Yahoo! Caught Up in the Past?

It's that time of year: As the days grow shorter, millions of Americans will begin their annual migration back to their couches following months of frolicking in the sun. Given the season, Yahoo!'s (Nasdaq: YHOO  ) plan for a major marketing campaign -- TV ads and radio, cinema, and online spots -- seems well-timed.

Still, just because the marketing blitz will be seen and heard by lots of people, that doesn't mean the project represents money well spent. The campaign, which is reportedly Yahoo!'s biggest in two years, suggests that Yahoo! isn't focused on the right demographics.

As a recent Associated Press story notes, the marketing push is partly aimed at getting Yahoo! back on the public's radar after months in which Web properties like YouTube and News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS  ) MySpace have been making headlines. To fight back, Yahoo! plans ads during the premieres of My Name Is Earl on General Electric's (NYSE: GE  ) NBC network and Grey's Anatomy on Disney's (NYSE: DIS  ) ABC. In addition, on Friday it's offering a coupon for a free cup of iced coffee at Dunkin' Donuts to individuals who select Yahoo! as their start page that day.

Granted, the two TV shows are popular, and lots of people like coffee. And, sure, the changes Yahoo! has made are improvements. But there's a reason Yahoo! has been in the shadows while MySpace and YouTube have been in the limelight. And neither Yahoo!'s marketing campaign nor its latest upgrades are likely to change this dynamic.

Both MySpace and YouTube are immensely popular with young people, especially pre-teens and teens. To some extent, their popularity has leached up to older users, but by and large, they remain youth phenomena. Their youth base puts both sites in a great strategic position, because, as they say, children are the future. Their users have lots of Web use ahead of them, and MySpace and YouTube can evolve with new offerings to monetize their user base as it ages.

By contrast, Yahoo!'s ad effort and the upgrades the pitch is touting seem more targeted at an older set, or the Internet's past. Focusing on the past is never a good idea, especially in an industry as dynamic as the Internet. Rather than unveiling a new pitch, Yahoo! may be better served by developing or buying services that appeal to the younger set.

For more on Yahoo!, check out these stories:

Yahoo! and Disney areStock Advisorrecommendations.What other stocks are at the top of Tom and David Gardner's list? Be our guest at the Stock Advisor website for 30 days and find out.

Freelance writer Brian Gorman does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy appeals to everyone.


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