So, I logged on today to make a quick post before I go down to DC for a series of big meetings, and what do I find online? Wenda Harris Millard, Yahoo's now former Chief Sales Officer is leaving Yahoo for Martha Stewart Living and now I'm very concerned about Yahoo's future. However, before I give my ode to Wenda who I'm obviously a big fan of, let me explain why I'm concerned. According to this press release from Yahoo that announced her resignation, Yahoo is planning on combining their display and search advertising teams under the leadership of David Karnstedt. Why am I worried? Seems shocking that Wenda is gone because they had to combine them under someone who heads their search sales business which in AT&T terms is the tail wagging the dog at Yahoo.
Based on my experience with Yahoo search it is definitely lagging behind Google and the display advertising was what separated Yahoo from Google. Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Messenger, and heck the homepage are the crown jewels of display advertising world while search is a not even close second. To remove the person responsible for those units in favor of search seems odd. Yes, I am a HUGE fan of Google, but that doesn't mean that Yahoo should throw the display baby out with the search bath water. Besides, take a look at my recent crappy experience with Yahoo Search and you'll see why this is bizarre.
For one of my huge financial services clients I had a large deal with the Yahoo Finance team. As usual, they cross sold me into different businesses and one of them was Yahoo Search (not like I need a cross sell, but anyway). So, I do a deal with Yahoo Search's sales team that was about 5% of the entire spend on Yahoo. Yahoo! Finance gave me credit to run the advertising, but the geniuses at Yahoo Search did not. Was that Wenda's fault? No. It was the Search team. Let me rewrite that for you; I received $100Ks in credit to buy display ads on Yahoo Finance but couldn't Yahoo Search could give me a dime in credit. Then when I had trouble getting the campaigns live, which took about 3 different IOs to be signed, was that Wenda's fault? No. Once again it was Yahoo's Search team. I get how important search is and I've been running with Google and Yahoo since Day 1 for both of them, but I'm shocked that Wenda was removed for this.
You see, out of all of the sales teams and executives that I've dealt with since 1998, Wenda was the best executive out of all of them. Have you ever seen her lead a meeting or a conference? She is the perfect speaker. No I mean it. She is perfect. Every move is choreographed and every word is perfect. I don't think she could pronounce Umm if you whispered it in her ear.
I met Wenda about 5 years ago when she met with all of her key customers in Finance and every quarter I had lunch with her. When E*Trade acquired Harrisdirect, she offered me advice about my career. When HD was called into a lawsuit between Overture and a vendor of mine (there's that search problem again), she took it upon herself to help us out. Wenda Harris is the best sales officer on the internet. (that's PERIOD).
I got wind of her leaving a few days ago, but it was flatly denied by my contacts at Yahoo, and they almost put off as ridiculous. Now the reigns have been handed to someone else and I can't help but feel concerned for Yahoo. Again, it feels like the tail wagging the dog. Good luck Wenda and good luck Yahoo with your new strategy, you'll need it.
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