More advice for Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer (Column)

Unsolicited advice for Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer

We’re not exactly sure why everyone likes to offer Yahoo free business advice (see Brian Wieser’s Letter to Marissa Mayer). Maybe because in the past, it has done a few strategic flip-flops. We thought we’d share another good read on the company’s digital ad strategy, this time in the form of a job application from the co-founder of ExchangeWire in the U.K.

Dear Marissa Mayer,

Ciaran O'Kane

As you might have noticed from some Tweets this morning I officially announced that I might apply for the vacant Yahoo CRO role. Why would Marissa Mayer hire me? Firstly, there is a long tradition – since she started her tenure – of Mayer hiring foreign-born CRO’s. In case we have never met, I am Irish born – and can perform lots of sales pitches in a heavy accent.

But that’s only part of it. I have a plan for Yahoo. It doesn’t require me to stand in front of agency ad execs, pleading for their advertising spend, and gives me a carte blanche to spend all that Alibaba money. To tell you truth I cannot wait to start my new role. Here’s what I’ll do…

Outsource Everything – Abandon Ad Tech
Yahoo has ridiculously good data. And I for one want to protect all that ad network spend that has disappeared into the trading desks. But maintaining the infrastructure for a differentiated bidder is expensive. So why not outsource? Every other ad network in the world uses AppNexus.

And let’s be clear the tech piece is becoming commoditised so why not work with a neutral partner to power the programmatic piece for Yahoo? But then you could give it to Google? I’m sure Marissa would love to. But I would resist and, say no. Our future is not desktop display – it’s the local ad market. Mobile, specifically.

The AppNexus tie up would also solve another internal headache – what to do with Yahoo Ad Exchange (formerly RMX)? Let AppNexus power that exchange, and make sure they stay independent. I know WPP wants that too, so it seems like a win-win situation. Agree a long term deal, and take some equity in the company to ensure it from a Facebook takeover.

Although I could easily take another route. The Google partnership is not the option I’d like. Instead I would fly to Moscow with board approval to acquire IPONWEB. Why? Because Boris builds ad tech for everyone. As CRO, I want him to build me the infrastructure for Yahoo. Two plausible options there. The board will love me for it.

The Data-Driven Bidder
I will continue to push the data-driven ad bidder with our new partner AppNexus. It will work for a while and some agencies will require a managed service but it will be short lived. Still looks like a sound strategy while we figure how we actual grow revenue. I can play the Wall Street game too. Looking forward to my first earnings call already.

“Native” Strategy – Let’s Side Step That One Shall We
As the new CRO I would obviously talk up the nonsense that is “native” purely because it will keep my stock options healthy. But IN THE END we all know ADVERTORIAL is not scalable. It never will be. Spending endless hours with brands agreeing the “nunaces” of sponsored content is not going to allow me to deliver low single digit growth. No native is a waste of my time as Yahoo CRO. And I still have no idea why we bought Tumblr? Login ids. Seems a lot for email info.

Let Me Buy Yelp, And Smash The Local Ad Market


Now as a seasoned player in programmatic I know the writing is on the wall for the ad network. While I know the data-driven bidder will protect some spend, it is likely that our trading desk friends will eat up most of the DR budget. Inevitable.
Our future lies in the long tail ad market – among those millions of small-to-medium sized advertisers and beyond the small concentration of actual display buyers. Facebook is charging into the market. We must stop them. And I have a sneaky feeling Facebook might try to buy Yelp – but we must beat them to it. When we buy them, let’s throw as much resource at the local proposition as we can so that we can really blow open the market.

We cannot remain boxed in by agencies who want to own our margin business. We need a local approach, and this would be a start.

It’s a different business – more call centre than media sales. We might have to invest heavily in this, and set up our hubs globally. Let’s actually put that Alibaba pay day to good use.

What’s the opportunity for local businesses? Listings? Partly. But it’s opening up digital to a huge market – display for the masses. Google owns search, let’s own the local display market. Leverage our O&O inventory, as well as our AppNexus powered exchange – desktop display and mobile. It’s got to be text ads on our mobile network, and push the click metric.

Google has already done the hard work for us in selling this to SMEs globally. This is the opportunity. And who cares if we don’t own the infrastructure as long as we own the demand. Forget content and tech – DEMAND is king in this game.

We Don’t Like Ad Tech Anymore
We are no longer a strategic buyer. Forget it. We are not buying a video DSP, SSP or any other TLA with our Chinese windfall. Marissa decided long ago that’s not our game. We are not in the stack game. And as CRO, I think this is the right approach. We might buy one of those video distribution sites to – AHEM! – compete with YouTube. Video, nice to be there. But that game is finished. It’s about local. Local is where we need to be.

There you have it, Marissa. I am available to serve at your pleasure. And I promise nothing more than single digit growth along with the requisite awkward keynote in front of our agency “friends”. I look forward to the new role.

Ciaran O’Kane
CEO, ExchangeWire

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