New products help Yahoo lock in ad targets

Trio takes users' previous Web activities into account

Yahoo is looking to boost the value of its display and search inventory with the launch of three advertising products, each promising better targeting by taking users' previous Web activities into account.

For its display business, Yahoo executives said they can show users more appropriate ads by accounting for where they recently have surfed or searched.

For example, the company's new Search Retargeting product allows brands to serve display ads to users who have conducted Yahoo searches for particular keywords -- theoretically boosting the ads' relevance significantly by accounting for the users' self-stated interests.

Similarly, Yahoo's Enhanced Retargeting product delivers personalized display ads to users who recently have visited specific content or e-commerce sites. Officials believe the product takes classic behavioral targeting to another level by delivering ad messages that showcase highly specific, sometimes offer-driven messaging.

For example, a user might see an ad for flight prices from New York to San Francisco after searching for that flight on a travel advertiser's Web site.

On the search side, Yahoo is debuting offerings that allow advertisers to target ads based on user demographics and time of day. The innovation could be seen as a direct challenge to Microsoft, which has made demographic targeting a point of differentiation for its struggling search product.

The targeting offerings are the latest ad innovations rolled out by Yahoo this month. More than a week ago, the company introduced several creative options for search ads that include video and banner placements, rather than the text ads common to the medium.

Yahoo's Joanne Bradford, senior vp U.S. revenue and market development, and Michael Walrath, senior vp advertising marketplace group, showcased the new products Tuesday at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's annual meeting in Orlando. The supposed clash between the art and science/technology sides of the digital ad business has been a hot topic during the conference.

According to Bradford, Yahoo's new products blend the best of both worlds while potentially bolstering pricing.

"These help us drive performance for brands," she said. "The two sides don't have to be in conflict."

Regarding pricing pressure on the industry, Bradford added: "We think advertising is a cyclical business, but when things are down, you have to continue to add value. These ads do that."