Yahoo Confirms Hire of Amazon’s Lisa Utzschneider, Brody Named To Ad Tech Role

LisaThe rumors were true.

Yahoo confirmed Thursday Amazon’s sales chief Lisa Utzschneider will, indeed, be out at the ecommerce giant at the end of the month and will join Yahoo as senior vice president of sales, America. She will report directly to Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer. Prior to Amazon, Utzschneider spent 10 years at Microsoft, where she led ad development and strategy. Read the press release.

All Yahoo ad sales teams will report directly to Utzschneider, and Ned Brody has been appointed to the newly created role of SVP, Advertising Technology and Strategy from his current role as head of Americas. Ned Brody, according to a Yahoo spokeswoman, will report directly to Utzschneider and Scott Burke, SVP of advertising display and advertising technology, will remain in his existing role. So it looks like Yahoo essentially has two SVPs of ad tech now.

Amazon has confirmed to AdExchanger Seth Dallaire, Amazon’s current VP of advertising sales, North America, will assume Utzschneider’s position as global VP of sales.

“Lisa has a demonstrated track record as a leader and as a business builder, focused on creating and expanding sales relationships as well as scaling technological innovation,” said CEO Marissa Mayer of the appointment, in a statement. “She brings unique strengths to Yahoo in terms of identifying new opportunities to maximize the value of advertising in a rapidly expanding and evolving media landscape.

Yahoo’s struggled in recent quarters to prove the “material” impact of its mobile revenue amid its storied dip in display. It appeared during its latest Q3 earnings that its mobile investments (read: Flurry) had begun to pay off. Mobile revenue in Q3 surpassed $200 million, which makes up 20% of $1.1 billon in GAAP revenue. Yahoo’s display revenue continued to tumble, delivering a $60 million blow to Yahoo’s business each quarter, according to Mayer. In short, Yahoo’s been pressed for a turnaround from all angles.

Last winter, Yahoo embarked on a bonafide restructure of its ad business, when it “sunset” Right Media exchange and Genome data management and rolled out the collective umbrella of Yahoo Advertising. Along with it Yahoo debuted the Yahoo Audience Ads targeting tool and self-serve ads and programmatic direct platforms Yahoo Ad Manager and Ad Manager Plus.

Yahoo in the last week has been reportedly eyeing video ad platform and exchange BrightRoll for its very own, a deal TechCrunch reported was in the midst of or nearing completion of a term-sheet stage. That deal is figured in the $700 million to $1 billion range, should it come to fruition.

BrightRoll founder and CEO Tod Sacerdoti had posited at the time of Yahoo’s big ads rebrand that, “Yahoo had not released a single innovation or product based on programmatic since the purchase of Right Media,” in a story on Business Insider, calling it “trendy” to talk about programmatic but noting that “it’s much harder to actually innovate in programmatic.”

The BrightRoll deal would make sense for Yahoo strategically if the company wants to erase bad memories of video deals gone awry (Dailymotion) and to augment its Ray-V video distribution buy with an exchange-based play, one source said.

“Tim Armstrong was largely praised for [at AOL] and Marissa is under pressure from shareholders,” the source claimed. “It seems timely to announce a big deal and distract investors from core results.” Not to say there’s a direct correlation, but a hire of Utzschneider, who’s current company just dropped $1 billion on video gaming platform Twitch, could be one more indicator of a burgeoning Yahoo video ads about-face.

Mayer has been routinely asked to defend Yahoo’s recruitment strategy. Former Googler Henrique de Castro, recruited by the CEO herself to be Yahoo’s chief operating officer in December 2012, was abruptly let go last April. Whether Mayer’s swoop-in on Amazon’s six-year ad vet (read AdExchanger Q&A) is a redemptory move for Mayer, is the question.

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