Tag Archives: yellowbook

Dex One and SuperMedia to Merge

Well, the long rumored merger of Dex One and SuperMedia is now real as plans to merge were formally released this morning.  The combined entity will be called “Dex Media” and will have approximately $3.1 billion in revenue (based on 2011 results).

Peter McDonald, the current CEO of SuperMedia will lead the merged operation.  Dex One CEO Alfred Mockett will step down at the completion of the merger, which is expected in the fourth quarter.

For the industry, this is the type of merger which had been expected for some time.  It really was only a matter of which companies, and who would finance the move.  As a result the U.S. Yellow Pages market will have three big players, YP Holdings (the old AT&T), the new combined Dex Media, and Yellowbook/now Hibu. Beyond these leaders, industry analysts such as BIA/Kelsey believe that further merger activity will coming from companies such as No. 4 sized Berry, as publishers look for the most efficient, sustainable platform in the rush to move from an all traditional print to a blended print/digital business.  It is a little like speed dating – better find your partner before the music stops.  Logic tells you that the pace of mergers should pick up now as others rush to find those partners.  The band is getting a little weary.

For the employees of the two merged companies, you would have to expect more layoffs in operations and staff positions after the merger is completed.

For the Local Search Association, this provides more challenges as they have lost a major dues paying member.

This merger should add some more excitement to the upcoming BIA/Kelsey – SMB Digital Marketing 2012 Conference which will be held 9/17-9/19 in Chicago (link to conference information).  Dex’s Mockett was scheduled to be one of the conferences keynote speakers.  Won’t that be an interesting presentation…..

On a lighter note, does this mean the new marketing campaign will have the Dex Knows nerd wearing a cape????

Can you “hibu”?

Yell/YellowBook has recently announced it will rebrand as “hibu”, (pending the approval of its shareholders in July) in an effort to be more identified as a service provider to SMBs that goes beyond just traditional print Yellow Pages.  A study using 165 cases of company rebranding  found that no matter whether a rebranding comes from a change in corporate strategy (e.g., M&A) or constitutes an actual marketing strategy (change the corporate reputation), the effort aims at enhancing, regaining, transferring, and/or repositioning the corporate brand equity.

Such a radical name change like this certainly raises the issue of whether Yellow Page publishers need new brands to attract (and retain) new users. Company rebranding is a tricky game – remember the “new” Coke?  Some other recent examples include the company we all love to hate; cable-television and Internet conglomerate Comcast, a name synonymous with poor customer service and overcharging which in February 2010, began marketing its Internet video services under the new name, Xfinity, leaving customers to wonder what exactly the name meant. As a writer for Time magazine quipped, “Will the name change work? Probably not, but at least it’ll sound a bit edgier when you’re put on hold … with Xfinity.”

Another example would be The Gap.  In October 2010, the clothing retailer Gap abandoned it’s long standing logo consisting of a blue box with “GAP” written in white inside, for a slightly altered new version described by Marka Hansen, Gap’s president for North America, as a “…journey to make Gap more relevant to our customers.” Apparently, the customers didn’t share his view, and following a tide wave of online criticism/outrage, the company did an about-face within a week.Unique company or product names, by themselves, may not have any actual meaing to begin with. But if backed by a strong, successful branding campaign, they can come to signify whatever the companies want them to mean.  Case in point — AFLAC, a large international insurer but hardly a household name until the last few years, is now well recognized using a duck as a key spokesperson and promoter.

The success of any rebranding is more tied to the level of advertising needed to create an image around the name.  “I don’t think the name of a company is hugely important in the long run,” suggests professor David Schmittlein. He adds that even fabricated names are “real names” in the sense that “they are pronounceable words. I think of them as largely empty vessels – reliable and durable empty vessels that can be filled up with positive associations.”

The Yellow Page industry is no different.  This name change for Yell follows several recent publisher branding changes, made in order to separate the company from the “baggage” of the print Yellow Pages label as they pursue new digital products. Hence, we’ve seen names like Idearc, ZipLocal, LocalEdge, Sensis, Truvo, and Eniro.

