I don't buy either of these two arguments. Marketing works and dollars spent are additive. In 1979, AT&T decided that long-distance advertising should no longer be handled by each of the 21 individual operating companies. In a wildly unpopular move (ad managers throughout the Bell System saw their three-martini lunches and football tickets disappear), AT&T brought all long-distance advertising into headquarters so that users all over the country would hear a single message as part of a coordinated marketing effort. As a result, long-distance revenues went up dramatically.
Ken Clark, in a recent YP Talk piece, decried the fact that Yellow Pages was not mentioned in an article that discussed every other major media. I think we all agree that it is incredibly frustrating when people who are writing about the media leave Yellow Pages out. Too many people who should know better just don't think of the Yellow Pages as a medium.
As Ken wrote, "Yellow Pages is currently a faceless media with brands that do little to stir anyone's passion. We don't have a pubic image that excites our users, the media and even potential advertisers."
The YPA does an outstanding job with its public relations budget as exemplified by Neg Norton's memo today about feature articles in important vertical publications, but this is just not enough. The industry needs a broadcast advertising campaign, aimed primarily at the advertising community to support our sales people. Yellow Pages has a tremendous ROI story to tell both in print and electronic. Advertisers need to get this message not just from the person coming in selling an ad, but also from the broadcast media.
Major obstacles to implementing an ad campaign include the need for a near-unanimous agreement by the major publishers to spend money; the sour taste left by the Jon Lovitz/Get An Idea fiasco; the lack of an existing advertising plan that people can buy off on; and the fact that the individual publishers each believe they can serve their own interests better than trade organizations can.
Ken Clark showed how Lyle Wolf is advertising Yellow Pages in China. With all due respect to my friend Lyle, I can't think of anyone more associated with yellow than Lance Armstrong. Imagine if he were riding for the Yellow Pages team instead of the Discovery team!
Stephanie Hobbs, vice president of marketing for the YPA, told me that they have approached the Lance Armstrong Foundation several times to enter into a partnership with the YPA, but to date they have been unresponsive. I'd settle for a walking fingers logo on his shirt, but it would be even better if Lance would tell the world that he uses Yellow Pages.
I know this is an uphill battle, but let me make it clear that I am not suggesting that we do a consumer advertising campaign, but rather one aimed specifically at advertisers, the investment community and other media. Corporate budgets are being determined now. In fact, it may already be too late for 2006. But we have to start somewhere and I hope our industry leaders can convince their boards that there is tremendous upside with a coordinated advertising campaign.