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Ex data chief: Yahoo experimented with placing names in ads

Yahoo’s former chief of data, Usama Fayyad, told me in an interview yesterday that researchers at the Internet company experimented briefly with placing the users’ names in display ads. But they concluded that any benefits of such personalization were outweighed by the costs: “We decided it was too creepy,” Fayyad said.

Fayyad also predicted that search-engine advertising will eventually fold into a broader category—direct marketing—which will include everything from lead-generation to ads on social networks. This will be balanced 50-50, he predicted (sounding very much like a Yahoo exec) with revived brand advertising. (I cover more of our meeting in another post on

By the way, Peter Kafka urged me on Twitter to post the transcript of the interview. I would like to, but I scrawled notes the old-fashioned way, and part of the interview was off the record.

But this leads to a thought about the downside of relying on a desktop computer. Unless I wanted to invite Fayyad and his entourage into my small and messy office, I could only take notes on a pad. By contrast, when I was writing my book, I carried a laptop everywhere. So many of my BW notes are scribbled, and my book notes are all digital. I guess I should schlep my laptop to the office.

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