Yellow Book Weighs In With New Work From TBC

A wind-tunnel test sweeps away Yellow Book’s competition in a TV spot that breaks today from Trahan, Burden & Charles—the first that aims to show how much more content the directory has than books put out by phone companies.

The humorous spot, part of an ongoing campaign, launches on cable TV and shows white-coated researchers from an unnamed phone company trying to prove their book holds more information than Yellow Book. The men have rigged an airplane engine in front of the competing directories. When the engine attains maximum power, both the phone company’s directory and its representative are literally blown away. The bulkier Yellow Book remains on the table.

Previous work from Baltimore independent TBC focused on awareness of the Yellow Book brand rather than specific points of difference, but took a similar competitive tack. One spot from 2003, for example, showed focus-group participants consistently recognizing the directory as their favorite book.

“Our advertising increasingly is focusing on the quality of the directories,” said Gordon Henry, vp of marketing at the King of Prussia, Pa., client, which is owned by Yell Inc. in London. Yellow Book directories include menus, coupons and pages about the communities they cover. “At this point, it’s about differentiation and content,” added Henry.

With books in 41 states and the District of Columbia, Yellow Book publishes about 500 directories a year. Verizon SuperPages, the market leader, publishes 1,200 annually in all states.

“Yellow Book is not the largest, but they’re definitely a contender,” said Stephanie Hobbs, vp of communications at trade organization Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association in Berkeley Heights, N.J. “One reason they do the ad buys they do is because they’re up against the heavy hitters.”

Yellow Book spent $10 million on advertising in 2002 and about $15 million in the first nine months of 2003, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR, compared with Verizon SuperPages, $40 million. Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners in New York handles Verizon SuperPages.

Yellow Book’s lack of ties to a phone company is an advantage because the company can enter a market quickly and spend heavily, said Charles Laughlin, a vp at directory-marketing consultancy Kelsey Group in Princeton, N.J. “Local competitors who are tied to big corporations can’t always respond quickly when [Yellow Book] enters the market,” he said.

Verizon SuperPages last year decentralized its marketing, breaking into four operating companies in an effort to respond more quickly to local market needs, said DeAnna Causey, senior staff consultant at Verizon Information Services in Dallas. The local offices are responsible for decisions on local-market advertising and pricing structures, she said.

Yellow Book, which posted $263 million in revenue for the quarter ended Sept. 30, up 77 percent from the previous year, has grown largely through acquisitions of operations such as Southern Directory Co. and the National Directory Co.