Yahoo’s New Self-Serve Ad Platform: A Conversation With Warren Kay

Yahoo announced today from the ADWEEK conference that it will launch a new ad platform called APT. It is meant to be a one-stop shop for media buys across Yahoo’s growing sources of localized inventory. This includes its own network as well as that of the growing list of partners (782) in its newspaper consortium.

Unlike Google’s more long-tail base of advertisers, Yahoo has appealed to more national brand advertisers and agencies with graphical display ads. But one barrier preventing their true understanding of the online local opportunity has been its complexity and fragmentation. APT is a move toward making this less daunting with a single point of entry to a wide swath of localized ad inventory.

APT also applies some of the self-service components and geotargeting capabilities of search marketing to display ad campaigns. According to Warren Kay, Yahoo director of emerging products, this could involve additional features for advertisers in the future like more granular data about their local store locations or even item inventory — in line with the growing awareness around the ROBO phenomenon.

“If I’m looking for a car or a lawn mower and I want a particular make and model, I want to know the closest place to buy it,” said Kay. “Even the simple concept of where is my nearest insurance agent or target store, one level up in the consideration phase, could give our advertisers a more compelling capability.”

User behavior hasn’t evolved in a mass market way to motivate advertisers to ask for this just yet. But the wheels are turning in terms of demand for better search tools. This could motivate advertisers to adapt and Yahoo and others to provide the tools. Early movers like Krillion and NearbyNow have started to educate the marketplace, but it could take the broader reach of someone like Yahoo (300 million registered users) to really move the needle.

In the meantime, APT’s first order of business is to make it easier to self provision localized display ads. The newspaper consortium is a natural place to start given its momentum and existing content network. The first ones on board are the San Jose Mercury News and the San Francisco Chronicle, and more are hoped to follow.

“Our goal is to have all [consortium] newspaper publishers on that platform by the end of Q1,” said Kay. “It will be a one-stop place where marketers can come and buy inventory in up to 800 local newspapers. Then we will migrate Yahoo inventory through a similar migration plan.”

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