November 15, 2003

At a time when Madison Avenue is struggling to rethink how it manages its mix among conventionally planned media, a medium that is often left out of that process is making a compelling argument for inclusion. Armed with new consumer research scheduled to be released today, the Yellow Pages industry will make the case that not only are telephone directories a crucial standalone medium, but they often are one of he most complementary mediums for extending the reach of a media plan aimed at consumers who are actually in the market to purchase a product or service.

That last point is an important one, because it plays directly into the current industry mantra of continuity planning, or "recency," which seeks to plan media that will reach a consumer as close to buying decision as possible. The timing of the research being released today by the Yellow Pages Integrated Media Association (YPIMA) also couldn't be better, because it plays into two concurrent industry developments: 1) Some genuine soul-searching about the best way to plan a mix across media; and 2) A push toward so-called "channel-neutral" planning that seeks to elevate the role of non-traditional marketing options - such as Yellow Pages - in the communications mix.

But by focusing on the medium's contribution to reach, the new research however plays into a long-standing industry bias toward reach-based media like television, that some topic thinkers might negate the higher role of media that direct consumers to make an immediate purchase, such as Yellow Pages or online media.

But YPIMA appears willing to take that risk in the hopes that the data will at least finally enable Yellow Pages to break into the traditional media planning process.

"I would hope that when media planners and buyers and advertisers see this data, they would understand that by adding Yellow Pages to their mix they will be able to reach a larger audience," says Larry Small, director of research at YIPMA who developed the research, which was conducted in April and May among 3,815 U.S. adults in by NFO InCom. What it found was that Yellow Pages do a great job of reaching consumers who are actually in the market to buy the types of products and services listed in directories - some 155 different product categories - but that it also has one of the most complementary roles of any of the media measured in extending that reach when it is part of a mix of media.

For example, the data found that Yellow Pages by themselves reach 21.1 percent of consumers who said they "consider" various media prior to purchasing a product or service. But when their contribution to reach is compared with other media options, Yellow Pages also proved to add the most complementary and incremental reach (see table below).

YPIMA's Small said the organization will begin presenting and distributing the findings to ad agencies and advertisers over the next several months and already is in talks with a leading media planning systems provider, VNU's IMS unit, about providing direct access to the study's database to help facilitate its use in media planning.

While the study does have its own biases - its based on annualized media usage and purchase cycles that would favor Yellow Pages and it only measured consumer opinions on the 155 Yellow Pages product categories - it nonetheless should come as some meaty new food for thought at a time when media shops are rethinking how they manage and what they include in their media mix.

To view charts CLICK above on 'More Images'.

By Joe Mandese
Courtesy of http://www.MediaPost.com

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