Questions for Yahoo’s Hilary Schneider and Microsoft’s Yusuf Mehdi

If the Yahoo-Microsoft deal goes through, Yahoo would be the main point of contact for agencies and other big search spenders placing campaigns on Bing’s distribution network. From the standpoint of mid- to large-sized brands, that’s a key aspect of yesterday’s agreement. But how will it play out?

ClickZ News sheds some light on that question after talking with Hilary Schneider, Yahoo’s EVP North America, and Yusuf Mehdi, SVP of Microsoft’s Online Audience Business Group. During a 10-minute interview — all they could spare — Schneider and Mehdi also touched on what the deal could mean for Yahoo’s search ad tools and its import for members of the newspaper consortium.

Q. The official statement on the deal said Yahoo will handle relationship sales. Could you elaborate a little more on what that means?

Hilary Schneider: “Think about segmenting the advertising marketplace into two segments. One is self-serve advertisers — small advertisers with less complex marketing needs. Those will be managed by Microsoft, because self serve is intrinsically a function of the overall platform.

All others — large and medium-sized advertising — those sold through human touch whether feet on street or phone, will be managed by Yahoo.

Yusuf Mehdi: We retain the rights to be able to see all of the paid search activity and information, so our sales force will focus on display. We will be able to talk to the account about the full picture. While [Microsoft salespeople] will not do search sales or support, they’ll be able to sell display.

Q. So, Yusuf, the Microsoft salesperson will simply transfer an advertiser over to Yahoo when it comes time to discuss the search portion of a buy?

Mehdi: Yes.

Q. What Yahoo ad planning and buying tools might be incorporated into Bing experience? For instance, some advertisers are concerned Yahoo Site Explorer might go away, and Bing’s webmaster tools are not well-loved by all.

Mehdi: We will need to follow the process, which is once we get approval and get access to the code, we’ll be able to go through and understand how it works how it might integrate. We’ll be able to consult with Yahoo…From that we’ll develop a combined roadmap.

It’s safe to say Yahoo’s done a lot of fantastic work across a lot of great areas across both algorithmic and paid search. It’s safe to say we’ll incorporate the best [technologies].

Q. How much control will advertisers have over where their campaigns appear?

Schneider: We’ll optimize for the advertiser. Because of the search marketplace today, search is not demand constrained. We fundamentally see this as giving them more supply.

We don’t think [limiting distribution] is something either of the advertiser bases would be interested in. We’re selling the combined marketplace.

Q. What about the newspaper consortium? Many publishers are using Yahoo search. What happens to them?

Schneider: The newspaper consortium is a broad-based partnership that has long term strategic benefits for Yahoo. One of the components is that they’re search affiliates. Like any Yahoo search affiliate, they’ll continue to be affiliates of Yahoo.

I was on the phone with many partners, including publishers, partners, agencies, and newspaper consortium CEOs. What’s fantastic is their overwhelming support for this relationship. They like the idea of a single sales force that will make it easier for them to do business.

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