NEW YORK — Three weeks ago, Yahoo Inc chief executive Marissa Mayer strode into a Manhattan hotel and was greeted like a rock star by hundreds of advertising executives who snapped pictures as she sat down for an interview with journalist Charlie Rose.
That same audience a year ago would have been grousing that Mayer had not done enough to engage Madison Avenue, which is arguably Yahoo’s most important constituent since the Internet company derives more than 75% of its revenue from ad sales.
“I think that Marissa has gotten a bit of a bad rap,” David Cohen, the chief media officer at UM, the global media arm of Interpublic Group, said.
The industry perceived Mayer as not caring about advertising, choosing instead to focus solely on products, Cohen said.
Ad agency executives say that over the past six months Mayer and her team have been working hard to change that perception, courting advertisers at key industry events, hosting lunches and attending meetings with agency representatives that include Yahoo executives like chief operating officer Henrique de Castro, senior vice-president and head of Americas Ned Brody and chief marketing officer Kathy Savitt.
The charm offensive has impressed many on Madison Avenue, but getting advertisers to actually spend more on Yahoo’s web properties will not happen overnight, industry experts said.
The shift to advertising exchanges, which allow marketers to instantly buy placement for their ads across a broad constellation of websites, has pushed down the prices that online publishers such as Yahoo can charge.
That was painfully apparent in the second quarter of this year, when Yahoo’s display advertising revenue slid 11% due in part to a double-digit decline in ad prices.
“Advertisers will become more excited if there’s clear evidence that Yahoo is growing again in terms of its users and its engagement,” Mark Mahaney, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets, said.
Since Mayer became CEO, Yahoo’s stock has more than doubled, recently reaching a near eight-year high of $35,06.
But analysts say the gains are mostly due to aggressive share buybacks and the impending initial public offering of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, in which Yahoo owns a 24% stake.
More than a year into Mayer’s tenure, Yahoo’s core business remains stagnant.
Revenue has been flat or down for the past four years and Wall Street does not expect the situation to improve when Yahoo reports its third-quarter results on Tuesday next week.
Analysts are expecting third-quarter revenue to decline around 1% to $1,08 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.
A Yahoo representative said the company has built a team to specifically focus on agency relationships and has recently realigned its sales force according to industry expertise.
Yahoo is “working closely with our advertisers to develop opportunities in a more integrated way across our full suite of media, programmatic, video and mobile properties,” Yahoo said in an emailed comment.
Yahoo is trying to play catch-up to Facebook Inc, Twitter Inc and Google Inc in the fast-growing mobile advertising business, as consumers increasingly access the web on smartphones instead of PCs and flock to social media websites that require novel ad formats.
Spending on mobile ads grew 145% year-over-year to $3 billion in the first six months of 2013, according to the Internet Advertising Bureau.
Mayer has revamped many of Yahoo’s mobile apps to make them more attractive to consumers and advertisers.
In May, she spent $1,1 billion to acquire Tumblr, a popular blogging and social media website.
Mayer has said that turning Yahoo’s business around will be a multi-year process.