Kara Swisher

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Exclusive: Yahoo Overhauls Marketing Unit — The Internal Memo

Yahoo is drastically rejiggering its marketing division, according to an internal memo sent today to employees from its Chief Marketing Officer Elisa Steele, in a move that seems to leave her future role unclear.

Steele was brought to Yahoo over two years ago by now-fired CEO Carol Bartz — whom she had been very close to — and charged with turbocharging and reorganizing the unit, which has never been strong.

While Steele certainly did overhaul the marketing department, some of her efforts, such as Yahoo’s pricey “It’s You” advertising campaign, have not worked out. And, largely due to the ongoing turmoil at the company, its brand has suffered under her watch.

The changes, which appear to be at the behest of Steele (though you never know at Yahoo!), will shift the major marketing functions back to the regions of the Silicon Valley Internet company from its current global centralized one.

“I believe we now need to bring marketing decisions, marketing talent and marketing budgets closer to the customer — and into the regions that depend on these critical plans,” she wrote. “We need to further link our marketing strategies to revenue growth, sales objectives and overall accountability.”

Since Steele took over the marketing department at Yahoo several years ago, she has been moving those powers to a more centralized system.

No longer.

In the internal memo, which I obtained and is embedded below, Steele outlines the shift, which will remove a lot of that control of marketing from the HQ and out to its business units.

Steele said in the email to the marketing team that she will remain at the company as CMO for now, although seems to indicate that she is also evaluating her future role.

“My current role as CMO on CEO staff is unchanged,” she wrote. “However, whatever I decide to do next for my career is my choice — and I’ll think about that on my own timeline.”

Sounds like an eventual departure to me, with Steele trying hard to stress she was going out on her own motor, even though giving up contro of big parts of your unit is unusual.

In any case, Steele obviously is betting now that on-the-ground control of marketing will help improve things for the beleaguered company. Here’s the memo:

Team,

It is critical for Yahoo! to grow faster and become more agile. We need to make decisions to accelerate the Regions’ growth plans around the world, and Marketing plays a crucial role in helping develop, support and execute these plans. We’ve built an integrated marketing machine that is an asset to help the company grow now and into the future. When we assembled a global and centralized organization in 2009, we took the opportunity to create best practices, establish consistency, deepen domain expertise, enhance functional capabilities and innovate for one of the biggest brands in the world. And, in the past 12 months, Global Marketing took home dozens of industry awards for marketing leadership in integrated consumer marketing, digital marketing and event marketing – including the acclaimed Cannes Lions, a Clio, a Webby and IAB Awards. Our Marketing achievements have been broad, deep and well recognized.

Now that we have this strong capability, it is time to leverage it even further. I believe we now need to bring marketing decisions, marketing talent and marketing budgets closer to the customer — and into the regions that depend on these critical plans. We need to further link our marketing strategies to revenue growth, sales objectives and overall accountability. Therefore, I want to put the marketing programs and tools we’ve developed right with the Sales and Audience teams responsible for the business outcomes.

It is with this in mind that I recommended a marketing reorganization plan to align to these objectives, accelerate decision-making and simplify roles. The plan centers on decentralizing the current global team into 2 types of specific teams:

1. Regional Marketing: Our regional marketing teams will move to report directly to the Regional leaders in Americas, EMEA and APAC.

2. Corporate Marketing: Our strategic brand, communications and marketing services teams will remain centralized and report into HQ.

This was my proposal to Tim for the best interests of Yahoo! today, and I am glad he agreed with my thinking. I really hope you will endorse and support these changes, too. Yahoo! needs your help and expertise to insure this important next phase is successful.

I want you to know how proud I am of your achievements and contributions. I also want to thank you for the incredible support you have shown me over the past 2.5 years in the current organization. It’s been an amazing brand adventure and working with each of you has been a great source of satisfaction.

My current role as CMO on CEO staff is unchanged. However, whatever I decide to do next for my career is my choice — and I’ll think about that on my own timeline. First, I will work with Tim, my peers and all of you to ensure a smooth transition — and that is my focus for now.

We have a meeting scheduled with the marketing leadership team on Monday and I can address any questions you may have about this transition.

Thanks,

Elisa


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