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TROY, Mich.-The Yellow Pages industry has signed up four current national advertisers and hopes to have 98 on board byyearend as part of its most aggressive attempt yet to expand the use of the medium.

The five-year, $44 million "Marketing the Medium" campaign is being outlined in briefings here and in nine other cities this month, sponsored by the Yellow Pages Publishers Association and the Association of Directory Marketing.

The marketers weren't identified, but officials from both organizations said they were in the automotive, financial services, restaurant and travel fields.

"Marketing the Medium" is intended to aggressively pursue national advertisers that already use Yellow Pages-but ineffectively-by offering free testing to those that qualify.

The program's objective is to generate $521 million in additional Yellow Pages revenue through 1998, said Ray LaFrance, YPPA marketing director.

Through the program, the $9.5 billion Yellow Pages industry hopes to increase revenue, which has been almost stagnant in the 1990s and increased only 2.3% in 1993.

"The objective ... is to provide advertisers with measurable return on investment to show Yellow Pages' value," Mr. LaFrance said.

Four "Marketing the Medium" task forces have already been established and four more are to be set up by the end of the year. Each consists of certified marketing representatives, publishers, agencies and association members that study two advertisers at a time.

At the same time, advertisers are running split-run tests in four midsize markets of ads that were recommended by the "Marketing the Medium" task force and paid for by the industry.

The idea of split-run testing is to have the advertiser's old ad run against its proposed ad in half of each market. This will determine whether the advertiser will see a return on investment if it spent more money to run only the new ad.

The recommended new ad program could involve providing more information or running an ad under more category listings.

The advertisers must fit into one of the Yellow Pages' four marketing segments established through a $600,000 segmentation and marketing study conducted last year by the Boston Consulting Group, Boston, and Marketing Corp. of America, Westport, Conn. (AA, Oct. 18).

As a result of the study, the following four categories are the industry's highest priority:

Critical-purchase services: This takes in businesses from which a consumer needs immediate assistance, such as auto and appliance repair, insect control, and medical and moving services.

Considered-purchase services: The category includes airlines, financial and legal services, hotels, real estate, insurance and travel agents. The study cited this area as having the most potential to grow.

Considered-purchase brands/speciality: It includes automotive, major appliances, furniture, heating and cooling, plumbing, tires, building products, and lawn and garden.

Considered-purchase mass retailers: This category includes department stores, building centers, electronics/computer superstores, catalog showrooms, discount department stores and sporting goods stores.

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