Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Dirty Little Environmental Secrets Print Haters Don’t Want To Talk About

First I need to acknowledge our long-time industry “advocate”, Mr. Ed Kohler for his recent analysis comparing the carbon impacts of print Yellow Pages to online or computer searches. It’s commendable that he would spend such time and energy to do the research.

However, when you start with an orientation that’s predisposed against print, it didn’t take long for Mr. Ed to leave off a whole bunch of key factors in his analysis to tilt his result towards the environmental merits of electronic over print. Let’s look at some of the dirty little secrets that print phone book haters don’t want to talk about.

What gets largely ignored by those that despise print directories is that all of these electronic products we are suppose to now use instead of print have a far more significant impact on the environment than print. The life cycle for a paper/print product has been well chronicled in numerous places so I’m not going to go through that here.  Instead let’s take a look at the complete lifecycle of a computer or the many other electronic products which have certainly become an integral part of our lives today.

Raw material extraction:  Computers contain many mid-metals and other raw materials such as lead, sand, copper, oil, gold, and natural resources that are rudely extracted from the earth and then processed.  These resources include but are not limited to iron, aluminum, zinc, nickel, tin, magnesium, phosphorus, and silver.  Mr. Ed makes no mention of the impact of this mining, or even the processing.  You can do any Google search to read about the disastrous effects from substantial deforestation, consequent erosion, and toxic pollution these efforts cause.

Material manufacturing:  After extraction and processing, raw materials are then used in the production of materials for the computers components. For example, sand becomes glass, oil goes into plastics, and metals become part of the integrated circuit boards. According to the UNU (United Nations University) it takes the same amount of chemicals (49 pounds), water (3307 pounds), and fossil fuels (530 pounds) to make one desktop computer and monitor as it does to manufacture a midsized car. In total the amount of fossil fuels used to produce one desktop computer is 10 times the weight of the computer itself.  But we’re not done there — more often than not, these parts are shipped elsewhere, usually overseas in places where child labor laws are not exactly followed, for assembly into the finished computer.

Packaging: The computer is then packaged, usually in plastics and cardboard to protect it during transit.  We are talking pallets, cardboard inserts, corner stiffeners, shrink-wrap, and labels. Should we talk about what percentage of that cardboard and packing materials that are recycled?  Figures vary but about 72% of all corrugated cardboard packaging was recycled.  However, note that not all types of cardboard can be recycled.  Most telling is the EPA’s estimate that in 2008, containers and packaging materials representing the largest category of the municipal solid waste (approximately 250 million tons) at just over 30% of the total waste materials.  Print directories made up less than 1%.

Transport:  Packaged computers are shipped all over the world, many traveling great distances from where they were manufactured. And where did your computer come from? Did you look and see where it was manufactured? I don’t think it was one of the nearby US or Canadian plants that produce the Yellow Pages industry’s paper for the printer books.

Each mode of transportation has its own carbon footprint with airfreight having by far the biggest. Consider this:  a large container ship traveling 7000 miles transporting just 1 ton of cargo would use up 1190 pounds of CO2. Even more intensive is regional airfreight. For transporting that same 1 ton materials up to a maximum of 2400 miles, that airplane would use 6720 pounds of CO2 (source). I’m not aware of any publisher transporting their books for distribution on a container ship or regional airfreight. Most is coming via freight train with final delivery through trucks.

Use:  Computers are utilized today in every walk of life, business, schools, and homes.  Heck, I sit in front of two of them all day long myself.  These devices require tremendous amount of energy.  In Mr. Ed’s analysis he failed to account for the fact that some 70% of computer usage energy usage is outside normal office hours and when idle. From one source“…..In a typical office, computer/monitor combinations far outweigh all other office equipment in terms of energy consumption….” We should all be shutting down machines at night and on the weekends to drastically reduce how much power it uses, but the reality is that’s not happening. (Source)

End-of-life:  Here is where things get really nasty. The ever shortening lifespan of the computer currently averages 2 to 5 years. Other personal electronics are replaced with even greater frequency (think how often you are changing out your cell phone). The many toxic substances contained in computers and other electronic devices cause problems when disposed of improperly. As the Earth 911 site noted:  “…In 2005 alone, almost 2 million tons of e-waste were landfilled. While toxic materials comprise only a small amount of this volume, it doesn’t take much lead or mercury to contaminate an area’s soil or water supply. ..”

