Major Marketers Turn to Yellow Pages

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In January, cereal maker Kellogg Co. invited Las Vegas residents to take up its annual Special K Challenge through a unique show-and-tell promotion advertised in an unlikely place: the 2004 Las Vegas Yellow Pages.

Just over 600,000 people received the directories, each of which was delivered wrapped in a red bag labeled, "This is what 6 lbs. feels like. Lose it." Printed instructions directed consumers to the Special K Web site, which contained further details about Special K's weight-loss initiative.

Traditionally considered the advertising territory of personal injury attorneys, construction companies and movers, Yellow Pages directories are rarely included in the media plans of major consumer marketers-despite the considerable amount that is spent annually on advertising in the familiar and hefty tomes. Yellow pages is the sixth-largest medium in the U.S., with $13.9 billion in 2003 revenue, according to the Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association, surpassing magazines ($11 billion) but lagging cable ($16.3 billion).

Different approach

Now, some marketers are beginning to think differently about this medium. "What other media can communicate ... six pounds?, " said Kathleen DeCaire-Aden, CEO, SMG Directory Marketing, which developed the program for Kellogg.

In 2003 Pharmaceutical maker Merck, attempting to get women to ask doctors for a bone density test, took out full-page ads (dubbed fold-out tabs, in Yellow Pages lingo) at the front of the "Physicians and Surgeons" section in several regional directories including Phoenix, Philadelphia and St. Petersburg. According to Statistical Research Inc., nearly 80% of people who refer to that section are women, and a majority are over 50 years of age, making the placement attractive, said Peter Broadbent, chief operating officer, Interpublic Grop of Cos.' Wahlstrom Group, the yellow pages agency that developed the program for Merck. An 800-number as well as a Web site URL were included in the ad. The benefit for Merck, Mr. Broadbent said, is the ad's success "is highly trackable. It is really a direct marketing vehicle."

Campbell Soup Co. rolled out a Yellow Pages campaign in California early this year to reach those "we might not normally reach in our usual TV and consumer print advertisements," said Nancy Reagan, VP-Safeway team, Campbell Soup Co.
On the move

The company bought space on the back cover of the Contra Costa County 2004 Yellow Pages for numerous products, including its Soup at Hand line, and co-delivered coupons with the directory deliveries. "Yellow pages are often used by consumers who have moved recently, are making a life stage or lifestyle change, and are often open to new brands," Ms. Reagan said. The company also placed product ads inside the directory under headings including "Beauty Salon" and "Day Care" where their target (18-to-49-year-old working women) would likely look.

Coordinating national buys is becoming easier as yellow pages publishers consolidate, said Roger White, national sales manager, SBC Smart Yellow Pages, which worked with Campbell on its program. SBC, for instance, expanded its reach to 13 states when it bought Ameritech three years ago.

"Many major advertisers want a uniform buy nationwide, which can be difficult to do," he said. Indeed, of the $13.9 billion spent in yellow pages annually, $12 billion is spent on local buys and under $2 billion is national. Wahlstrom's Mr. Broadbent said that "non-traditional projects" like the Special K program account for only a handful of client programs.

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