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Yellow Streak: Phone Directories Go to War

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CHICAGO The battle of phone directories escalated today as Yellow Book changed its name to Yellowbook and broke an integrated campaign with the tagline: "Say Yellow to the future."

The effort follows AT&T's bid to position its product as the "Real Yellow Pages" in two simultaneous campaigns launched this spring, as well as attempts by R.H. Donnelley to personify its Yellow Pages print and online directories with a character named Dex. In some markets, such as Chicago and Northwest Indiana, Donnelley has the license to publish AT&T's phone directories. Those book covers carry both the AT&T Real Yellow Pages and Dex brands.

Large phone directories commanded 13.4 billion searches last year, compared with 3.8 million online searches, per the Yellow Pages Assocation, Berkeley Heights, N.J., a trade association that represents the $31 billion industry.

Yellowbook, Uniondale, N.Y., is a publisher of print and online directories. It also has rebranded its name to a single word to better reflect its digital offerings on Yellowbook.com. The new logo is meant to show that the brand has evolved from its "let your fingers do the walking" days to serving information that is a mouse click away.

In one new TV spot, via Gotham, New York, a boy who has been given a wedgie by bullies consults Yellowbook on his touch screen device. A holographic sensei then leaps from the screen and transforms the boy into a martial arts expert. In another spot, Yellowbook comes to the rescue of former Miss Mexico World, Blanca Soto, who needs an embarrassing tattoo removed before her wedding. The ads point consumers to Yellowbook's redesigned Web site.

"While 87 percent of Americans use traditional Yellow Pages, there's been exceptional growth online," Gordon Henry, Yellowbook's CMO, said in a statement. "Yellowbook.com has seen explosive growth in unique visitors, and our search engine advertising product, WebReach, has gained tremendous momentum. This campaign is part of our commitment to continued innovation and, importantly, to helping consumers find what they're really looking for wherever they search."

TV spots will air on national and cable networks. Print and online also support. The budget was not disclosed.

Yellow Book's measured U.S. media spending was $40 million (excluding online), per Nielsen Monitor-Plus, for last year's campaign that featured actor David Carradine as its mystical guru. In contrast, AT&T spent $60 million on its phone book and online products. Donnelley's measured media spending last year was $12 million.