Yahoo stakes media empire aspirations on ‘media agnostic’ pitch to advertisers

Yahoo is redoubling efforts to position itself as a media agnostic advertising platform that will not pressure advertisers into buying its own inventory following industry concerns that some companies are not treating all ad spaces objectively.

The concerns are pushing some advertisers to independent ad tech solutions for fear of wasting money on placements that may not always be the most effective if bought from a media owner. Google and Facebook have bore the brunt of the criticisms to date given their sprawling offerings and Yahoo has spotted an opportunity to pitch itself as a solution to those demands.

It means the business is consciously treating its competitors as customers through its demand-side-platform (DSP) and marketplaces. Rather than finding and preferring the right impressions on its own media channels, Yahoo claims its position as an ad seller does not compromise the objectivity of its ad tech.

Its stance is particularly crucial to the success of Yahoo’s revamped video offering, which recently celebrated 100 days since it acquired the Brightroll programmatic platform. Guy Yalif, vice president of global marketing at Brightoll, said the “independent” sales pitch is “something we’ve seen Google market for some years quite successfully".

Despite taking inspiration from a rival, Yahoo is convinced its own effort is different enough to spur revenues in 2015. A big chunk of these prospective earnings are predicted to flow from video. Advertisers are concerned that if a DSP takes a video investment and disproportionally shuffles it toward Yahoo-owned inventory then they may not maximise returns despite paying for the promise to reach the right consumers efficiently.

With Brightroll joining the likes of Adap.tv and LiveRail under the influence of major media owners, advertisers increasingly have to weigh up the pros and cons of using multiple ad tech solutions in conjunction with one another.

“[We’re] very exclusively telling [advertisers] that we are offering total transparency and total control,” said Yalif.

Yahoo’s pitch serves as the backbone for its ongoing efforts to reinvent itself as a purveyor of premium mobile content. Since 2012, Yahoo’s revenue has slumped 10 per cent. Within a similar period, Google’s revenue has jumped 24 per cent, while Facebook’s revenue has more than doubled. However, the company is banking on its news offering, recently buoyed by senior editorial hires, to mount its fight back on smaller screens.

The company has been amassing a media empire spanning mobile, social, native and video to spur wider efforts to become a major, well-respected news source. While question marks still linger as to whether Yahoo can truly compete with rivals like Google and Facebook, it hopes to elevate revenues through diverse media and news properties. Finance and tech are the two content areas the business will initially focus on, spurred by the insights from its mobile analytics arm Flurry and its Gemini native ad marketplace.

The business made $768m in mobile revenue last year. However, it has unable to cure the comapny's stuttering ad display business, which is where its recently launched mobile ad network comes in. Yahoo now sells search, video and native ads to non-Yahoo apps, echoing the moves of Facebook and Twitter, to win over more advertisers with the prospect of greater reach. Mayer will be hoping the move maintains the mobile momentum from its latest quarter when revenues jumped 23 per cent quarter on quarter.

Yahoo’s core search business is likely to benefit from its recent partnership with Mozilla. It will become the core search engine for the internet browser but it has remained tight-lipped on further details of the alliance since it was announced last November.

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