What Agencies Like About the Yahoo Sales Shift

She’s already installed free food and smartphones. Now, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is “doing a Google” with the company’s approach to ad sales, too. According to AllThingsD, new COO Henrique De Castro is planning to restructure sales teams around advertiser categories, as opposed to specific ad products or geographical regions. It’s a model Google’s been using for years.

But what will this shift mean for its customers, i.e., agencies? Historically, it’s wielded what was considered one of the best digital ad sales forces in the business, but recent management upheaval has helped it lose its focus, some suggest. According to agency execs, the “what would Google do” approach could help rejuvenate Yahoo’s sales efforts.

“Google has been very smart about having a category focus with a robust agency overlay so that if that’s the role model, then that’s something I think the industry will be excited about,” suggested Bryan Wiener, CEO of 360i.

Ad sellers face a difficult choice when it comes to structuring their sales teams. Many assign their account people based on agency, account, category or product; and each approach has advantages and disadvantages. Building teams to cater to specific agencies can help foster tighter working relationships with them, for example, but the depth of knowledge those teams possess about specific verticals, such as auto, will be limited.

But a company like Yahoo now has such a range of ad solutions and products — search, display sponsorships, retargeting, contextual ads, audience-buying, mobile ads — that a category-specific approach might help it better monetize its assets and cross-sell its products more effectively.

“Most agency folks will say they prefer one point of contact, but that’s not always the best solution,” said James Kiernan, Zenith Media svp. “For instance, I’ve had a great deal of success in working with sales teams which specialize in the CPG category. They tend to better understand the unique challenges the category has to face and can better identify the mix of ad products that can help meet brands’ objectives.”

Indeed, Google itself has a similar range of advertiser offerings, and its category approach has worked well to date. Moving from one to another is tough, though. Sellers spend years building relationships with agency clients, and a reorganization of this size could see many having to start over to some degree. But as digital marketing channels continue to blur and media mixes become ever-more fragmented, it’s all about making life easier for buyers.

“

Another trend we’re seeing is more sales organizations creating agency relationship teams that can focus more on the overall agency needs and relay those needs to their category sales leads,” Kiernan added.