In News, Our Thoughts

From the prologue of Dave Shen’s new book, Takeover!: The Inside Story of the Yahoo! Ad Revolution

It was May 3, 2001. The team had been working day and night to create the Yahoo! Homepage’s first major takeover ad – for Ford Motor Company – and we were tired.

We’d spent the last two weeks racing from concept to production, and then gone through an entire suite of bug-checking and design revisions. The creative agency for the ad, J. Walter Thompson, had been extremely helpful. They’d also been extremely forgiving of our requirements, and of our fear of harming the user experience for Yahoo! Visitors. Millions of users came to the site every day. An error on the Yahoo! Homepage could have dire consequences, and we all knew it.

It was a huge risk for Yahoo! to launch such a prominent ad there. Most web users hated ads. Besides that, ours incorporated Dynamic HTML, which, despite being the most advanced web technology around at the time, was the least reliable and contained the most bugs.

Not only was it a huge risk for Yahoo!, it was something we’d never done before.

To that point, despite its enormous potential, the homepage – the most visited page on the Internet – had played a tiny role in Yahoo!’s advertising strategy. Advertising concepts had been considered many times, but they’d all had been rejected except for the small banner program, which was a small ad positioned beneath the Yahoo! Logo on the homepage. The program began life as a promotional service that could be enhanced by an ad in order for the advertiser to appear on the homepage. In the eyes of the advertisers, the idea quickly wore thin.

But with the dot-com crash – Dot-Bust – less than a year old, Yahoo!’s revenue was in a risky state. The stock price had tanked to an all-time low, and talk of Microsoft’s interest in buying Yahoo! was rampant. Something had to be done to jump-start a recovery.

Midnight came.

With much trepidation, Dave Filo pushed the ad live. We both clapped. We also both prayed nothing could go wrong.

Excerpted from the prologue of Dave Shen’s new book, Takeover!: The Inside Story of the Yahoo! Ad Revolution. In Takeover!, LaunchCapital’s Dave Shen drives you through the nerdy, make-it-or-break-it inside story of the web’s first mega-company, where every day brought a new problem, every ad pushed the boundaries further, and every story added up to what became Yahoo!, the undisputed pioneer of the online advertising revolution.

Get it now on Amazon here.

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