Yahoo is dead. Long live Yahoo! Arnaud Calonne on a year of flux

Not long ago, Yahoo positioned itself as a media company, with Katie Couric on the books and a team of journalists creating original content in this market (as recently as 2013 it housed a digital media team of around 50 staff in this market). Now, after saying farewell to its entire editorial team, saying goodbye to Spark, which switched email providers, being acquired by Verizon for US $4.5 billion and combining it with AOL to form Oath, and rebranding to Yahoo Platforms, it is doubling down on ad tech. 

At the time, Yahoo Platforms head of sales Arnaud Calonne told StopPress that the move to become an ad tech company in New Zealand was the result of taking the best part of Yahoo and applying a specific strategy for the local market.

Today, its traffic is much reduced (Yahoo has yet to respond to questions about current audience numbers but it had around 1.3 million visitors in March last year, which then dropped to 1.1 million in April before sliding further to a million in May. In 2014, it had 1.5 million), but its strategy to sell its products in the market is well underway, with triple-digit growth across its BrightRoll demand-side platform (DSP) and double-digit growth on Gemini.

The former is a programmatic video advertising system, while the latter focuses on native advertisement placement.

But despite the solid growth, Calonne says there’s still work to be done to change the perception of Yahoo in New Zealand because not everyone is aware of what it is doing.

A changing market

In the past year, Yahoo Platforms has diversified the number of businesses it is working with and that’s meant starting to work with second and third tier agencies, as well as the one tier agencies it had been working with a lot.

Calonne describes programmatic advertising as “the backbone of digital advertising” as it gives buyers smarter, data-driven transactions at scale to reach the right audience and because of this, the smaller agencies and marketers are opening their eyes up to it.

However, there’s a lack of skills within clients and agencies to use the technology and that’s impacting on its uptake.

Helping to increase that knowledge, Yahoo has a team of two platform specialists and a commercial team of four in the New Zealand market who are on the ground working with agencies and clients. This year that team of platform specialists is set to expand.

Calonne says they are working to train clients and agencies to better optimise their campaigns. Meanwhile, other DSP players in New Zealand are actually serving clients from Australia and beyond.

“I think, for a lot of tech companies, it is fair to say that the New Zealand market is not their priority. They don’t have a local team on the ground,” he says.

“We get together with the agencies, we look at their campaign running on our solutions and we help them optimise and train them on the features of our product.”

However, that’s not to say all are falling behind. Calonne sees effort being put in by clients and agencies to upskill themselves in the face of programmatic’s rising popularity and Calonne says he can see the agency business models changing.

“I think agencies are moving a lot to a self-service basis. Most agencies in market, the tier one agencies, are going to have an agency trading desk. So they are going to have a number of traders.”

Its own source of data

With the pivot to Yahoo Platforms came structural changes to Yahoo’s editorial team in New Zealand and as of April last year, all had been let go according to an employee who preferred to remain anonymous.

The content on Yahoo.co.nz has since been supplied by third-party partners. 

And those users, when combined with Yahoo Mail and Tumblr users, help to give Yahoo Platforms a unique position in the local market when compared to other ad tech companies.

“Sometimes it’s hard to know where the data is sourced, where it’s coming from especially with third-party data suppliers that don’t have a presence in New Zealand.”

The collected data from its assets is available through the BrightRoll DSP and across all ad exchanges.

Moving along

With the anniversary of Yahoo Platforms’ launch falling in the new year, Calonne says he’s heading into 2018 with a mission to grow recognition of the rebrand as well as its BrightRoll and Gemini products individually. 

He hopes this year will see it partner with local publishers who will use Gemini to monetise their inventory. It’s already been running tests with publishers and is in discussion with a few at the moment.

In a release, EECA head of business marketing Camilla Cochrane spoke positively about the results of native advertising: “We use Yahoo Platforms for our campaigns. Our business campaign in particular achieved great results, with Yahoo Gemini increasing traffic from our key demographic by a significant 12%.”

And with the growth of Gemini comes educating the local market about native advertising as Calonne says there are industry folk who don’t understand that word, but should be using it alongside search and display. 

“What we are trying to do when we work with an agency, when we work with a brand is make sure they understand they can use our data and they can use third-party data to reach their consumers using display advertising, video advertising through the BrightRoll DSP and through the native as well.” 

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