If properly recycled many of the material and plastic components can be dismantled and reused. But only about 14% of the computers components and materials can actually be recycled into usable materials.  What’s in E waste??  Among the many hazardous materials harmful to human health and the environment are: lead, mercury, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, to name just a few (for more, go here).  EPA numbers indicate that only about 18% of the 3,000,000 tons of used electronics in the US are actually recycled. Let’s compare that with EPA’s estimate that 57% of the paper consumed in the US was recovered for recycling in 2008.


So as you can see, a shift from print to electronic isn’t the slam dunk for a greener environment that people may have incorrectly been lead to believe….

Is a $3 Miilion Super Bowl Ad Really Worth It?

Quick:  can you name the four car companies that had ads running during the Super Bowl game last week?  Answer is below.

I know you were one of the record setting 111 million households that watched the Green Bay Packers’ eke out a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Those 2011 Super Bowl commercials cost a whopping $3 million dollars for a 30 second spot.  And yet, here we are nearly a week later and most people won’t remember who even spent the money.  Perhaps the more relevant question is whether any of these ads actually led to an actual sale.  And what do you think the results will be six months from now when the game is long forgotten?

In one way I feel for marketing people who have to worry about things like “impressions”, share of mind and maintaining brand leadership.  All of these are code words for measurements to validate why they are spending this kind of money.  The more savvy marketers will tell you that what they are really doing is building a “marketing campaign” around that 30 second ad (or ads in some cases).  Airing the ad is a trigger for more engagement marketing efforts.

I’m sure we could argue for hours about the real “value” or “need” for brand advertising.  Some, such as the Tech Reviews and News, are suggesting that Super Bowl XLV was the first in which social media played a significant role in trying to gain some true, tangible, albeit measurable value of the TV advertising.

But since repetition is the cornerstone of consumer memory, wouldn’t companies be better off with 10 $300,000 commercials than one $3 million commercial?  For example, I’m just a little doubtful that after one commercial that I would be interested in buying a Chrysler just because it was made in Detroit and is supposedly being driven by Eminem.  Maybe if you hammered me for weeks on end I might think about it.

Understand that I totally agree that these ads are entertaining and a change from the ones that seem to run again and again and again on more normal TV viewing days.  But I’m thinking that by taking even one of those 30 second commercials, and investing that same $3 million in a print Yellow Pages and IYP buy  is going get your company a much bigger lift over the next year than that one commercial will.  Imagine what a $3 million Yellow Pages ad program would get you, right at the point someone is ready to buy.

So what do you think? Is it still worth it for advertisers to spend the money on Super Bowl commercials, especially when they can now when they can spread that amount of money over a wider range of print and social media efforts, which will probably see more meaningful results?

Beyond question, the Super Bowl is the most heavily watched TV event each year.  But given the proof that about half of the audience isn’t even just watching the commercials (hey, I had more chili to cook and the call of Mother Nature to heed) couldn’t the money have been more effective spent elsewhere??

AnswerVW, BMW, Chevy, and Chrysler



Business left out of Yellow Pages says they could lose $1 million in business

Let me see if I have this story out of Canada correct:

a Wayne Keenan of Keenan Concrete Services, who’s business was spending “…$2000-$3000 in that sort of advertising…” and admitted he wanted to pull out of the Yellow Pages, is now complaining that because his business isn’t listed in it, he believes “the error” has the potential to cost his business $1 million.

As noted in the article:

But their stuff-up <error> means we haven’t had a business-related phone call for about two months.

Three simple observations:

1) If you listen to its critics, I thought no one used the print Yellow Pages anymore, except for only decrepit, non-hip, 90 year old seniors who don’t have (or get) the latest technologies???

2) This business owner was going to pull his ads anyway, so now he’s surprised he’s not getting any business calls.  How did he think people were going to find him??

3) If print Yellow Pages is such a bad advertising choice for small businesses, why wouldn’t some super-duper Internet advertising, website, or social network program more than cover his needs??

