Q+A: Elisa Steele and Mollie Spilman

Click here to read the cover feature: Yahoo! The comeback kid?
Click here to read what other marketers had to ask Elisa Steele, Yahoo! chief marketing officer and Mollie Spilman, senior vice-president of global business-to-business marketing

Yahoo! Chief marketing officer Elisa Steele and senior vice-president of global business-to-business marketing Mollie Spilman answer questions from Marketing Week.

Marketing Week (MW): Tell me about your roles and how they intertwine?

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Elisa Steele

Elisa Steele (ES): My job is to market both to consumers and to businesses. I have a global head of consumer marketing and a global head of business-to-business, and those teams collaborate strongly because we are a brand that represents consumers around the world. But we also have to translate that brand into what advertisers need and want.

Mollie Spilman (MS): On the consumer side, it’s about getting them to come to Yahoo! and increase their usage. The reason we are able to offer consumers everything we do is because advertising pays for it, so on the business-to-busiess side it’s about generating revenue. My role is to communicate to brands, agencies and publishers, understand their needs, and work with departments such as research and products to fulfil those needs.

MW: What are the challenges of your roles?

MS: We have so many products on the advertiser side, so it’s really hard to communicate the depth and breadth of everything. We want to understand a marketer’s or an agency’s objectives and put together a custom solution rather than telling them to buy this or that. That is something we will focus on even more this year.

ES: The biggest challenge is to stay focused, and to do fewer things better, deeper and more globally. It’s easy to get distracted if you have so many different constituencies, but if we try to do everything we can’t get the scale and results that Yahoo! deserves.

MW: What are your typical days like?

ES: Some days I have my consumer hat on and some my advertiser hat, some my executive hat, some my functional hat. I participate in the planning strategy for the company. Sometimes I’m doing keynotes and interviews, or meeting with customers, and if customers are coming to campus I kill everything else on my agenda. And in between all that I might get a phone call to say that my eight-year-old forgot his lunch. So then you just have to prioritise in the moment.

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Mollie Spilman

MS: My day is split between internal and external meetings – internal is planning products, sales and marketing, and what our goals are for the quarter, year and month; doing post mortems on what we have done and how we can do things better. Externally, I meet with organisations such as the IAB [Internet Advertising Bureau] and support our industry by being part of conversations around privacystandards. I also meet with agencies and clients to get feedback on how we are doing.

MW: How do you build relationships with brands and educate them about what Yahoo! does?

ES: We’ve started hosting some of our biggest customers, from packaged goods to retail, here on the Yahoo! campus. We talk about their business, bring in our scientists, product leaders and marketing teams, and work together to figure out what next steps to take.

MW: How do you communicate to them your proposition against other internet players?

ES: We talk to our advertisers about three things. First the science of how to attract the right consumer for a brand. Then art – how you use this digital canvas to express emotional branding in a way we haven’t been able to in the past. And the third is scale, as we have 600 million global users a month coming to Yahoo!

MS: One of the key strategies is making it simple to understand what we’re offering, what the value is and how you’re going to measure it and reduce the risk from it. If you give a marketer or media buyer all the information to show what it will do for them and how they can track it, then you’re taking some of the risk out because then they’re not just putting the money down without any accountability from Yahoo!.

MW: Will you be communicating the fact that Yahoo!’s search platform will be completely powered by Microsoft’s Bing engine by 2012?

MS: On the b2b side we will. This is hugely important because all the systems are changing. What we have done in the US is email clients to spell out what’s coming. We also do webinars and for big clients we will present to them.

MW: How are you driving the use of mobile as an advertising platform?

MS: Mobile has become more mainstream but the big dollars still aren’t there yet. But just as mobile is getting bigger, here comes social, and marketers are still not increasing their budgets across all these platforms, so these things are in effect competing. Clients might not always want to run a cross-platform campaign but we always include a cross-platform idea for them to consider.

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