A primary case study could be made the creation of Verizon Communications, which was formed in June, 2000, following the merger of Bell Atlantic Corp. and GTE Corp. The genesis of the unique company name came from the Latin word “veritas” meaning truth, combined with the word “horizon”, all to project something more forward-looking and visionary. The Verizon symbol was also selected because it uses the two letters of the Verizon logo that graphically portrayed speed.  (Source)

In making this change, Verizon, beyond having a huge advertising budget to promote the change, had several other branding advantages working in its favor:

  • A huge fleet of telephone company vehicles driving around the market each and every day (aka – rolling billboards)
  • As a public utility, numerous daily articles and stories in which the public was reminded of the name change  (as in free publicity)
  • A growing cellular presence which helped push the name even more quickly, even in areas where they were not the incumbent telephone provider.

Yell/Hibu is certainly handicapped in the transition without these supporting efforts.  The question for Yell/Hibu is whether its shift in branding, which accentuates its move to new digital products, can be accomplished in time.  Yell has been undergoing a radical transformation since its leadership changed in 2011 with the retirement of John Condron. Current CEO Mike Pocock is trying to shift the business from just a directory publisher to a provider of a complete range of local advertising and e-marketing services.

With a nagging debt load which contributed to a GBP 1.4 billion loss for the year and prompted the company to retain Goldman Sachs and Greenhill to help it build a new capital structure, can the company amass a big enough budget to truly promote and implement the name change?

Ironic isn’t it though that the funding for this name change for Yell Group is actually coming from the very core print products they seemed to be in such a hurray to distance themselves from (print is 71.3% of Yell revenue,  78.1% for YellowBook – per the newly renamed Goddard Report).

Certainly, the future isn’t what it use to be….

Editors Corner: The End of An Era

The announcement yesterday that Joe Walsh has resigned as CEO of Yellowbook (U.S. division of UK-based Yell Group) after 24 years with the company certainly marks the end of an era.

We first interviewed Joe for a YP Talk article back in December, 2004 (link to full interview) just as the first Internet based products were starting to
arrive.  If you had an opportunity to spend a few minutes with him, you very quickly understand how he was able to orchestra the growth of Yellowbook from a very small independent publisher in Long Island into a billion dollar independent publisher with a significant presence in most major U.S. markets.

We noted at the time that Walsh’s Yellow Pages career was a textbook Horatio Alger story. He started as a sales rep for a small service directory company in the Washington, DC area in 1982. He joined Yellow Book in 1987 where he quickly rose to become CEO in 1992. Walsh acknowledged that he closely studied people who are top achievers. By 1992, he had changed the company’s focus to entirely Yellow Pages and started on the first of a string of acquisitions buying a series of small books in New Jersey from Gannett Company. In 1999, the company was sold to British Telecom, where BT agreed to provide a $1.8 billion dollar war chest for further acquisitions.  Within two years, Yellow Book had acquired over 30 publishers. In June, 2001, the directory services (Yell Group) were spun off from BT and acquired by the private equity groups Apax Partners Ltd. and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst. In July, 2003, Yell was listed on the London Stock Exchange following a successful Initial Public Offering (IPO). In January, 2004, Apax Partners Ltd. and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst sold their remaining holdings
in Yell.

Walsh has instrumental in Yellowbook’s efforts to growth through the acquisition of smaller independent publishers, sometimes at sales multiples that raised eyebrows.  And while acquisitions of any type will always result in a few ruffled feathers when the acquired company is transitioned to the “Yellowbook way”, by and large, the company became highly proficient at completing these mergers in a relatively seamless, efficient way.

Most recently, Walsh was one of the first industry leaders to sense the need to transition the company again, but this time from a predominated print focused company into an operation that will generate an increasing share of its revenues from digital and non-traditional products in the future.  Other major publishers have followed, all with mostly mixed results to this point.  As a result, Walsh could arguably be considered one of the most impactful leaders ever in the Yellow Pages industry.

I believe Walsh’s departure marks the end of an era as the major players in the industry are now mostly being led by executives who have little to no roots in the industry, as was the case for the better part of the industries one hundred plus year history.  The industry is definitely in unknown, uncharted waters now, with captains that really may not understand how their ships run or even agree with their primary current engine, the print Yellow Pages.