Maybe the perceptions about print Yellow Pages and digital advertising are a little off…

Updated Industry Opt-out Site Rolled Out

As they have been promising for months now, the Yellow Pages Association (YPA) and the Association of Directory Publishers (ADP) today launched an upgraded website at that allows consumers nationwide to easily manage the delivery of their phone directories (Official press release).  Consumers can now go to a single location to select which phone directories they receive, or to stop directory delivery altogether.

I ran a search for the area where we use to live in North Carolina and the system smartly displayed all of the books we use to get in the area:

When the original site was launched in 2009, the site only provided information on individual publishers that consumers needed to contact individually.  The upgraded and redesigned interface increases consumer convenience and reduces confusion about the options available to manage phone book delivery by eliminating the need to contact multiple publishers.

In the press release Neg Norton, president of YPA notes that “…our industry is taking a giant leap forward today by launching a clearinghouse site for consumers to control the delivery of directories.  The site, supported by directory publishers across the country, illustrates our ongoing commitment to not delivering a directory to someone who doesn’t want one.”

Larry Angove, president and CEO, Association of Directory Publishers added that “…we continue to believe, and research supports, that directories remain an important tool for consumers searching for local information.  That said, we believe it is equally important to provide a simple solution for consumers who only want a certain directory or feel they can do without a directory.”

Those who have been fighting the distribution of these directories have ignored publishers ongoing position that if someone didn’t want a phonebook, they shouldn’t have to get one.  The associations should be congratulated on this unique collaboration effort among large and small publishers across the country that shows a commitment to our promise to reducing unwanted directories.  158 publishers are currently in the site database.

“Consumers continue turning to print Yellow Pages, both to help find local businesses, driving valuable new leads for our advertisers, and also to quickly access community and government information,” said Norton. “We believe print remains a central component of our industry’s growing portfolio, which today includes digital and mobile platforms. We’re constantly working to transform and innovate so that we can continue supporting local businesses and consumers in the most environmentally friendly way.”

Growing call tracking levels support industry research showing that over 75% of U.S. adults use print Yellow Pages to find local businesses each and every year.  Hence, advertisers are still realizing a return on the investment for local directory advertising of at least $14 for every $1 spent.

Without a doubt this updated effort improves the opt-out process drastically. But ultimately some critics will still not be happy. For example, look at this lead paragraph from the San Francisco Examiner:

In a tech-savvy and environmentally aware region like the Bay Area, which is home to online directories such as Yelp and Google Local, the arrival of a new Yellow Pages book can seem like a blast from the past.

Didn’t realize that class warfare was now linked to the distribution of yellow page directories, but hey, we are talking about San Francisco.  It’s just a shame the industry would have to lower any of its standards to appease such a small bunch of snobs. But the Examiner article did at least correctly contain this item:

And yet, for all of the griping by  people who wish they could opt out of receiving a phone book, thousands of small businesses in San Francisco continue to depend on their Yellow Pages advertising, Amy Healy said. <YPA Staff>

“It’s not sexy,” she said. “But it works for them.”

Has, still is, and will continue to be the best advertising media for most small – midsized businesses.  No one will disagree that consumers today find information in all sorts of ways and usually many check multiple sources when searching for information about products or services.  But we also know that consumers are still turning to those print Yellow Pages, and will continue to for years to come.

And of course the city of Seattle still doesn’t get it.  Despite facing a lawsuit from the industry, the Seattle City Council on Monday voted to stick with a 14-cent fee it plans to charge Yellow Pages distributors for every book that goes to Seattle residents.  I guess the industry should be somewhat pleased that the city backed away from a $148 tonnage fee it approved in October to help pay the cost of recycling the advertising books.  But despite today’s op-out site launch announcement, the Council still hasn’t dropped its October action to create a registry for people who want to opt out of receiving Yellow Pages-type phone books.

It will be interesting to see how many people actually ask to opt-out of their directory deliveries.  After most publishers initiated their own opt-out programs, YPA started their initial site, and numerous paper atheists began blogging campaigns to get people to opt-out, publishers have reported a significant drop off in the numbers of people requesting opt-out over the past months to almost a trickle.  Those publishers that have discussed opt-out levels have consistently indicated that less than 5% do.