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Yahoo Marketing: Why Not Take A Page From Intel Inside?

By - March 28, 2008

As Seen On Tv

I’ve heard Yahoo’s local radio ads a few times while driving around the Bay area. I’m going to save my detailed thoughts on them to an audio post, but suffice to say, I had mixed feelings when I heard them. Radio ads in general seem to play over on the stupid side of the yard, but what I found interesting was the direct mention of Google – twice – and the use of an associated wolf howl. Webmasterworld thread on the new ads is here. News.com story here.

Regardless, offline marketing of search can, no doubt, boost share. Why? Because honestly, there’s not much further down Yahoo’s share can go. With Ask all but throwing in the towel, Yahoo is one notch closer to the bottom (yeah, I know, Microsoft is lower, but I sense they could be, as many in the industry have said to me, lying in the weeds for a reason….).

Marketing can work. For a fleeting moment, before its evisceration, Ask proved it. But tactical and experimental marketing -which clearly is what Yahoo’s radio play is all about – has to keep brand in mind. The radio ads, well, they may move the sampling needle, but I’m not sure about the overall brand.

Who’s watching that for Yahoo right now?

But wait! There’s more!

Tonight I saw a Yahoo integration with a Honda television ad (it was a reasonably annoying green ad, but that’s a bit besides the point, as the Honda brand overall has a good vibe). The integration struck me as smart, poorly executed, but possibly very important.

At the end, it showed the Yahoo search interface (it looks nice all alone) and said “For special deals (or something like that), search for Shop Honda on Yahoo”.

Of course, the first time I tried it, I only put in “Honda”. Who remembers to search for “Shop Honda”? Here is the search and the resulting image at the top of the results:

Honda Integration

I think the execution leaves a lot to be desired. First, it does not acknowledge the TV tie in. That breaks a cardinal rule of conversational marketing. The call to action, the initiation of the dialog, was on TV. I responded by searching for Honda on Yahoo. Then I got the above result. While clearly different (it’s an “enhanced paid listing”), it should at least acknowledge a link to the original conversation starter – hell, an “As Seen on TV” would have been better. The call to action implied I was going to get something cool for my effort of searching on Yahoo. The response did not pay off.

Now, when you search for “Shop Honda“, you get something a bit more conversational.

Yahoo Honda 2

Not there, but better. The landing page is also a bit more customized (you get a shopping interface!), but man, it’s a huge dropped ball. I mean, come on. If someone takes the time to respond to a call to action from a television commercial, at least acknowledge it, thank them for it, and offer some value exchange for the initiation of dialog. But no, nothing like that.

Regardless, I see in this the seed of a very, very good idea in this. I am not sure what the business deal was, but I could imagine really blowing it out along the lines of the Intel Inside campaign (in this pioneering partner marketing program, Intel pays its partners to runs Intel Inside branding in the partner ads. It works.) If Yahoo’s going to spend marketing dollars to gain share, it has to do it in a major, integrated way. Why not partner with major national brand advertisers, partially underwriting their TV advertising with an final few frames that say “Search for {insert brand here} on Yahoo for special offers” or somesuch? Once the effort proves itself out in conversions, this marketing program could well become a major money maker for Yahoo. Regardless, it’ll really build the brand as an option for commercial searching, in a good way, if it’s run with quality, transparency, value and engagement in mind.

Tweak the enhanced listings, offers, and landing pages to better reflect the best practices of conversational marketing, and there could really be a there there. But of course, that takes brand understanding, and what with the focus on ad networks….well.

This idea plays off the one thing Yahoo is (or used to be) really good at – understanding brand advertisers. You can’t write an algorithm to do this. You have to think like a human being. It scales, but not without applying conversations to all parts of the execution – and that’s scaling humans where humans scale best.

Just a thought.

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5 thoughts on “Yahoo Marketing: Why Not Take A Page From Intel Inside?

  1. nmw says:

    Attention Yahoo Shoppers! Buy 1 Whopper get 1 Happy Deal free — just click and enter a sweepstakes to surf cruises.co.uk — get cheap.flights.net.in/europe available @ yahoo.com aisle EP-top !!

