Yahoo Yanks Union's Ad

SAN FRANCISCO (03/10/2000) - A union trying to organize workers at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport) saved US$10,000 but lost out on a public relations mega-opportunity after Yahoo Inc. pulled a banner ad that linked to a union Web site with "disparaging" comments about the workers' employer.

"We don't accept advertising that is negatively targeted or disparaging toward any other group or individual," says Diane Hunt, director of corporate communications at Yahoo.

The ad, submitted by the Service Employees International Union, was up for about three weeks before Yahoo canned it after taking a closer look at the site to which the ad linked. That site, http://www.un-fulfilled.com/, is critical of Gage Marketing Support Services, a provider of outsourced business services, and its parent company, AHL Services (AHLS) , which employs workers at airports and other venues. The site warns against doing business with Gage, criticizes AHL's airport security unit and links to information about the labor dispute.

A mid-February press conference and rally outside Yahoo's offices in Santa Clara, California, by union representatives and workers didn't mollify Yahoo.

"We accused Yahoo of censoring our information," says Robert Masciola, research coordinator for the Washington-based union. "We were just reporting to the general public about (AHL's) employment practices at Los Angeles airport."

The three-month ad campaign on Yahoo would have cost the union $10,000, Masciola said. The ad was displayed on the results page when people searched using certain keywords, such as "Gage Marketing" and "AHL." The ad was also in a rotation of ads that appeared in the business and finance sections.

An AHL spokeswoman was pleased. "We certainly didn't encourage Yahoo to do that, but we're glad it's been done," says Celeste Bottorff, vice president of marketing at AHL. "It's no different for us. There wasn't much reaction to the ad anyway."

However, the union says the ad did grab some attention. Traffic to the union Web site rose about 1,500 percent when the ad was up, according to Masciola.

"It was an effective tactic," he says. "Now we're looking at other portals."

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