These Days at @d:tech, Older Is Hip

NEW YORK — It's no longer cool to be young in the land of Internet advertising.

A strong focus on maturity, in terms of the medium itself and its executives, emerged immediately when @d:tech New York opened yesterday in the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.

Seasoned executives in suits and ties were easier to spot than at past @d:tech shows.

The reason, of course, is that the online ad game has become much more serious in the past year.

“The fish have stopped jumping in the boat,” Gregory Coleman, executive vice president, North American operations, Yahoo, said in his morning keynote presentation to several hundred people.

As a medium, the Internet “got ahead of itself,” said Coleman, who also wore a suit and tie, once considered the uniform of those who serve (as in lawyers and accountants), not the garb of captains of the new economy.

However, he said, “the original promise [of the Internet] is still unchanged.” He then ticked off a list of the Internet's desirable marketing qualities:

· Cost-effectiveness

· Personalization

· One-to-one marketing

· Behavioral targeting

· Database targeting

“The Internet is the first medium to combine the reach of mass marketing with the targeting of direct marketing,” said Coleman, who has been with Yahoo for seven months after eight years as a senior vice president with Reader's Digest.

In describing how he thinks the Internet must evolve, Coleman divided the Internet into three groups: consumers, marketers and media companies.

“The wants and needs of each group are interdependent,” he said.

According to Coleman, consumers want:

· Immediate access to targeted information.

· All content and services for free.

· Trusted information for shopping research.

· No marketing intrusion.

“They don't like it when one of those gosh darned ads get in their way,” he said. “They are probably going to learn that that party is over. They must accept some form of intrusion.”

Yahoo's revenue is 85 percent ad driven, he said, and the company plans to drive the figure to 50 percent in three years.

As for marketers, they want to connect with consumers, not just reach them, he said. They also want to leverage data to understand customers and media consumption patterns better.

They seek consistent messages from their creative teams, but ones that are innovative to avoid boredom.

However, “the creative gap is huge,” he said. “The Internet is having difficulties attracting the best and brightest talent.”

Marketers also are seeking more marketing help from agencies, Coleman said.

“If I were an ad agency, I would make sure I had a world-class interactive team,” he said.

Coleman put out a call to marketers to “put the best and brightest on Internet initiatives.

“Taking talent off a key piece of business takes guts,” he said. “But it needs to be done.”

Some firms dedicate talent to their online efforts; others, he said, “create a leper colony.” He also advised media companies to hire seasoned executives.

“People make the difference,” he said, adding that the days of youth and energy driving Internet-related business are over.

In a light-hearted question-and-answer session, Coleman fielded two complaints about Yahoo's recent use of more intrusive advertising and the planned delivery of paid search engine results on the site.

“Are we becoming a more commercial enterprise? Yes,” he said. “Are we going to step on some toes along the way? I do feel your pain. [But] the free-for-all world where everything was free is over.”

The exhibit hall opens today.

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