Magazine article Marketing

The Marketing Interview: Robert Bridge

Magazine article Marketing

The Marketing Interview: Robert Bridge

Article excerpt

The senior director and head of marketing for EMEA at Yahoo! has faith in its products to fulfil its business ambitions for 2012, writes Sarah Shearman.

Every week, it seems, there is a further twist in the Yahoo! saga Redundancies and high-profile departures, including the highly publicised dismissal of former chief executive Carol Bartz after a tumultuous 32 months in charge, acquisition speculation and heightened competition have kept the digital media company in the news for the wrong reasons.

This year Yahoo! has appointed a new chief executive, Scott Thompson, and undertaken a global reorganisation of its marketing function Meanwhile, its co-founder, Jerry Yang, has departed after 17 years and chairman Roy Bostock stepped down.

The knock-on effect of the marketing shake-up resulted in James Tipple, vice-president for marketing at Yahoo! EMEA, and Andrew Cocker, marketing director for EMEA, joining the growing list of departed executives.

Looking to steady the ship amid such turmoil is Robert Bridge, who has been promoted to the new role of senior director and head of marketing for EMEA.

Bridge's new job retains the remit of his previous role as Yahoo!'s business-to-business marketing director for the region, with the addition of consumer marketing.

Marketing meets Bridge, who is visiting Yahoo!'s London office from his base at its European headquarters in Geneva, six weeks into his tenure. In what is his first media interview, Bridge maintains an air of confidence throughout, but it quickly becomes apparent that he would rather not discuss the changes at the top of the business, saying they are 'way above my pay-grade'.

The company's recent lacklustre financial performance has been attributed largely to the stewardship of Bartz, who ended her reign at Yahoo! by revealing, in an email to staff, that she had been 'fired over the phone by Yahoo!'s chairman of the board'. In its 2011 annual results, Yahoo! posted a slip in global revenues, exacerbated by a decline in search and ad revenues, from dollars 6.3bn in 2010 to dollars 4.98bn in 2011.

Bridge is reluctant to divulge his opinion on Bartz, a somewhat divisive figure, but claims she made 'great' behind-the-scenes changes to the company's infrastructure and publishing systems. 'When I got here (nearly two years ago) there was a feeling she was making a difference,' he adds, diplomatically.

Nor will he speculate on how Yang's departure will affect the business. Nonetheless, he insists that the leadership changes, along with reports of possible takeover bids from a range of companies, including Google and Microsoft, do not really affect the European side of the business.

'In Europe we have good momentum and are not affected by these stories from Silicon Valley, which is much more under a microscope', says Bridge.

The figures appear to back up his argument; EMEA revenues were up year on year, from dollars 369m in 2010 to dollars 407m in 2011.

Again, while he has received 'positive feedback' about chief executive Thompson from those who have met him, Bridge warns that the future situation is 'difficult to assess' because the new boss has yet to present his vision for the company's direction.

Reports from the US suggest Thompson is plotting a major reorganisation, which could result in the recruitment of more product executives to drive innovation, as well as the hiring of a head of ad sales or a revenue chief.

As the company, once again, stands on the brink of significant change, one could be forgiven for asking what exactly Yahoo! stands for these days. Bridge jokingly rolls his eyes at 'the question everyone loves to ask', and in response refers to a comment made by Thompson.

'We can't be just a tech or a media company - we must be both,' he says. 'We are the premier digital media company, with an amazing range of technologies. …

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