Yellow Pages directories reached their usage peak from the 1960s to the early '80s. Since then, usage among consumers has dropped as specialty directories have proliferated. In the past five years, it eroded even more quickly, in part due to Internet directories and other Internet services, such as online restaurant guides.
The growth of shopping malls also has exacerbated the problem, with consumers knowing, for example, they can find a locksmith at the local mall.
"Usage is what we sell to [Yellow Pages] advertisers," said Bob Molineaux, account director at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco.
SBC is fighting back with three humorous spots tagged "Another problem solved courtesy of the Pacific Bell Yellow Pages." In one commercial, a bratty child sits at his computer and talks back to his father, saying things such as "Talk to the hand. Jimmy isn't listening." A Yellow Pages directory hits Jimmy on the head and is shown open to Page 456, with the heading, "Military schools."
In another execution, a man dressed up as a chicken makes a delivery and sings a song at a sorority house, and is embarrassed by the two coeds who answer the door. Another Yellow Pages book hits him in the head, open to Page 338: "Career counseling."
Commercials break June 6 in California, and will later expand to markets in all 13 states in which SBC operates. Spending in California alone is anticipated to reach $10 million. Goodby is also working on commercials for SBC's smartpages.com, its online Yellow Page offering.
The new campaign replaces a humorous effort from previous agency FCB Worldwide, San Francisco, that challenged ordinary folks to accomplish feats such as putting on a circus in 24 hours using only the directory.
Some of the funding from SBC's Yellow Pages effort has been diverted to a national Yellow Pages Publishers Association campaign handled by the Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., starring comedian Jon Lovitz.