July 30, 2012 The Power of Yellow is coming: By Larry Angove
ADP’s Power of Yellow initiative is scheduled for launch in mid-September. Components of the initiative will include thematically-coordinated television and radio spots, newspaper and magazine ads, and directory filler that trumpet the truth about the continuing value and effectiveness of print Yellow Pages.
Regrettably, the initiative also needed to, and will, address the misconceptions and mistruths that cloud the perceptions of many about the print product today.
As a member of our Power of Yellow committee, I’ve been involved in every step of the process, which in turn has led me to muse about why people seem so willing to accept the baseless claims of the bloggers and those who stand to benefit from denigrating such a venerable product. I see at least four causes.
The first is simply that Gen Xers and Millenials grew up on the computer and behind the XBox controller. Research has shown them to have read much less than any preceding generation. They were not raised print-centric. When barraged by the siren call of new media, they were predisposed to drink the Kool-Aid.
The second is that there is a cadre of individuals and groups out there that, in the name of environmental responsibility, attack anyone and anything that doesn’t agree with their self-anointed passion to “save trees” and “go paperless.” They are convinced that their view is the only right one and may never be swayed by the fact that forests are harvested to make lumber, not directory paper and phonebooks are both recyclable and pose no harm to the environment.
More importantly, the print Yellow Pages are unfairly attacked, as if our core product was a contagion threatening our very existence, by a gaggle of new media proponents hoping to fill conference seats or become the next online billionaire, and everything in between. They spread their absurdly false claims, exaggerations, and outright lies across what is increasingly being recognized as the world’s greatest tool for mis- and dis-information – the Internet.
Most importantly, we were subverted by some of our own, who accelerated this virus of misperception by their own actions. Research from Knowledge Network showed that independent publishers were steadily gaining share – both in usage and revenue – from the incumbents throughout the early- and mid-2000s. What was the response of the incumbent CEOs who were bonused on margins that were falling? They sought to replace print revenue being lost the independents by introducing the best thing since sliced bread – online advertising – all in hopes of bolstering their margins and saving their bonuses. With their combined national marketing might, they created the clear impression that the print Yellow Pages were a passé medium. Their overhyped promises have fallen far short of expectations. And the rest of the industry is stuck with the aftermath.
None of this is to suggest that print Yellow Pages references are not in decline. Anytime a single delivery product is suddenly delivered over multiple platforms, the former necessarily must share the references with the latter. In addition, the media and other pundits severely underestimated the impact of the recession years of 2007-2008 on Yellow Pages references. They mistakenly took the downturn in print references as evidence that “the Yellow Pages are dead” without due recognition of the reality that when people are reluctant to spend money because of economic uncertainty, they simply have no need to use the Yellow Pages as frequently as in more stable times. Just how far off this mistaken “conventional wisdom” was and is, is exposed by recent CRM Associates’ research studies that report that print Yellow Pages references have, in fact, increased for three consecutive years, including a highly telling 18% in 2011. Dr. Dennis Fromholzer’s data is rock solid, based as it is on 330,000 measured lines, monitoring over 300,000 individual ads, in more than 1,800 directories across the country.
ADP’s Power of Yellow initiative is the first phase in our continuing commitment to bring truth back to the marketplace. Everyone accepts that Baby Boomers and Mature and the heaviest users of print Yellow Pages. Advertisers also need to understand and embrace these facts:
- Three quarters of adult Americans use the print Yellow Pages annually
- Some 85% of print users eventually make a purchase
- ROI for display advertisers is $14,20 for every dollar expended
- Conversion rate from call or click to sale is 15-25 times higher for print
The vast majority of Baby Boomers are going to be alive and spending well for the next quarter century. Though I can’t predict what new technology will bring, I firmly believe that print Yellow Pages will remain an effective business-producer for advertisers for years to come. That’s the Power of Yellow and I’m sticking to it!