Kara Swisher

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Yahoo’s De Castro Begins Reorg of Ad Sales Unit

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As I had previously reported, Yahoo’s key business unit — its advertising sales force — is now getting details of a reorganization by its new leader, COO Henrique De Castro.

In making the changes, just weeks ahead of Yahoo’s annual sales conference in Las Vegas on Jan. 21, De Castro is borrowing rather heavily from the set-up of the powerful ad business at Google, from whence he came.

By shifting the sales organization to a “category” model, sales reps at the Silicon Valley Internet giant will sell all of Yahoo’s ad products, as well as its search offerings, across channels in a vertical process organized around advertiser segments, such as automotive, entertainment and packaged goods.

Yahoo has long sold its advertising in a regional and tiered organization against premium and performance inventory in display and search, designed to avoid vertical conflict. Thus, the sales staff have built up advertiser relationships across many areas, which will not work in the new system.

Sources inside the company said regional leaders will now be shifted to running various verticals. There will be support specialists for those areas, too.

Mark Ellis, who was most recently VP of North American sales and global partnerships, will pay a key role in the new org, said sources. It is not clear, though, what role Peter Foster, who has headed audience advertising, will play. Another high-ranking exec, Keith Kaplan, has apparently been shifted to focus on agency relationships.

As I had previously written, there are many different ways to organize sales, but making such major change has potentially large ramifications on Yahoo’s financial performance, at least in the short term, since advertising makes up the bulk of its revenue.

According to numerous sources inside Yahoo, the changes are causing some measure of worry and confusion across the salesforce at the company, since it comes after a lot of wrenching changes over the last year.

That includes the departure of well-regarded Chief Revenue Officer Michael Barrett in mid-October, after De Castro got the COO job. He has left a large gap in sales leadership and in maintaining strong relationships with big advertisers and agencies. De Castro himself is not as well known in the ad marketplace, despite many years at Google in its sales organization.

He will likely have a more high-profile next week at the International CES, the huge annual consumer electronics show taking place in Las Vegas, along with new Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, who was a top product exec at Google. The pair is planning on meeting with major ad clients while there, which is their first significant outreach to marketers since taking their new roles at Yahoo.

De Castro had outlined the new ad reorg plan immediately after a multiday offsite with top sales leaders several weeks ago, and said the changes would come at the very beginning of 2013.

The ad staff at Yahoo begin to hear of the changes on Friday, so it looks like De Castro has met his deadline.


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