I wasn’t in the room but I watched a webcast of Yahoo CMO Elisa Steele’s keynote at the IAB Mixx conference this morning from New York. She introduced the new Yahoo Search but spent more time on the new $100 million (or so) ad campaign: “It’s Y!ou.” Danny live blogged the It’s Y!ou talk by Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz, which also addressed a wide range of other issues.
On the whole I’d have to say the earlier Steele speech was unimpressive and too familiar sounding. Maybe it’s because they’ve been previewing the messaging informally for some time. And maybe because the themes and creative of the new campaign — though impressively polished — are much like the old and unsuccessful “Life Engine” campaign of 2004. But there were also too many cliches and platitudes in the speech and it was delivered without convincing passion. The word “passion” was used repeatedly but not equally evident from the podium or in the audience as Steele spoke to a largely unresponsive group of advertisers and agencies.
One of the major themes of the talk and new campaign is that Yahoo will help you “navigate life.” Steele rejected the distinction between online and offline: “the Web and your world are inseparable.” In parallel there was a discussion of Yahoo’s reach across the three screens: PC, mobile and TV accordingly. There was a lot of emphasis on communications but also on the new Yahoo homepage as evidence of this new personalized approach — a dashboard of sorts to help organize the internet.
I’m sure there have been numerous consumer focus groups leading up to the new campaign. And while many people would argue the $100 million (or more) would be better spent on engineers, I’m not going to deny that advertising helps shape perceptions. Yahoo’s got a stronger and “friendlier” consumer brand than AOL, Microsoft and maybe even Google at this point. So the campaign dollars may be well spent in maintaining that image.
Apple spends hugely on advertising and marketing to support a brand perception in the market, at a company level and on the level of specific products. However Apple’s products deliver and fulfill the messaging. Here that’s not the case to the same degree.
The challenge and the problem is that Yahoo sites and services must actually fulfill the promise of helping people organize and navigate all the information out there. People are overwhelmed by information overload and “the paradox of choice.” They do need trusted sources, they do need simplification, they do need assistance. But I’m not sure that Yahoo delivers as promised.
Yahoo has lots of reach and lots of top traffic destinations: news, sports, mail, finance, etc. But Yahoo needs to actually create best of class tools and it needs to find simple ways to help consumers integrate all the information coming at them. The homepage is a good start, but it’s not enough. Search Pad is useful but not the “kick ass” product it needs to be to really set Yahoo apart.
There is a disconnect between right-sounding rhetoric and the reality of Yahoo today. I hope that the company can close the gap and be the personalized destination that it aspires to be.