Maybe it’s because I had mononucleosis during college and I still look a little yellow at times. Or because I worked for the Yellow Pages for 25 years as a sales consultant. I think it’s probably because I wrote an insider guide as a “behind the scenes” look at the directory publishing industry, which is now the only one in print and available on Amazon. But, for whatever reason, I have become the voice of the Yellow Pages. With that great responsibility given to me, I decided to write a series of articles like this one, providing advice and suggestions for those of you who have considered placing ads in this interesting medium. First, a history lesson.
In case you didn’t know, the Yellow Pages has been around for more than 120 years, since its innocuous beginnings in Wyoming as a small brochure intended for local advertising. The term “Yellow Pages” was first used in 1883. It happened when a printer, working on a regular telephone directory, ran out of white paper and used yellow paper instead. That simple act started a legacy.
In 1886, Reuben H. Donnelly produced the first official Yellow Pages directory with business names and phone numbers, categorized by the types of products and the services they provided. Fascinating, right? Let’s move on to the book as a medium in today’s world.
For starters, the biggest drawback to placing an ad in the yellow pages is the long wait time and shelf time. Let me explain. Most YP books are published at least six weeks after the ad is placed. So if you wrote an ad towards the end of the application and reviewed it, which could take two weeks, it wouldn’t come out for another six weeks. And because it could take another four weeks for delivery, that’s three months. And suppose you were forced to remove one of your brands listed in the ad, but couldn’t change the ad for another year. Those are the few downsides. But I prefer to focus on the main advantage. It is the book itself.
More than any other medium such as television or the newspaper, the Yellow Pages are a reference manual. I can’t tell you the number of times I came to a new city and found myself checking the local yellow pages in my hotel room looking for a restaurant. Try to do it with any other medium. Or use it for maps, local attractions, or an airport shuttle. Remember, it is a book. It sits there at the end table, ready when you are. You can look at the ads or the listings, if you just need a phone number. As I mentioned, it usually has the top local city attractions, including seating charts for sports stadiums, directions to museums and zoos, and their prices and hours. What an amazing book! It is completely free to use and is automatically updated every year.
When I was in Barcelona, Spain, it was in my hotel room. And in Mexico and Canada, and in the London phone booth. It is a worldwide phenomenon that, like quantum physics, transcends time and space. Okay, maybe I’m being a bit dramatic, but that’s why they call me Mr. Yellow Pages. But you get the point. That is why, for locally owned small businesses, it is an invaluable way to reach their customers. I never made excuses for our seemingly high prices. I simply explained that it was based on usage, that it was greater than any other item available on the market. In other words, more people would see your ad or message in the Yellow Pages than anywhere else, at any price. It was the place people went when they needed something, especially emergency services. In that regard, he reigned supreme. Nobody threw away the old directory until the new one arrived.