Yahoo Introduces Data-Driven Genome Targeting Network

Amid internal turmoil Yahoo unveiled its answer to big data-driven audience targeting this morning. The firm’s new Genome offering combines the huge inventory capacity of the inventory it’s gathered through partners AOL and MSN with Yahoo data and an added layer of third-party data from Yahoo-owned Interclick.

The product, to be made available in July, is intended to satisfy “a big unmet need for targeting and greater insights,” said Rich Riley, Yahoo EVP Americas.

Yahoo introduced Genome at a splashy event in Soho, New York at the Internet Week headquarters, which was kicked off with a talk by Billy Beane, general manager of Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s. Beane’s story of applying new data and statistics to increase efficiencies in choosing players was featured in the book and film “Moneyball.”

Though Beane didn’t draw direct comparisons between baseball and the online ad business, insights provided in his speech are appropriate analogies. In baseball, he said, “You can measure every single event and the value of every event.”

The hype for the Genome initiative was overshadowed by news of the departure of Yahoo’s CEO Scott Thompson, just a few months after he was hired. Thompson finally succumbed to pressure from an activist shareholder who demanded he step down after revealing Thompson had stated in his executive bio that he had obtained a computer science degree when he actually hadn’t. Ross Levinsohn, former Yahoo EVP of the Americas, has been named interim CEO.

Genome follows in the footsteps of audience networks that incorporate several data sets to target online ads. The magnitude of the inventory available in Genome should differentiate it from smaller data-centric audience targeting networks.

Yahoo said the system will combine its registration, search, and behavioral data with information from 25 data sources, along with advertiser data, to perform predictive modeling for ad targeting and optimization. The platform will be used to target ad formats including display, mobile, and video.

While so-called big data is all the rage, it appears many advertisers have yet to apply the data they have at their disposal in a meaningful, systematic way.

“It’s really difficult for us to use all the interesting data in order to make it actionable,” said Michele Morelli, SVP display, lead generation and digital marketing for Citibank. Morelli spoke on a panel during the Yahoo event.

She also suggested that the systems like Genome might not fulfill the ultimate needs of companies that advertise across several forms of media, rather than just online. An online solution is not necessarily appealing to Citibank, Morelli said, adding that her company needs a “marketing solution.”

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