Weekly NetView and AdRelevance data from Nielsen//NetRatings.
Top 10 Online News & Information Destinations
|Top 10 Online Multi-Category Commerce Destinations|
Week Ending November 6, 2005
Note: NetView traffic figures incorporate AOL Proprietary Channels and Internet Applications Tracking with regular web traffic data. This data CANNOT be trended against data prior to week ending Nov. 10, 2002.
|Top 10 Public Services Advertisers|
Top Automotive Advertisers
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings AdRelevance
Note: All online advertising data excludes house ads which are advertisements run on an advertiser's own web property.
Note: Nielsen//NetRatings AdRelevance reporting data reflects advertising activity served on pages accessible via the World Wide Web and not within AOL's proprietary service.
Yahoo's "I hate telecommuting" blunder
When the CEO of Yahoo, Marissa Mayer, decided to put an end to telecommuting options employees had been enjoying for quite some time -- and with no real reasoning behind it -- it made headlines. In fact, it continues to make headlines. Since then, she's flip flopped back and forth (in other words, Yahoo telecommuting is making a comeback). However, beyond making Yahoo look like it was a kill joy for no real reason, Mayer was also making a statement on women in power.
(Hopefully Mayer's not working remotely in this candid shot.)
You can find studies for or against telecommuting, but there's only one reality: If it works for a specific company or employee, it works -- period. There are many irrefutable upsides to telecommuting, such as lightening your carbon footprint with zero commutes, lower overhead, and more flex time for workers who have lives outside the office. In an era where virtual offices are becoming the norm, Mayer's seemingly rash decision and lack of reasoning to back it up looked like a stunt, power move, or both.
J.C. Penney goes penny-pinching
By 2010, the big shots at J.C. Penney had realized their sales were seriously down, earnings were tanking, and something needed to be done -- fast. New management was surely the key, which is why Ron Johnson of Apple was brought on. He was backed by Bill Ackman, a powerful hedge fund manager who just happened to be the biggest shareholder J.C. Penney had. With Johnson at the wheel, a new strategy emerged that was meant to make J.C. Penney the leader in brand name products at a value-driven price. This meant nixing faux sales and discounts retailers are known for.
(Those red sales signs are irresistible…even if the savings are artificial.)
Even though artificial discounts are relatively easy to see through and gimmicky, you can't deny that people love them. There's a rush that comes with thinking you scored a bargain. J.C. Penney customers were knee-deep in bargain hunting madness -- it didn't matter that they knew the company would mark up prices before "discounting" them. In three years, the losses worsened and shrank from almost $18 billion per year to $13 billion under Johnson.
Add in the fact that Johnson did zero market testing to even see if J.C. Penney shoppers wanted more transparency, and it was a marketing disaster.
You can ring Ma Bell
Here's a great historical example of a CEO's floundering: Back in 1876, Western Union was the premier communications organization in the U.S. It was managed by Vanderbilt and was available in almost every state. There were thousands of miles of wiring around the country, and Western Union was easily the biggest private company in America. Meanwhile, Alexander Graham Bell had just invented the telephone -- as well as the patents.
(Bell is proof that CEOs should never underestimate the power of an inventive mind.)
Bell was no businessman, and it seems neither were the people who were trying to support him. Bell Telephone Co. asked if Western Union wanted the patents for the princely (at the time) sum of $100,000. William Orlon, president of Western Union, scoffed at the idea. Some say this was the worst move ever made by a CEO, and years later Orlon agreed. Instead, Western Union made a promise to never contest Bell's patents and in return they got a decent royalty for every phone Bell leased. Ma Bell eventually led to the demise of Western Union as the key communicator in the U.S.
It was an early example of how technology requires an eye for innovation and the right relationships.
Fly like a G6
In late 2008, America was on the edge of what was about to become the Great Recession, but some industries were already knee-deep in trouble -- mainly, the auto industry. Ford Motor was ready to collapse, GM and Chrysler were almost belly up, and Toyota put expansion plans to a screeching halt. The CEOs decided to ask Congress to bail them out, with a group of them heading to a hearing to beg for $25 billion in taxpayer money to pull them out of this mess. They'd already laid off thousands of workers and closed several plants, so this was a last ditch effort.
(Literally high flying CEOs make headlines.)
Beyond having the gall to ask for billions of dollars from their very own customers, they also had the nerve to take private company jets to D.C. for the meeting. It was obviously the fastest way to get there and there were genuine threats of kidnappings, but it reeked of greed. The President of the Citizens Against Government Waste, Tom Schatz, says, "To come to Washington on a corporate jet, and asking for a handout, is outrageous." For each CEO, the cost to take the trip was around $20,000 compared to a $300 ticket flying coach.
At first, Congress said "no," but when the CEOs tried again after waiting a few weeks (and drove in hybrids), a little short term cash was doled out which eventually snowballed into a bailout. However, their marketing teams had to work overtime to cover up this PR flub (assuming, of course, the marketing team hadn't been laid off).
Was this a good deal? They should have Googled it
Remember when Excite was the top search engine? Neither does anyone else. However, back in 1999, Google was just a tiny startup and Excite dominated the search engine industry. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the founders of Google, were getting great feedback from their product and thought moving into the new century might be the perfect time to sell. The startup was offered to Excite for one million dollars, but Excite CEO George Bell didn't bite. Even when the price was lowered to $750,000, Excite passed.
(Remember this logo? It was once the "ultimate" for Google founders.)
Today, Google is worth $290 billion and Excite is basically defunct. Bell now works as a GM for a Boston company. While this didn't turn into a marketing fail, it's dubbed one of the biggest faux pas a CEO has ever made. Talk about not knowing a treasure when it's dished up on a silver platter.
CEOs are hopefully in their highfalutin positions because they have the experience, skills, and know-how to make the best moves for a company -- but they're still human. Marketers have the experience, skills, and know-how to best present information to the intended audience. Unfortunately, sometimes this requires covering up the mistakes of others.
The good news is that everyone in the company is (hopefully) after the same goals. Better sales, a better reputation, and a better future put everyone on the same track.
Anna Johansson is a freelance writer.
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"Boss with employees" image via Shutterstock.