Q&A Kathy Savitt, chief marketing officer at Yahoo

Cannes 2014: Yahoo’s CMO, Kathy Savitt was handed the brief of firing up the company’s video and news offerings earlier this year. In an exclusive interview at Cannes Lions 2014, Marketing Week asks Yahoo’s CMO, Kathy Savitt about why video is a growth area for the business, its mobile-first approach and its brand perception in the UK.

Kathy Savitt

Marketing Week (MW): Marissa Meyer hired you in 2012 shortly after her arrival, how closely do you work together?

Kathy Savitt: Marissa is a product visionary and puts the user at the heart of almost every invention that we have and that has been a cultural compass for Yahoo – we are a company that walks and talks that way. It’s a discipline and ethos that I share in my career.

MW: You say you are a reinvention company, but what changes have you seen in the business over the last two years?

KS: We have taken a company that was predominantly a PC leader, in terms of experiences from a PC perspective, and made Yahoo into a mobile first company. It has been thrilling to have been able to be a part of the team that bought that to Yahoo. We now have more people engaging with the products on mobile than PC. 

I bring a real customer focus from my career at Amazon, my agency that I had and have also been a passionate student in how millennials are changing global business and I have been able to bring that perspective to the company.

MW: What examples can you give that demonstrate the mobile first approach and what will that entail going forward?

KS: We have released 15 to 18 mobile apps all centred around daily habits, several of them have been introduced in the UK and abroad. We start in the US so that we can test and learn and as we see the engagement patterns we modify, update and shift them globally. Yahoo News Digest is an example of this, and has changed the way people consume the news as we curate and summarise using algorithms to personalise stories twice a day.

MW: What is the strategy for marketing Yahoo as a brand outside of the US, how do you manage brand perception when most product launches are happening in the US?

KS: The brand is tightly coupled with product experiences so in the US the brand has seen tremendous uptick because we keep releasing the products. 2014 is the year where we will start to roll those products out internationally and I think you will find that experience begin to increase. We also advertise a lot digitally, and have Yahoo live and a travelling marketing concert where we bring top bands to play, this year we are repeating that road show and are hitting almost 30 universities.

MW: In her keynote address at Cannes Lions Marissa Meyer said video was a key growth area for the company, can you expand on what opportunities Yahoo is seeing in the market?

KS: Video is integrated into everything that we do. All of our digital magazines. We have 6 live including Yahoo Tech, Food, Travel, Movies and Beauty and yesterday (17 June) we launched Yahoo Movies UK and in August we will launch Yahoo Fashion – with 15-18 more planned, they are all built on Tumblr so it’s a multimedia experience. Video is built into the experience and you will see three to four videos in the feed. We also have our video app Yahoo Screen, which is coming to the UK soon.

MW: What can we expect from Yahoo going forward in 2014?

KS: We are excited about the innovation in our Tumblr advertising. We feel it takes the storytelling canvas for brand advertisers to a completely new level, and we are using core tools where you can build your page on Tumblr and then you can buy the audience so it populates across the Yahoo network. If you want to reach mums or 30 to 35-year-olds, we are able to deliver that Tumblr advertising in a powerful native canvas way against that audience. 

Twin to that is Yahoo Gemini, which we launched in April. It’s a marketplace where you can buy the performance of Yahoo search advertising with the powerful native canvass, so we are selling the Tumblr ads through the Gemini platform. 

The next big thing is the complete metamorphosis of how we deliver content moving towards our digital magazine strategy. We have hired people like Bobbi Brown, Joe Zee (formally the creative director at Elle Magazine) and US journalist and TV presenter, Katie Couric, so each magazine launches with an incredible editorial staff.  
Finally video, we want to roll out at scale and be that cognitive to sue between creators and the audience.