Yellow Pages Readies $30 Million Campaign

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As the Yellow Pages flounders with the onslaught of the information age, its publisher are wielding their first comprehensive marketing campaign since "Let your fingers do the walking through the Yellow Pages" was launched in the early 1980s.


"Usage of the product has been flat to declining in the last four to five years," said Clint Pollard, executive vice president for marketing at the Yellow Pages Publishers Association, Denver, a trade group whose membership accounts for 95 percent of directory ad revenue in North America. "In the average week, nearly 60 percent of the consumers in the United States use the product one time or more than one time, and we believe that there is the opportunity to increase those usage percentages."


The association, whose members include Ameritech Corp., Bell Atlantic Corp., BellSouth Corp., GTE Corp., SBC Communications, Spring Corp. and US West, has tapped the resources of the Martin Agency, Richmond, VA, to create the $30 million campaign. The group plans to test the campaign, which will include broadcast, print and possibly transit and direct mail advertising, in eight markets this fall. It is slated for nationwide rollout in early 1999.


If the association decides to include direct mail as part of the campaign, the pieces will target adults ages 25 to 54 who are going through certain lifestyle changes. The trade group has gathered demographic and psychographic information from telephone interviews to households that reveals the Yellow Pages are especially useful for consumers who are moving from one city to another, graduating from school or having children. Households with two professionals also are prime prospects because they tend to have more money than time, Pollard said.


"We are looking at people who are looking for new ideas or new ways to save time," he said. "That is the primary characteristic of our target audience."


The association still is deciding whether to use the "Let your fingers do the walking" tag line that marked its last advertising campaign. It hopes to generate a 25 percent increase in directory usage by 2001.


Although Pollard acknowledged that the Yellow Pages is facing steep competition from the Internet, he is confident his medium is here to stay.


"The Internet information sources are alternatives to all print sources, not just Yellow Pages," he said. "Electronic applications are something we are watching closely, but any medium that can claim nearly 60 percent usage of all American households on a weekly basis is pretty strong."
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