Yellow Pages Group Pushes for Ad Dollars

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Yellow Pages publishers have an identity crisis. The trade association representing phone-directory publishers has changed its name for the fourth time since it was founded in 1975, and it's now seeking to clarify that with an ad campaign and a survey showing its effectiveness, particularly combined with other media.

"We are more than just a paper medium," said Neg Norton, president of the Yellow Pages Association. The group, founded as the National Yellow Pages Service Association, is changing its name from Yellow Pages IMA (for "integrated media association") to the Yellow Pages Association.

Yet even as the name changes, Yellow Pages publishers have a firmer understanding of the impact of their medium and of how consumers use their directories, although the ways in which Yellow Pages data are disseminated are increasing. Today, of course, in addition to the Internet, Yellow Pages information is delivered over wireless devices as well as in traditional print directories.

One longstanding concern, as the mediums have proliferated-that Internet Yellow Pages would cannibalize consumers' use of print directories-appears unfounded, according to a survey by market researchers TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Results of the survey-a project commissioned annually by the Yellow Pages Association-found that, of those who use Internet Yellow Pages, 85% continue to also use the print version.

`not all or nothing'

"It is not an all-or-nothing proposition," said Emil Morales, senior VP, TNS. "The Internet Yellow Pages are a different format, not as complete as the print directories."

The survey queried consumers on how they used 10 different media, including newspapers, magazines, TV ads and Yellow Pages, to research information. It surveyed 155 categories, from chiropractors to pest-control services but excluded others, such as consumer package-goods.

"Undoubtedly, for dishwasher detergent, Yellow Pages aren't a good resource," noted Larry Small, the association's director of research.

For 75 of the 155 categories, researchers found that more people used print Yellow Pages than any other media. Top categories included movers, truck renting and leasing, and automatic transmissions.

More powerful, from the association's perspective, are the data on Yellow Pages' effectiveness when combined with other types of media in particular categories. Print and online Yellow Pages combined reach 37.5% of consumers looking for appliance service and repair. But a combination of advertising using print Yellow Pages and direct mail in that category would reach 52.1% of consumers looking for the service.

"Yellow Pages is a local medium, not as appropriate for building a brand but potentially effective if you're looking for need-based, immediate action," said Dave Bolger, media planner at Grey Global Group's Mediacom, whose clients include Dyson vacuum cleaners.

In addition to the name change, the Yellow Pages Association is launching a print campaign and new logo later this month. The latter uses the familiar graphic of walking fingers, taken from the early 1960s AT&T Corp. "Let Your Fingers Do the Walking" campaign. It's combined with new images, including a computer screen and cursor to communicate breadth beyond print. The tagline: "It pays. We'll prove it."

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