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The forum article "800-numbers don't always enhance advertising," by Elkman Advertising & Public Relations' Peter Cornish (AA, Oct. 13), took great pains to discredit 800- numbers -- and vanity 800-numbers in particular -- as effective advertising tools.

While the writer thought he scored a touchdown by raising concerns regarding the use of a vanity 800-number as an effective customer response mechanism, the article fumbled the ball by ignoring the memorability, branding and increased customer response that come with ads that employ these numbers.

Additionally, the article issues vague, anti-800-number statements such as ". . . interested customers will find your phone number all by themselves. Come to think of it, isn't that what Yellow Pages ads are for?" and "What are you advertisers thinking? Do people walk around with pencils behind their ears?" I have to flag Mr. Cornish for unsportsmanlike conduct.


Without dispute, a listing in the Yellow Pages can have value for attracting those customers not exposed to advertising in other media. But do agencies really want prospective customers who are specifically seeking their client to go leafing through the Yellow Pages, where they will be exposed to, and possibly distracted by, the advertisements of competitors.

Of course, this assumes that people will locate and drag out the Yellow Pages instead of first calling a competitor with an easy-to-remember 800 number such as 1-800-NEW-CARS or 1-800-NEW- LOAN. Because the mind is quite adept at remembering mnemonics such as these, which cut through the clutter of everyday life (such as driving), they are effective even for people who don't walk around with pencils behind their ears.

We have hundreds of customers successfully employing vanity 800-numbers through our Shared Use Custom 800 Service. Our clients have frequently reported that the introduction of a vanity 800-number has increased advertising response by 25% or more.

Ad agencies across the country are using easy-to-remember numbers to increase client phone-ups. If there is any doubt, forgo a trip to the refrigerator and watch a few minutes of commercials during a weekend's football game. Can the ad agencies for Toyota Motor Sales USA, United Parcel Service, Primestar, MCI Communications Corp., AT&T Corp., and 1-800-FLOWERS not know what they are doing? The sales impact of seven-letter mnemonic 800-numbers is such that it is virtually impossible to get one.


One last detail about the article is Mr. Cornish's method for making hotel reservations: "Motel 6 ads have done a better job persuading and charming me [than 800-number-oriented ads], so I always look up their number and call them when I want a room. It's not that hard."

The next time he travels, Mr. Cornish should try to remember 1-800-4-MOTEL6; it's a whole lot easier than finding a phone book at an airport pay phone.

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