Yahoo Display Strategy Turns To OPA Ad Formats In Effort To Drive Premium Prices

Although not a member of the Online Publishers Association, Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) has adopted the industry group’s display ad formats across its portal channels as part of a strategy to aggressively pursue premium prices. The formats, which were tested by OPA members last spring, were designed to help major publishers beat back the challenge from remnant ad networks that sell publishers’ inventory at much lower CPMs. In an interview with paidContent, Mitch Spolan, Yahoo’s VP of North American field sales, said that the company turned to the format to complete the incipient turnaround in display revenues that began in Q4.

In addition to trying to find ways to build up display, advertisers who had been running campaigns using the three OPA formats — the “page-turning” XXL, the unspooling Pushdown, and the scrolling Fixed Panel — had been asking Yahoo to accept some spots. One of reasons the OPA had advocated for the ads in the first place was to bring the same kind of uniformity to online ads that print ads have.

“We started talking about using the OPA formats in Q4,” Spolan said. “It all came together pretty quickly after that.” So far, Yahoo is just using the XXL and Pushdown, as the Fixed Panel requires more complex coding. He also expects that the OPA style ads will encourage current advertisers to spend a little more, while also attracting new advertisers.

AT&T (NYSE: T) was the first marketer to use the ads last week across the portal’s Sports, News and Games channels. It was soon followed by Teleflora, and Anheuser-Busch. Both Universal Pictures’ The Wolfman, and Warner Bros.’ Valentine’s Day have taken over the Movies channel home page.

While a number of non-OPA affiliated publishers, such as Federated Media, have begun using the larger display formats, Yahoo is the first to get the organization’s approval. In an e-mail, OPA President Pam Horan told me she appreciates that Yahoo and others are using the formats and it furthers the goal of having the OPA’s specs become the industry standard.

Although Yahoo believes the OPA formats — as well as similar custom display ads it creates for specific marketers — will also help deliver on a promise of reduced clutter, Spolan insists that they are in addition to the regular banner ads. “Banner ads remain at our core, and the new OPA ads are meant to be additive as opposed to taking something else away.”