A Dirty Yellow Pages Trick

Let’s say you own a pizza shop, and want to accomplish two things:

1. Attract more people to your establishment

2. Inflict some damage on the competition

What can you do? According to brand guru Martin Lindstrom, here’s what an Australian shop did:

Instead of spreading money between off- and online ads, it spent the entire budget on radio. The spots were simple but extremely effective. So effective, the restaurant’s increased business caused most of the local competition to shut down…

The pizza place’s radio ads asked listeners to tear out all the pizza-restaurant pages from their yellow pages and bring them in. In return for the pages, customers received a free pizza of their choice and a sticker with the restaurant’s URL.

Because the contact information for all the other pizza joints in town disappeared from customers’ primary reference source, only one set of contact details was left in households that complied… the restaurant that dreamed up the promotion.

This particular shop used radio — the same approach would have worked just as well on television. More important than the medium of choice was the fact that the shop chose to concentrate the attack in one place.

And before I go, here’s a legal note, insisted upon by the Bernstein Worldwide Legal Department: I am not suggesting that you do something like this. But if you do, let me know how it goes.


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4 thoughts on “A Dirty Yellow Pages Trick

  1. A strike-back strategy may not be necessary. In fact, there’s reason to believe that the original strategy may be out of date.

    Lindstrom’s article is from 2007 (I know this because I stumbled onto it in my archives while looking for something else), and the story he tells begins with the words, “Some years ago”.

    What’s changed since then? Consumers, to a large degree, have deserted the Yellow Pages for the internet. There are likely fewer pizza shop ads in the 2010 edition — and it’s a whole lot tougher to figure out a way to get people to tear competitors’ ads out of Google.

  2. I was in the yellow page business for over 25 years. I am now an independant consulting teaching about multi platform advertising methods. This story is old and has been told over and over. As an advertising consultant how could you even imply to do such an unethical thing. The best way to beat your competition is to provide either a better product or more ethical and outstanding service. I would never pull your ad out of the yellow pages but instead have clients compare what we both have to offer. Which pizza is better or which advertising consultant has better ideas!

  3. As a CEO for an Advertising Agency there is one reason why this would fail today . . no one uses the Yellow Pages – I don’t even recommend it to my clients – especially not pizza companies. The only place it might be used is in Hotels but there are better ways to get business there – using in room ads etc . . . many better ways to reach the target.