Even before ex-Googler Marissa Mayer became Yahoo's latest CEO two months ago, rumors were circulating that the company had been planning on selling off its Right Media Exchange. And as much of the attention around Yahoo's programmatic ad platform strategy swirled around its "big data" offering Genome, the idea of jettisoning Right Media, the ad exchange pioneer that Yahoo acquired five years ago for $850 million, was viewed as a fait accompli. It would just be a matter of time, it seemed.
This week, Yahoo is attempting to burnish Right Media's image as an essential tool in the company's overall display arsenal. The company is announcing a slate of new features designed to promote the Right Media Exchange's promise of greater "brand safety" and transparency for publishers and advertisers. But the subtext here is really that Mayer -- who was not available for an interview -- is sticking with Right Media.
"We’ve brought Marissa up to speed on Yahoo’s display assets, and the way she sees it, as do we, is that Yahoo is more than just a online publisher -- it's also an important platform that maximizes yield for Yahoo and its publisher partners, as well as driving ROI for advertisers," said Scott Burke, SVP, advertising and data platforms, who was joined by Brian Silver, VP, Yahoo's Ad Platforms for the Americas, in an interview with AdExchanger. "The view is looking beyond Yahoo’s traditional position on the supply side. Marissa is committed to that whole spectrum of products that we're creating around data, targeting audience buying."
Yahoo is highlighting six Right Media features. The bullet points aren't revolutionary. But again, that isn't the point. The six items are intended to demonstrate Yahoo's activity in the exchange space for both sellers and buyers. The list includes:
-- Competitive Exclusion, a private exchange-like feature, where publishers can block ads based on certain landing page domains or subdomains. “This will help publishers better manage channel conflict,” said Silver, who was named Right Media’s chief at the start of the year.
-- Inventory Visibility: This is actually “Phase 2,” which lets publishers customize the kinds of RTB inventory available, while masking data around age, gender and IP address.
-- 3P Beacon/Pixel Filtering: This feature enables sellers to detect the beacons, pixels or cookies being used in an ad tag. It can also identify many of the third parties that are placing them. A complement to the Competitive Exclusion feature mentioned above, the filter helps create white lists and block lists.
-- OpenRTB: What’s the point of giving sellers more control if the inventory isn’t easily accessible? “Buyers will be able to access RTB supply through Right Media via their own bidding technologies, which helps buyers gain access to new inventory and Open RTB-enabled suppliers with increased demand,” said Burke.
-- More Granular Targeting: More red meat for advertisers. “Right Media is available in 90 markets,” Silver said. The goal here is the help buyers target countries at a much more granular level than they had been able to previously. Buyers can use WOEID (Where On Earth ID) to target at an individual country level.
Even with the new promotion of Right Media, it's worth asking where the unit fits into the wider Yahoo universe.
Yahoo fell from its perch as the leader in display ad sales to the space’s new hegemons, Google and Facebook, according to an eMarketer report in February. Since 2008, the year after Yahoo bought Right Media, the portal’s share of U.S. display revenues peaked at 18.4 percent. But it is hardly running on empty. Yahoo has continued to generate revenue growth, and it is still way ahead of Microsoft, which will experience a decline of its share of display dollars to 4.4 percent this year from 4.5 percent in 2011, eMarketer estimates.
To ensure that Yahoo doesn't fall too far behind the search giant and the social network, the company has to make programmatic buying easy and simple. The pressure is on Yahoo even more as Google continues to diversify its display services with the integration of supply side platform AdMeld -- incidentally, ex-AdMeld CEO Michael Barrett is currently Yahoo's chief revenue officer and will be speaking at AdExchanger's Human Centered Automation Conference on September 20 -- and the Facebook Exchange is rolled out.
With Genome, whose creation last spring was the result of the Yahoo's acquisition of data management platform interclick for $270 million November 2011, doesn't Yahoo run the risk of confusing the marketplace with various ad platform tools? Isn't there a conflict somewhere here? Burke, who has been with Yahoo for six years, says that the tools all dovetail neatly.
"I had helped put together the strategy that the led to the decision to acquire interclick," Burke said. "The rationale for that was that Yahoo wanted to bolster its investment in creating a top-tier data-driven ad network. Genome is simply another offering that we have in market. The ultimate goal is to make it easier for advertisers to buy inventory on Yahoo and in the way they want to. Yahoo has always had a huge commitment to display, but it still needed better audience targeting tools. And that’s where the investment has been the last few years. And from our conversations with Marissa, the investment is going to continue."