Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Yahoo’s Mayer Hoping What Happens With Big Advertisers at CES Doesn’t Stay in Vegas

So far in the six-month reign of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, there has been a pile of attention paid to the flashy cultural changes (free food!), much-needed rehauls of key mainstays (Flickr, Yahoo! Mail, homepage), a focus on attracting entrepreneurial talent (Hey, we got Max Levchin to join the board!) and, of course, the frequent mention of mobilemobilemobile by the former Google product exec.

But on the topic of where the Silicon Valley Internet giant’s search and display advertising business is headed — which is, of course, its key revenue and profit generator — it’s pretty much been crickets.

No longer, it seems, according to multiple sources inside and outside Yahoo. Mayer is planning a series of appearances at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show — which is taking place in Las Vegas in less than two weeks.

That includes sitting for a high-profile fireside chat with Starcom MediaVest Group Global CEO Laura Desmond in front of several hundred ad clients on Wednesday, January 9; organizing a plethora of one-on-one meetings; and throwing a Yahoo dinner party, as well as angling for invites to key parties thrown by others, such as MediaLink’s power player dinner on Tuesday, January 8.

As I previously reported, the company is planning on having this much more prominent presence there in order to reset its sometime rocky relationship with advertisers.

And, not surprisingly, its big weapon at the giant annual confab will apparently be Mayer, who has not yet interfaced significantly with the company’s big ad clients since taking the top job in July. At CES, sources said, Yahoo is hoping the “Marissa Halo” — i.e. the excitement around the decidedly telegenic exec — will help boost its business.

It’s important, since big agencies and advertisers have privately been grumbling about the lack of outreach by Yahoo and also how much more active execs at rivals such as Facebook, Google and AOL have been.

More than one source close to Yahoo said the dissatisfaction was being heard loud and clear at the company. “[Everyone will] take it as an opportunity to vent (again), while Yahoo promises a new beginning,” said one exec.

New beginnings will again be the case, though, with new COO Henrique De Castro also in place. He’s been making a series of moves to rejigger the ad business at Yahoo since he got there earlier in the fall, also from Google, including shifting its sales process to a category model.

In addition, Yahoo execs have continued their noodling on whether or not to make significant ad tech purchases — with no major deals in place yet — along with improving the creaky performance of the company’s own owned-and-operated offerings.

It’s all in the hope that advertisers and agencies will reconnect with Yahoo after the nearly consistent CEO changes over the last year. For those keeping score, after Carol Bartz was fired in the fall of 2011, CEO Scott Thompson made his debut at CES in early 2012, touting Yahoo’s data prowess before being ousted only months later. He was followed by renewed efforts toward marketers by interim CEO Ross Levinsohn.

And now there’s Mayer.

Interestingly, while many major ad players are looking for more specifics about how Yahoo will improve its mobile, search and data products to give better insights to advertisers, they also are simply wanting to hear Mayer’s plans for Yahoo.

“What I don’t see yet is what the vision for Yahoo is, articulating the bigger ideas than just presenting an assemblage of products,” said Rob Norman, chief digital officer of GroupM Global. “And what everyone would still like to see is what is the escape route from being a portal or even reemerging from what that means, so I am really interested in what she has to say.”

Added another top ad exec: “She really has not said anything yet about how she plans to capitalize on Yahoo’s strengths over the next year in the ad space. People are genuinely excited about Mayer, but the stakes are still high for her since everyone feels as if they have already given Yahoo a lot of extra chances.”

High stakes, indeed. But, then again, it is Vegas.

Latest Video

View all videos »

Search »

Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus