Profile: James Tipple, vice-president, marketing, at Yahoo! EMEA
James Tipple, vice-president, marketing, at Yahoo! EMEA, is happy to embrace the brand's challenger status. Interview by Sarah Shearman.
James Tipple, vice-president, marketing, at Yahoo! EMEA
Yahoo!'s chief marketer, James Tipple, looks to have made a thoroughly on-brand choice of garment on the day Marketing meets him at the internet company's London office. However, he insists as he takes a seat: 'The purple socks are only a coincidence.'
The senior vice-president for EMEA marketing at Yahoo! has just flown in from Switzerland, where he is based. Exuding energy and confidence, he is dressed down, but he has not always been so casual. Just over 10 years ago, coming from the very traditional marketing environment of what was SmithKline Beecham, the then-sharp-suited Tipple found the transition to the mobile and digital world a 'shock to the system'. 'It was all shorts, t-shirts and start-up mentality,' he explains.
Tipple joined Yahoo! in 2006 as consumer marketing director for the EU, and was promoted to his current role the following year. In 2009, under the new leadership of chief executive Carol Bartz, he oversaw the European roll-out of the $100m-plus global rebrand of the business. This was intended to re-engage consumers and put Yahoo! 'at the centre of their online lives'.
Although Bartz has been widely blamed for flat advertising revenues, a slew of redundancies - 700 in the past six weeks alone - and high-profile exits from the company since she joined, Tipple seems genuine in his praise. Frequently starting sentences with 'Carol says', he believes she has made positive changes in her time at the company, including the relaunch of the Yahoo! homepage last year.
It's sometimes easy to forget that Yahoo! is a $6.3bn (£3.9bn)-revenue business - and that it preceded Google by three years when it was incorporated in 1995.
This begs the question as to why this former internet heavyweight, with its heritage in digital and wide-ranging products, has been left in the wake of its rapid-growth competitors. Google, which had famously not previously invested in consumer marketing, has also raised the bar, with a TV push for browser Chrome.
Despite the level of media scrutiny centred on Yahoo!, Tipple does not shy away from how it has fallen behind rivals such as Google and Facebook in Europe. 'The gloves are well and truly off, but I'm OK with being the challenger brand,' he says. 'It allows you to do things differently and take some risks - as you have to.'
Rather than 'tearing after' Google, Tipple says that Yahoo!'s current status has allowed it to become better at focusing on its consumer patterns and aligning the business with what advertisers want.
One example is its Yahoo! Mail homepage takeover ad format, which it rolled out last year. This is designed to offer advertisers a 'digital canvas', bigger than traditional display. Among the brands it has so far sold ads to is Cartier, which Tipple describes as a coup, given that luxury brands traditionally do not invest heavily in digital.
Yahoo! is much more than its mail, search and ad products. In 2009, it announced a landmark search deal with Microsoft, which means its search function is now powered by Microsoft Bing. The new Yahoo! is positioned as a media owner, with content sites such as Yahoo! Lifestyle and Yahoo! Finance. This is often overlooked, he argues, when the company is compared with the likes of Google.
Tipple's strategy for Yahoo! is clear: 'Fewer, bigger, better.' 'By providing high-quality content that is relevant to consumers, we can build stronger relationships with advertisers.'
As part of this approach, Yahoo! signed an exclusive World Cup interview deal last year with David Beckham to provide content for its sport and lifestyle sites. This focus on sport and video content will grow in importance for Yahoo! this year, adds Tipple.
Last April, the company won the rights to show up to five minutes of play from every Premier League football match from the seasons 2010 to 2013. It launched its Premier League online highlights coverage with video advertisers including Adidas, Heineken, BT and Sony Pictures.
Tipple will not be drawn on the value of the deal, but it was backed by a multimillion-pound marketing campaign. Still, he hammers home the importance of the win, mentioning it no fewer than eight times.
His sporting enthusiasm is most evident in his love of skiing. Originally from Buckinghamshire, then working in London for most of his career, he relishes the Geneva lifestyle, which allows him to ski 'every weekend without fail'. It is somewhat ironic, then, that his passion for the sport nearly prevented him from taking his first job in marketing.
Despite gaining a place on the sales and marketing graduate scheme at SmithKline Beecham, he considered putting it off to 'do another ski season'. It took a quiet word from his mother to point out that this might be too good an opportunity to miss.
Tipple's father was also a marketer, for Unilever, but parental influence was not the main reason he was drawn to the discipline. Instead, it was the discovery during his final year at Leeds University, where he studied theology, that companies such as SmithKline Beecham, Procter & Gamble and Unilever offered the most generous buffets at the milkrounds. It was this, he admits, that got him 'sort of interested' in marketing.
Free food may have been the initial attraction, but Tipple's varied career - working on brands from Lucozade to Vodafone - has kept him motivated and energised.
After returning from Japan in 2006, where he was global marketing manager for Vodafone Asia for a year, Tipple began looking for his next move - something that needed to be the 'best, most exciting thing'. This was where Yahoo! came into play.
Tipple admits he has a short attention span, but this is not a problem at Yahoo!, where its challenger-brand mantle means it is always looking to innovate.
Tipple is confident that Yahoo! - which, although often considered to be in the shadow of Google, is nonetheless a major internet player - is gaining ground in its effort to differentiate itself in the eyes of consumers and advertisers.
Last week the business reported that profits soared 86% in 2010, following some heavy cost-cutting measures, although revenue fell 2%.
'We are comfortable with where we are right now,' says Tipple, keen to put paid to industry doubters and paint Yahoo! as a visionary company.
'Yahoo! has gone through that difficult adolescent stage of being a start-up to becoming a big business. There is still everything to play for.'
1994-1999: Various sales and marketing roles, working on Ribena, Lucozade and Macleans, SmithKline Beecham
1999-2000: Head of location services, BT Cellnet (O2)
2000-2006: Roles including group marketing manager, Vodafone Live!, Vodafone
2006-present: Consumer marketing director, rising to vice-president, marketing, Yahoo! EMEA
Family: Married, two children
Favourite brand: Nespresso
Hobbies: Skiing (every weekend), triathlon
This article was first published on marketingmagazine.co.uk
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