Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Wanted: Online Ad Sales Heads for Both Yahoo and Microsoft

Even though they are two of the Internet’s largest advertising businesses, both Yahoo and Microsoft are without top execs to lead those units.

Worse, both are just entering a complex online ad sales and search partnership together, which will require a lot of management firepower.

Last week, BoomTown reported the departure of Yahoo’s head for the key North American market, Joanne Bradford, for a new job at social media start-up Demand Media. She starts there Monday.

It was a move that sent reverberations throughout the online ad market.

Less known, though, is that Microsoft (MSFT) has also been looking for almost a year for someone to head up its online ad sales force globally.

Yahoo (YHOO) is just starting its search to replace Bradford–with her boss, U.S. head Hilary Schneider, taking over on an interim basis.

In fact, even Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz is pitching in, giving Bradford’s staff a talking to earlier this week about the need to press on.

Both Yahoo execs said the company will be looking at both internal and external candidates.

Until then, said a Yahoo spokeswoman, in the boringest quote ever uttered: “Yahoo! has leadership bench strength and we continue to be committed in delivering wow experiences to both users and advertisers.”

Not to worry about obfuscation, as BoomTown has the scoop!

Internally, the key execs being eyeballed include 11-year Yahoo veteran Mitch Spolan, VP of North American sales, and Seth Dallaire, a former Microsoft exec whom Bradford brought to the company last fall as VP of mid-market sales, a newly-created role responsible for all mid-market sales efforts across search and display advertising.

Another former Microsoft exec, Erika Nardini, VP of brand packaging, is also mentioned a lot as a possibility and is well-liked by the sales force at Yahoo.

Still, many feel that with the exodus of such a high-profile exec as Bradford, Yahoo has to attract another big name to replace her.

But externally, the pickings are much slimmer, with only two key names popping up as top choices.

One is a former Yahoo, Jacki Kelley, a longtime online ad exec who is now North American president of Universal McCann, a unit of the Interpublic Group (IPG) agency. Besides Yahoo, Kelley has worked at Gannett’s (GCI) USA Today and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (MSO).

The second is Kathy Kayse, a well-regarded former AOL (AOL) ad exec, who now is in charge of digital ad sales at Discovery Communications (DISCA). Kayse also had a long career at Time Warner (TWX).

(Both are pictured here, Kelley at left and Kayse on the right.)

Microsoft is a dicier proposition, with exactly zero internal candidates considered qualified to lead the online ad sales effort, a job that would report directly into Corporate VP for Consumer & Online Darren Huston.

Microsoft has been searching for a long time now, with feelers all over the industry. A variety of names pops up, from new MySpace ad head Nada Stirratt to Bradford–also a former Microsoftie–herself.

In fact, the paucity of experienced execs to handle these complex jobs–which include the need to understand premium, network and search ad sales, as well as highly technical systems–is clear.

“Neither of these jobs are easy and, in many ways, a giant nightmare,” joked one online ad sales exec.