting another job, all while Yahoo was also rejiggering its approach to ad sales–was handled with no grace and much confusion.”
Sounds like a bit of a broken record for Yahoo by now; as it turned out, Millard became one of the first in a long line of Yahoo execs to head for the exits.
Millard first went to MSLO as its president of media and got the top job (jointly with Merchandising President Robin Marino) after former President and CEO Susan Lyne stepped down.
There she will have to focus a lot on MSLO’s online business, which is probably its best bet for future growth.
The company needs it, as it has been clawing its way back to better results of late. MSLO stock has been dropping since 2007, all the way to close to $5 a share, although it seems to have stabliized more recently in the mid-$7 range.
It is a good thing–oh, I had to–that online advertising is a topic Millard knows well.
In fact, she actually likes talking about the block and tackle of figuring out how to properly use commercial messages within the online space.
At Yahoo and today, she was well known as a backer of brands over the holy algorithm and has often railed against treating online ads as if they were pork bellies–that is, commoditizing the business.
Here’s the video of her talking about it and more: