Yahoo’s new $100m advertising campaign has launched. It’s multichannel and combines television, print, radio and digital. Online, chances are you’ve already come across some of Yahoo’s ads. They’re on a variety of popular websites and in many cases, they’re very visible.

I ran into one on CBS Marketwatch and couldn’t help notice: Yahoo is
promoting GMail/Google and Facebook in a large rich media expansion ad

What’s interesting to me about this ad is that, despite the hefty coin Yahoo is spending to remind consumers that it still exists, the company is promoting its competitors. Yahoo competes with Google in several markets, including email, and while Yahoo doesn’t have a strong consumer social network, Facebook isn’t doing it any favors. After all, Facebook is today what Yahoo once was to many consumers — the start page, the central hub of the web experience.

All of this raises an important question: is Yahoo’s move to promote its connections with other services smart over the long-term?

It could be. There’s something to the old saying, “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em“. And right now, beating ’em doesn’t looking like something Yahoo is capable of. It has basically admitted as much in the search market, where it still hopes to proceed with its plans to outsource to Microsoft. In the social networking space, Yahoo has always had the audience and foundations to build the mother of all social networks. But it hasn’t been able to really pull it off, directly or indirectly. And while Yahoo Mail is still a strong player in the webmail space, webmail isn’t going to reverse Yahoo’s fortunes.

From this perspective, Yahoo may be wise to emphasize that it plays nicely with the rest of the consumer internet. But consumers who still use Yahoo already know that it does; consumers who don’t probably won’t care. Which highlights the problem with Yahoo’s strategy: Yahoo isn’t showing us anything new.

It’s somewhat sad that part of the $100m Yahoo is spending to try to make itself seem relevant to consumers is providing free promotion to competitors that are more relevant. Perhaps Yahoo management truly believes that Yahoo can maintain relevance by being interoperable with the services that are truly relevant today but in reality, this isn’t likely to help Yahoo become more than it currently is. Which, in my opinion, leaves little hope that Yahoo will turn its business around. And that, of course, is what Yahoo really needs to do.