Vs. The Yellow Pages — What is the Future of Yellow Page
by Adam Strange
Advertising Consultant of AdRevamp.com
After decades of cornering business owners with a virtual
monopoly on local advertising, the local Yellow Pages directories
are being forced to compete, head on, with new players
in the constantly changing landscape of local business
I have been telling my clients since the birth of the
internet that this medium would be a game-changer for the
Yellow Page Advertising industry, and it appears that notion
is soon to pass.
Where Yellow Page publishers have dominated the advertising
field, is in the concept of directional
marketing—an advertising and marketing medium
aimed at capturing customers in the act of researching
a planned, often necessary, purchase.
For over a century Yellow Pages publishers have dominated
this field. But with the rise of the internet—a near
perfect vehicle for directional advertising—it has
been unclear if the hundred year Yellow Pages model can
acclimate itself to the ever changing advertising world.
While many Yellow Page publishers are pushing a variety
of internet products, it seems clear few of these (if any)
come close to competing with the multitude of self-serve
products Google already
provides. I keep waiting for Google to start buying up
Yellow Page publishers to capitalize on their fleet of
embattled sales reps, but perhaps the truth of the matter
is, the future of advertising is completely self-serve.
While Google is busy planning the future of directional
advertising, Yellow Page publishers are tinkering with
their branding. In an amusing Yellow
Pages press release I came across on market watch last
month, Yellow Pages Group enjoys highlighting all of their
impressive new “branding.” I guess if your
competing against a company like Google—a company
that so obviously spent less than 5 minutes developing
their logo—branding is the place to start.
Wait a minute? Branding? Is this a joke?
As millions of companies reevaluate their lifelong relationship
with Yellow Page advertising, it appears to me branding
would be the least of their concerns. While branding can
make or break a good product, branding is quite incapable
of saving a product that is overpriced or just plain ineffective.
As Yellow Page advertisers know, there are three aspects
to any successful business. Make a better product. Make
that product cheaper. And find new customers. While branding
can be of paramount importance in finding new customers,
it’s not going to save a lukewarm product.
At this point, only time will tell.
Can Yellow Page publishers successfully compete in a market
they have effectively dominated for decades? Right now
they still have a respectable amount of resources and a
loyal, though shrinking, following of directory users.
While Google has provided ever-improving search products
to younger audiences, Google has yet to clone the Yellow
Page directory experience, die-hard directory users have
Will Google’s next free, self-serve product be the
death nail in the Yellow Pages coffin? Or will the Yellow
Pages transform their directory model to one that works
in the internet age? Lets just say, with branding revamps
evidently high on the agenda, I’m a little less than
optimistic the Yellow Page publishers can make an effective,
and badly needed, change.