    ;P nmw

  2. bd says:

    What’s killing Y! is that default search is often sent to Google. Dell, Firefox, Adobe, etc. all have deals with Google to make it their default search engine. A lot of people also still think Google provides Y! search engine. “Why not go to the source?” is the feeling. Yahoo! needs to spend money to take over that default search spot instead of pounding the radio spots with silly ads that mention a competitor.

  3. Yahoo needs to take the money they spent on the radio spot and spend it on revamping customer service. If you have a problem with google you get a response within 24hrs. Yahoo on the other hand you may never get a response.

  4. Helene K says:

    Yahoo! needs to send a number of its employees back to school for a crash course in IMC…including some of the web designers who will undoubtedly understand the ideology behind marketing communications, despite their technological proclivities. Best of luck to ole’ Yahoo!

  5. John, thanks mentioning the American Honda Motors program involving Yahoo!. I work for RPA, AHM’s AOR (how’s that for a slew of acronyms!) – we managed much of this campaign. I’ll clarify a couple items that you brought up.

    Initially, the “green ad” that you saw was in fact a Northern California regional Honda dealer association spot. There’s actually a larger, nationwide Honda campaign that leverages a different set of creatives featuring a telestrator theme that invites shoppers to “draw their own conclusions”. This telestrator theme is predominant throughout the various nationwide Honda campaign ad executions and landing pages and is evident for searchers who click “play video” beneath the Honda logo in the Yahoo Partner Results listings.

    In addition to the large, nationwide Honda “telestrator” campaign, dealer associations (who conduct quite a bit of their own marketing) were invited to participate at their chosen levels of creative integration to leverage some value out of the nationwide effort. It’s not at all surprising that you mistook that “green ad” for a spot developed by Honda – the respective roles of the manufacturer, dealer associations and dealers in automotive marketing can be confusing to many outside of the industry and is a big topic of discussion these days. As our friend at KBB, Tim Hand, recently wrote, because of the various businesses and agencies involved and the expanding complexity of media channels, the automotive industry has a big challenge in aligning messaging strategies across tiers I, II and III. Not making excuses – just saying that your experience with the campaign would’ve been a little more consistent had you instead seen one of Honda’s nationwide ads.

    Regarding your point on acknowledging the TV execution within the search ad, there’s actually some method behind this. To clarify, this campaign extended well beyond television – it included print, radio, online display and video ads and more. And the point is that there are some great, limited-time offers available right now, not that just because you saw an ad on TV you win something special. As soon as the campaign began, we tested several different copy versions within the Yahoo’s “Partner Results” area, eventually choosing the ones that generated the greatest post-click activity and CTRs. We’re all for applying best practices in messaging, but with online creative we’re often focused on ads that just quantatitively prove to be better. Similarly, we conducted a lot of landing page testing to arrive at the page content and layout that would best drive key interactions with Honda’s shopping tools. And the value exchange that you mention is right there; a slew of very good offers (which is just what many in-market shoppers seek).

    There’s also a reason why there’s a different landing page when you click the main search listing link for a “Honda” search vs. a “shop Honda” search. While many people have been motivated during this campaign period to search “Honda” on Yahoo (and even Google), there’s already a huge baseline of people who search on that keyword for reasons far outside of this particular campaign. To take everybody who searches on the keyword “Honda” to a landing page that’s only focused on shopping would have been a frustrating user experience for many. But you’ll notice that the “See Offers” link in the “Honda” Partner Results search listing takes people to the telestrator-themed campaign landing page. And the Honda autos home page (which is the landing page for the main link) does have a rotating “telestrator” campaign banner (like many companies, Honda has to balance sales efforts with marketing of new products – hence the rotation).

    Perhaps as Yahoo evolves this program there will be greater opportunities to customize the partner listing (creatively speaking). Maybe with continued advertiser adoption, more of Yahoo’s new “open” thinking and ongoing advertiser success it’ll grow into something bigger for them. Thanks for taking the time to comment on the campaign – and for reading such a lengthy comment back. I just happened to read your column today and thought I’d participate in a little conversational journalism!