The whirl of the turbines deafens the team as the Black Hawk skims along at what seems like mere feet above the rolling waves below. The scent of the sea tickles their noses, the salinity palpably stinging their nostrils. In front of them, the dawning sun glimmers on the surface, producing a surreal mirror of various hues ranging from orange to a burnt-amber. The team’s stomach churns, as the magnitude and uncertainty of the mission weighs heavily upon their care-worn hearts. After nearly two years, Project Panama is about to commence.

Well, sure, that is not EXACTLY how Yahoo Search Marketing’s (YSM) Project Panama is going down, but it sure makes for interesting imagery within my cubically confined imagination. Project Panama, which was briefly discussed during a seminar I attended last week and which is currently all over the media (including an article in today’s New York Times), is YSM’s code name for its ad platform redevelopment program. As an advertiser, I received a very brief email about some of the new features, and on May 17th, there with be an analyst presentation where more details about the platform and the related financial aspects will be discussed.

The email I received mentioned the following aspects of the project:

  • The advertisers’ control panel will be redesigned and will make it more intuitive, as well as enable the advertisers themselves to adjust the level of detail presented.
  • Rather than taking a few days for new listings to be approved for inclusion, most new ads will begin appearing within a matter of minutes.
  • A new mechanism for ad testing will be included, which will allow customers to identify the messaging that works best for them. Advertisers will also be able to shift impressions to the ad that performs best.
  • A geo-targeting option will be introduced that lets the advertiser define where the ads are shown geographically, either narrowly or broadly, depending upon their specific needs.
  • The campaign budgeting and scheduling modules will include a number of additions and enhancements.
  • Advertisers will be able to gauge how well their ads are performing relative to competitors with a new Quality Index measurement for each ad. In addition, the bid range necessary for premium placement at the top of the search results page will be shown.

From these little tidbits, and the mentions in the media regarding a new placement algorithm that takes into account other factors besides bid amounts in determining rank, it is clear that they are trying to closely mimic their archrival, Google. One must wonder if this follower strategy will work, especially when Google is maintaining a sizeable lead within the market and is significantly outspending YSM on research and development. Microsoft, the raging, cutthroat business behemoth, is unleashing its own competing ad platform soon. Only time will tell how YSM will fare in this battle.