'Digital advertising needs to aspire to be as good as art' says Yahoo's Marissa Mayer

Yahoo boss Marissa Mayer

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has called on digital advertising to aspire to become "as good as art" as she discussed the development of the online media company's platforms and the emergence of native advertising.

Speaking at Cannes Lions, Mayer said that the creativity required to produce successful digital advertising meant that it should be viewed as an art form: "Art is advertising and advertising is art. Digital advertising needs to aspire to be as good as art and then some."

But no matter how good your work, you still need to get the attention of your audience. Mayer claimed that digital habits were down to four behaviours: searching for answers, communicating with friends and family, consuming content and watching great videos.

"Fundamentally this is our business," she said, adding that in the last two years, while she has been at the helm, Yahoo has overhauled almost every single core product and is introducing a new series of products.

Mayer described search as Yahoo’s “heritage” and said that through search the company could bring the best user experience to users when they want it.

She said it would continue to try to improve the experience of friends and families communicating through Yahoo Mail, partly by introducing a new mobile experience that will include emails, news, sport scores, Stock Quotes inside the Yahoo Mail app.

Yahoo will also continue to invest directly in content such as Yahoo Finance and Yahoo Sports, Mayer said, as well as the five new digital magazines launch since January and the beauty magazine unveiled yesterday. She also highlighted video as a growing part of the business following the reintroduction of Yahoo Screen last year.

A partnership with Live Nation which will see one live concert broadcast every day for 12 months was another initiative Mayer put forward to highlight the growing work on video.

"When we think about building products we think about building products to inspire – this is our share mission.

"We are here because we believe that we can inspire and that is what we believe great advertising does."

Mayer said that Yahoo had been taking bets to follow trends that would "redefine our industry" and explained: "When it comes to advertising, great, inspiring advertising, there were four specific trends that were a focus: mobile, social, native and video.

She turned to focus on different artists and their work, telling a story of each that related back to each of the above trends.

The first story came with the message that "creativity loves constraint”. She said: “Advertisers have always faced constraints. Be it space, time, budget or otherwise. These constraints provide a great source of innovation to provide thoughtful, compelling and innovative campaigns. Mobile is forcing the tech industry into a world of constraints.

“For advertisers, we have only begun to see the tip of the iceberg. Mobile offers terrific opportunity to anticipate users’ daily habits. Mobile is the core part of Yahoo's future and of this industry."

Moving on to native advertising, Mayer said: “Digital is really the only type of advertising that hasn't fully embraced the word native. We have always done this with search – [offering] sponsored results that were naturally part of the experience, but there is this notion of the internet with the sticker; content in the middle and these stickers with advertisements on the side. Native advertising often brings advertisers a better opportunity and experience."

She said that native experiences best traditional display advertising on almost every format and that users were 3.6 times more likely to conduct a traditional search after seeing a display advertisement and six times more likely to conducts traditional search.

She also added that native ads would improve the experience of users and the advertising experience, claiming that 46 per cent of millennials who noticed branded content through Yahoo consumed it and one in three shared it.

"Native digital advertising offers a wonderful opportunity for our industry which is that we are focused on pushing this product forward. We are focused on building advertising products that feel natural, in the user experience itself. For users it shouts delivering advertising that is just as good, if not better, than the content around it."

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Stephen Lepitak

Stephen Lepitak is editor of The Drum, with responsibility for overseeing the day-to-day running of the content produced for the various platforms run by the publication. Over the years he has interviewed agency network bosses such as Sir Martin Sorrell, Maurice Lévy and Arthur Sadoun, as well as Cindy Gallop, Kim Kardashian, film directors James Cameron, Spike Jonze and producers Harvey Weinstein and Lord David Puttnam. With a keen interest in media and breaking news, Lepitak has been with The Drum since 2005 and is based across its UK, US and Asia operations.

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