As most everyone knows by now, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer fired COO Henrique De Castro on January 16, 2014. That was only 14 months into his job. Rumors flew everywhere, obviously, but one thing was always mentioned — that De Castro had failed to boost ad sales.
Well, what Yahoo doesn’t want you to know is that back in September, when the “problems started” with him and Mayer, I had mailed them a letter on September 3rd, 2013, about the Neo redesign of Groups. In that letter I informed both Mayer and De Castro that Groups users were unhappy with the Neo Interface; it was hard to use, it didn’t work, and many were leaving by the thousands, selling stock, and planning to boycott Yahoo ads. Some were even making efforts to contact the advertisers and tell them that.
You can read that letter here.
Along with that letter, I included a 16 page color-coded document with archived quotes from Yahoo’s Groups Uservoice, (what I fondly like to call the Feedback Trench). They were quotes from Groups users saying they were leaving, deleting their groups, selling their stock, boycotting ads and more. In addition to that, disabled and elderly users were unable to use the new interface. The wildly moving ads and flashing and endless scrolling features were causing them seizures, vertigo, high blood pressure, motor issues and more.
You can view that document here:
Go to the page, click on Owl’s Letters, then click marissamayerattachment.doc
Sure, you’re probably thinking…anyone can threaten to boycott someone. True, but this was no bluff. See, Neo had come and destroyed our precious classic groups, and not only was it buggy and nonfunctioning, it looked horrible and failed to meet the needs of even the most basic Groups.
Group Users had already been protesting in the uservoice for a month when I was approached for help due to my involvement in saving Classic Groups in 2010. They were frustrated, angry and looking for help, and I was it.
Neo was rolled out in August 2013 (not sure of the exact date — some say August 7, but others claim it was late July), but it had been in full force with no explanation for at least a month by the time I discovered it had happened, and Yahoo had finally admitted to the users that we were in a test, one we could not get out of. Shortly after that admission, 185,000+ users left Yahoo Groups on September 2nd in a “That’s what you think; we’re outta here, bye” movement.
There is a tally chart for that day here:
So the Crusade was reborn, and to take on the situation with the advertisements, we really got serious. Basic problems we had with the advertisements, besides the ill effects they were having on disabled, elderly or anyone with vision issues, are that they were also obnoxious, flashing, moving and blinding…and that’s only on the pages where the ads worked.
On some of the groups, the ads didn’t work at all. On my group, in particular (Mods and Members), the ads showed up as broken image links for quite a long time. Then they started putting ads in between our message streams, and some of those ads were highly inappropriate & offensive.
So I investigated about the newfangled ads and learned that Yahoo had requested these advertisers to make these new and more elaborate ads in order to “keep up with Yahoo’s new changes.”
I was surprised to learn that the advertisers weren’t given much time, and it cost them a lot of money. In particular, an article by Jennifer Saba and Alexei Oreskovic in Reuters on October 14, 2013, stated:
“For instance, Yahoo did a major overhaul of its popular sports home page to coincide with the start of the NFL season this year. One advertising agency executive said they found out about the change a week before the launch, and so the agency had to scramble to re-design ads that would fit with the new format.
“‘Our client was very upset,’ said the executive, who did not want to be identified because the agency works closely with Yahoo. ‘I have a six-page typed memo about the problems we had with Yahoo and this one client.'”
A Yahoo representative said that the company has “moved faster in the past year than any time in our recent history” to launch better products and to “evolve” the ads on its websites. “We think this will improve performance for our advertisers over time, and we’re working closely with our advertising partners.”
You can read the full story here.
And if you really want to be enlightened about how Yahoo Groups users saw Yahoo and Neo at that time, read all the comments to that article.
So Yahoo didn’t give the advertisers much time. I verified this myself, because when I called various advertisers, many of them echoed the sentiment that Yahoo caused them to spend a lot of money to create flashy new ads in a super short time. When I told them the ads didn’t always work AND that users were leaving groups faster than a sinking ship, they were understandably concerned.
Most advertisers admitted this was a costly and rushed venture, and when I explained about Neo — how it didn’t work and how people were boycotting them — they were suddenly very interested in what I had to say. In my personal opinion, De Castro had a huge task to boost ad sales from advertisers who were being warned away.
And this boycott was no simple task; this was a large, well-organized operation. We used teamwork to set up the boycotting process. One team simply hit reload over and over and wrote down advertiser names. Another team we called the “Fishing Team” searched for the company on the Internet and hunted down contact information. It was all gathered and sent to me, and I created the table with the info. When we were done, we had over 100 advertiser names and we posted them to the blog.
You can view that list on the blog here.
I crafted letters and e-mailed them to the various advertisers and even wrote a poem that I sent them early on. You can read that here.
Members of my group helped; they wrote, tweeted, facebooked, whatever they were able to do to contact all the advertisers on the list. We kept writing them, kept apprising them of the problems…and we haven’t stopped.
Meanwhile, I called a number of them, especially when we couldn’t get an actual e-mail address to send info to, and no one turned me away or refused to listen. I received e-mail responses from many of them, including from the office of the president of AT&T. I spoke with Microsoft Legal, American Express, and Bank Of America’s Merrill Edge, just to name a few.
Yahoo knew we were doing this. Even Bonforte was aware of all we were doing, but Yahoo would not admit that Neo was broken. Yahoo would not acknowledge it was a failure, just the opposite. One advertiser person asked me why his Yahoo Group was a mess. I explained it, and he asked me where he could get some help, and I told him.
Bottom line: Neo was broken. Groups didn’t function. Moderator tools didn’t work; controls were hidden or broken. Spam was able to overrun many groups. They wrecked our home pages, made databases unaccessible, scrambled our photos, and some even lost access to years and years of archives. This was not something that Yahoo Group users were going to stand for, not this time, and they proved it with the boycott.