What does one get for in exchange for a Met Ball sponsorship, in addition to appearing on the receiving line with Anna Wintour? It depends on whom you ask.
According to Yahoo investor Eric Jackson, you get a few tickets and a wasted $3 million.
These were among the criticisms the SpringOwl Asset Management executive made in a report released Tuesday, which called for a better plan for Yahoo shareholders at a time when the former “King of the Internet” is being accused of losing its way.
According to the report, Yahoo’s primary sponsorship of the gala to benefit the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute meant that only chief executive officer Marissa Mayer and “a couple of Yahoo executives” attended.
Although the company has been under scrutiny for failing to turn the ship around since Mayer’s appointment in July 2012, those at the Internet firm argue that it has more skin in the game. Instead of three tickets, it got two tables at the gala; among Mayer’s seatmates were Yahoo Style’s Joe Zee; Yahoo Beauty’s Bobbi Brown; global news anchor Katie Couric, and former chief marketing officer Kathy Savitt (who left in September after hiring former Time editor in chief Martha Nelson as global editor in chief). They were also joined by actors Joel McHale and Allison Brie, of “Community.”
The sponsorship did result in a boost to Yahoo Style, a digital magazine that launched just a few months before the gala. According to Yahoo, there was a week-over-week increase in total page views; coverage included slide shows, video interviews and even coverage by Zee of Mayer’s red Oscar de la Renta gown.
But was it worth $3 million? Jackson says “no.”
“No one from the ad agencies attended. You would think they would do it to take the best advertiser or clients, like a perk for ‘thanks for spending money with Yahoo over the year.’” Instead, Jackson alleged, “It was something Marissa wanted to do for herself because she has an interest in fashion.”
She might also have an interest in keeping employees happy, as high-level executives have been leaving the company. However, Jackson said, the estimated $7 million the company spent on this year’s holiday party, in addition to the free meals and free iPhones, are a waste. In fact, he said, Yahoo needs to drastically cut its workforce.
But don’t other tech firms — like Google, Facebook and Amazon.com (which itself sponsored the Met Ball in 2012) also sponsor events like Davos — of which Yahoo also was a sponsor? Sure, Jackson said, but “they are 10 times the size of Yahoo. Yahoo has no business being the sponsor of Davos.”