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The DSVP Blog


Looking back at the Yellow Pages.

At the beginning of the month the demise of the Yellow Pages directory was announced.

It was around 1989 I first advertised in the Yellow Pages and it was to be a love-hate relationship that lasted until 2012. By then it had outlived it’s usefulness as the internet had taken over. Back in the day the Southend directory that Basildon came into was nearly two inches thick. The one that arrived last week was so small it barely defied gravity when it was posted through the letterbox and floated to the floor like a feather.

My first ad was a simple text box but each year I increased the size and “investment”. When spot colour was introduced I bought into that to stand out from the crowd. Amusingly, only in hindsight, it was more like the spoof by Matt Lucas and David Walliams, “Come Fly with Me “, where the check-in girls had sold 150 speedy boarding tickets for the same flight! The whole page was covered in spot colour ads. Every year, I would redesign and tweak the content. Every year when the directory was delivered, I would rush to find the ad to see if I was in the hallowed right hand side next to “the gutter” (the centre of the book). At the same time, I would be amazed at the comings and goings. I lost count of the number of so called video companies that only lasted a year.

So why was it a love-hate?

LOVE- around 1992 they ran a TV Campaign for Cine Film Transfer. The customer took his 200ft reel of film into a shop, where the moronic assistant said “funny looking video” and after several knock backs, the customer looks in the yellow pages. It was gold dust. It raised awareness and ensured that my cine transfer service was kept very busy. The irony was never lost as around 1989 when I was promoting this service, I went into an Essex photographic processing shop, who employed a guy, thicker than an old railway sleeper. “No one uses cine film anymore” he gleefully informed me, sadly not getting the idea of preserving memories. Fortunately his boss was more clued up and for around 10 years they used my services until their demise, due to the digital revolution.

Yellow Pages ad  with spot colour 2009

HATE- apart from the spot colour fiasco, having a different rep every year, their high advertising rates and splitting directories forcing an increased spend to cover the same area, the biggest falling out came when they introduced editorial into the directory. They allowed a video production company in the area to place an ad that read like editorial, looked like editorial and read like a Yellow Pages endorsement. A  5* rating before they had even been invented!  After initial indifference, a letter in legal speak from learned son, had the effect of a large bucket of iced water and the Yellow Pages legal team recognising their position was untenable, duly settled before we got anywhere near a court. Along the way, the red covered Business Pages was introduced – another chocolate teapot and waste of money. Another product that Yell came out with was Talking Pages. It utilised Keywords and demographic areas. A customer would phone Talking Pages and  ask for  a service, ie.“Video Filming- Southend” and then be given 3 matches. Aware that after initially working it was not producing enquiries, I did some “mystery shopper” enquiries. Somehow I was not coming up on searches and after a speedy investigation – I was given a full refund and a free year’s advertising. Talking Pages was shutdown as arrived.

Yellow Pages launched in the UK in 1973, owned by BT, became Yell in 2000 and was sold by BT in 2001. In one of the stupidest decisions in the history of stupidity in 2012 it re branded and changed it’s name to Hibu. The re-brand was an unsurprising disaster and in 2014 it re branded as….YELL. Defies belief!

Yellow Pages may have gone but I am still providing a full one-stop video production service, including filming, editing, programme making, as well as film and video transfers to both DVD and USB media.

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