Earlier today, Yahoo said it had hired high-profile beauty entrepreneur Bobbi Brown, who created Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, to be editor in chief of its beauty site.
Leaving aside the unusual conflict of interest in naming a top editorial leader who has a very big self-interest in selling makeup to consumers — I am only leaving it aside since the Silicon Valley Internet giant has its CMO, Kathy Savitt, as head of media, so all bets are off — many execs inside Yahoo immediately pinged me with an obviously thorny issue.
Which is: Several of Yahoo’s big advertisers are competitive with Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, which has been owned for some time by another beauty giant, Estée Lauder Companies. According to her website, “Bobbi Brown retains creative control of the brand.”
Let’s be clear — the intersection of beauty magazines and beauty companies has been rather fuzzy line for a long time. Still, business is business.
Those major Yahoo advertisers include France’s L’Oréal Group, Procter & Gamble and Unilever. Yahoo even touts those brands on its advertising site, such as a recent P&G campaign. The consumer goods giant, which owns CoverGirl, is one of Yahoo’s biggest advertisers.
I have reached out to these Yahoo advertisers for comment. Some inside the company’s sales organization said they were caught by surprise by the announcement, and were not very happy about it.
Apparently, the deal to bring in Brown was led primarily by Savitt and also CEO Marissa Mayer, who were apparently attracted to Brown’s star wattage. A prolific writer of beauty books, Brown does does regular segments on television, and is a clear fashion star.
In its posting on the appointment, Yahoo said Brown “will lead editorial direction, original content and the expansion and re-imagination” of the beauty site. Brown, who will keep her job at the cosmetics company, said, in part: “Beauty is not just about makeup, it’s about lifestyle and confidence.”
However Yahoo manages to assuage advertisers who might be irked, the Brown move is part of a plan to shutter its longtime and massive women-focused content site Shine, and to chop it all up and relaunch a series of online lifestyle “magazines.”
The plan includes the hiring of a number of glossy editors, such as former New York Times tech reviewer David Pogue to run Yahoo Tech, and Paula Froelich, the former high-profile “Page Six” editor, to be Yahoo Travel editor.
Both come, of course, from the edit side — Brown, in even the nicest interpretation of her career, straddles that divide.