Ads or Litter?

by Ellie Johnson on April 6, 2010

in Just Sayin'

Careful when you walk outside this week – no, not because of the yellow pollen coating everything – because the Yellow Pages have been delivered to your door.

Why does this still happen today?  What’s the sales proposition, “Nope, we don’t have any stats on who uses these books or who will see your ad, no it’s not targeted – unless you call your order in an alphabetical list targeting? – and we won’t be able to tell you if it drove any business your way.  You can ask people when they call in, though.  Are you interested?”  Not very compelling to a modern marketer.

Never mind the fact that it’s the only type of advertising that I can think of that has dedicated garbage receptacles set up the same week that they’re released.

Phone book recycling

May I suggest a simple fix?

Send me a post card that asks if I, as the owner of my business or home, want to receive a phone book.

Don’t deliver one to me if I say no.

Deliver one to me if I ask for one.

Now the phone book would be able to offer a 100% opted in audience. Now they may have some interesting customer data – my address, for one – zip code targeting valuable to any small businesses?  From experience, I promise, advertising to a targeted, fully opted in audience is a lot more valuable than say… garbage?  Heck! The Yellow Pages could probably charge more for the advertising.

Just thoughts… In the mean time – please find your local phone book recycling details and make sure to pitch your unwanted books responsibly and not just in the trash.  Or wait… do you actually use the phone book?  …. Right.  Didn’t think so.

Similar Posts

No related posts.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ken Ray April 6, 2010 at 6:36 pm


Appreciate the thoughts you shared around targeting and the yellow pages. However, I did want to provide you with a better fact base regarding the yellow pages. First, the ads are absolutely trackable and we can provide an ROI for an ad. We do this by putting a custom tracking number in the ad and that is the only place that phone number appears. We also marry this with all of the click stream data available from to provide a holistic view for the SMB advertiser. At ATT Advertising Solutions, we can provide any advertiser with clear insights to evaluate the results of any campaign.

Regarding usage, the annual industry survey was just completed by Burke. The survey had more than 8000 respondents–80% of whom came from an online panel. Total industry usage was 12.3 billion searches using the print directories and 4.6 billion from Internet yellow pages/local search.

Given today’s high-level of media fragmentation, smart SMBs are finding that advertising in a major directory like ATT’s Real Yellow Pages and online with are key parts of an integrated multi-media campaign.

If you have any other questions, please feel free to message me back.

Ken Ray
AT&T Advertising Solutions


Megan Carriker April 7, 2010 at 8:37 am

As a digital native, I agree with this post and the issues with those big ‘ol Yellow Pages books. I have three or four Yellow Pages books just sitting at my apartment right now as paper weights and I’ve never opened them before. If I need to find something like a place to get my hair cut or a good dentist to go to…I ask my parents and then my friends via Twitter and Facebook. If they don’t respond or have any good suggestions then I go to sites like Yelp and just do Google searches till I find something good in the area on my own.

My only use of Yellow Pages is just through White Pages online to find addresses and phone numbers. But I don’t think they’re even associated with Yellow Pages…


ellie johnson April 7, 2010 at 9:00 am

Hi Ken – THANKS!

I appreciate your clarification and as an agency with 12 years experience in planning and buying advertising online – the directories have been a natural fit for a number of our clients.

You have to agree as CMO of AT&T Ad Sol with my points to improve targeting and to add value if the business model shifted for an OPT-IN model for the books. The points are logical for any publisher of ad-supported content. Regardless, it’s a tough sell for the book when the same week they are released, garbage cans are set out to collect them as trash. I’m all for online directories – they complement a number of our ad buys – but the books are a gross waste and I wish they were eliminated.

Thanks for adding to the conversation!


Joshua Sweeney April 7, 2010 at 9:11 am

I wonder what the overhead is on advertising in phone books. I still consult a phone book once or twice a year, but that may be because I’m one of the worst millennials when it comes to abandoning old technology.

The environmental impact is another matter entirely. The opt-in model makes overwhelming sense for lessening the impact of manufacturing byproducts, transportation costs and fuel, and recycling and landfill concerns. As far as being green is concerned, there’s no argument.


Michael Hubbard Michael Hubbard April 7, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Not that I don’t disagree with the “green-ness” of the point, but putting it in perspective, banner ads have an industry standard 0.04% click through rate. That reversed and in a proverbial terms – means 99.96% of the banner ads we display end up in the same garbage can. Some viewers would also argue that we’re littering the internet with senseless ads that consumers don’t want – so why do we keep showing up on their doorsteps?

Environmental issues aside, when you’re able to buy on a cost per call model, or at least back out your media purchase in the phone books, then I still think it is worth the investment… The key is, like Ken said, getting the tracking numbers in place and treating it like a DR placement as opposed to just another marketing expense.


ellie johnson April 7, 2010 at 5:27 pm

I think we’ll agree to disagree. :)

I don’t know a verified percentage to quote but if an ad online appears on a page that I visit as the end user – it is likely that I am exposed to it and the brand’s message and that counts for a lot. The click is not the only measure of a campaign. (I hope you agree with that!) Equally important, with today’s web ad inventory and the way that it is sold and bought by savvy marketers – I likely fit into a demographic profile that the ad was intending to target – or I may be targeted because of it’s contextual relevance to something I’m interested in. The ad impression was not wasted on me. The action that I take that were influenced by that exposure are not all measured.

Buying ads that literally and physically END UP IN THE TRASH is wasteful and nets zero ROI anyway I look at it.


Michael Hubbard Michael Hubbard April 8, 2010 at 7:01 am

You caught me at my own game… I never judge success on clicks, it’s always conversions – but in this example I wanted to compare Ken’s analogy of tracking calls to the equivalence of tracking clicks.

That all being said – I’ve ranted for years that if the IAB is going to be any help at all, they not only need to reduce the number of ad sizes available to publishers, but they need to make a recommendation on how many ads can and should be shown on a page. To me, there’s too much clutter and it offsets the brand appeal that you eluded to.

Regardless – good post, good conversation… Thanks!


Leave a Comment

Want to add a picture to your comments here on Media Two Point {OH}? Upload your picture at Gravatar to make it happen.

Your comment may be nofollow free.

Previous post:

Next post: