“We anticipate a future where there are fewer ads” – Yahoo’s Nick Hugh on how advertising fits into its mobile first strategy

By Jennifer Faull | Deputy Editor

March 19, 2014 | 3 min read

Yahoo is predicting a future with fewer ads on its mobile site, but those that are there will be increasingly relevant and engaging for the consumer, according to Yahoo VP and head of display solutions Nick Hugh.

Speaking on a panel session at Starcom MediaVest Group’s Mobility conference in London, he revealed that since CEO Marissa Mayer and her mobile-first approach arrived at Yahoo in 2012, the mobile department at the company has grown 42 times over and a team in excess of 500 now oversees the mobile side of the business. Before her arrival, it was 12.

“It was clear to her and the company that the shift from desktop to mobile was happening. It was an irreversible trend. There was a need for us to become mobile first,” he said.

As of February last year, Yahoo has worked to make its offering much more personal and began making changes to its site, moving to a stream of content, not unlike those seen on the likes of Facebook and Twitter, which is adapted based on the reading history of any one user.

“The challenge to us to take all of the signals we get from consumers to make sure the stream is personalised to them, so that we can truly say no stream is the same, and if you check someone else’s stream it is completely different,” said Hugh.

Commenting on how advertisers will fit into that increasingly personalised offering on mobile, he said that they must also look to be just as relevant and engaging.

“We’re reimagining how we’re see mobile advertising as a whole and messaging that to consumers and we anticipate a future where there are fewer ads,” he said.

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He went on to explain why this should be seen a coup for advertisers.

“As soon as you have that personalised and uniquely relevant perspective the consumer trusts you because it’s in an engaging environment, and it’s personal and clear that its relevant to them and that helps the engagement for any brands that you introduce in the mix,” he said.

Fellow panelist Rob Newton, Facebook’s head of EMEA global creative solutions, who agreed that creating genuine experiences for people on the News Feed is something that is not high enough on the agenda for brands.

“We talk about Feeds as the new creative canvas, he said. “What are we doing there, what are brands doing to create genuine experiences for people? There’s massive opportunities that are being hugely underused.”

But, echoing Hugh’s thoughts, he said: “Relevance is key.

“It’s not that people are against being advertised to, it’s the irrelevance. One of the other things that key is moving from the disruption model to a connection model. Brands roles within that is interesting and changing. There is absolutely still a role for fantastic entertainment, something that can make me laugh.

“I don’t know that there are any rules at the moment because we’re still learning. So with video, I don’t know if it’s six seconds, 15 seconds, 90 minutes, I don’t know what people are going to accept. Because it’s about relevancy and what matters to them at that point.

“We need to test get out there and test it, learn and get a feel for things.”

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