Some industry watchers believe this was not a big surprise, given the changes being floated by Yell’s new management team.  But the reaction of some of the Yellowbook people seemed to be the opposite.  Netherless, Bob Gregerson, who will assume the CEO spot on an interim basis, has very big shoes to fill as he pushes the company reinvention rock up a very steep hill.

For long time industry veterans such as myself, this truly does feel like the end of an era where the industry’s future business direction was clear and leadership was a personable,dynamic lot with deep roots in the business.  Between environmental battles, the heavy push to convert to digital products, and significant overall changes in the media advertising world in general, perhaps Walsh was again a visionary with the statement he made in an email sent to Yellowbook employees:

“…Now is therefore the right time to hand over to someone who can lead our company into the next stage of its life…..”

If someone at Yell/Yellowbook knows what that next stage looks like, give me a call, as this change seems contradictory.  As Walsh noted in our 2004 interview:

“…I think it is vital that people win. It’s vital that your people succeed. Because if they don’t, it is not their fault, it is the leaders fault. You either picked the wrong hill, or didn’t have the right plan, but taking that responsibility is very important. I describe it in management development courses with the regional managers or conferences with the reps that we view the business structure as an inverted triangle where the people who touch the customers, the sales reps and the managers are at the top, and the guy running this company, me, is at the bottom. For everyone in between, their job is to allow those people making commitments to the customers to over deliver, to remove
obstacles, to speed the process along. I view my job as providing clarity, removing obstacles, and letting the folks doing the real work everyday get their job done…”

I’m not sure that job descripotion had changed much.  For Joe Walsh, I don’t think this will be the last we hear from him.  Winners don’t quit, they just find new challenges.  Both Walsh and Yell/Yellowbook will now have the chance to pursue those new challenges…


DMS 11: The Must Attend Industry Event of the Year

BIA/Kelsey is confirming speakers for its annual conference, Directional Media Strategies 2011, where discussions will focus on the small-business marketing solutions marketplace.  The conference will be held Sept. 20-22 in Denver.

This conference has evolved since it started back in the mid-1990’s.  The current DMS ’11 program will feature more than 50 senior executives from across the SMB marketing solutions landscape. Among the speakers headlining the event are Rita Fabi, head of market solutions, global customer marketing and
communications, Facebook; Joe Walsh, president and CEO, Yellowbook; Clare Hart, CEO, Infogroup; Tom Higley, CEO, Local Matters; Nir Lempert, CEO, Golden Pages; Ben Smith, founder, MerchantCircle; and Bill Dinan, president, Telmetrics.

We have all seen how small and medium-sized businesses are using an increasingly diverse, complex mix of traditional and digital marketing tools and technologies. For example, BIA/Kelsey’s most recent Local Commerce Monitor study showed a major jump in the average number of different media used by SMBs for local advertising and promotion — from 3.1  in 2009 to 4.6 in 2010.
Most of the change has come from the addition of digital media to their
traditional advertising programs.

“For today’s small businesses, marketing has gone beyond simply making the phone ring,” said DMS ’11 Conference Chairman Charles Laughlin, senior vice president and program director, BIA/Kelsey.  “SMB marketers now require a complex mix of products and services to drive leads, measure performance, manage customer relationships and engage customers.”

Laughlin indicated that DMS ’11 will bring together innovators and thought leaders to examine the components of modern SMB marketing and analyze where the biggest opportunities are for players in the local-social-mobile ecosystem. The agenda features three SuperForums, BIA/Kelsey’s fast-paced, self-contained mega sessions, each focused on a single topic:

Day 1 SuperForum: Performance Media

Pay-per-call or pay-per-click has always been an attractive idea.  In theory, it cuts through the uncertainty and inefficiency of advertising. But it has never been quite that simple. In this SuperForum, you will catch up on the evolution of performance media and explore the most cutting-edge models for measuring calls, clicks and conversions. 

Day 2 SuperForum: The Social-Driven SMB

Are Facebook and Twitter great marketing vehicles for SMBs? What
are the best ways for SMBs to get engaged with social media? Is there a play
for publishers to help SMBs build and maintain a social presence for SMBs?
BIA/Kelsey’s Social Local Media advisory service will provide major insights as we drill down into the impact social media is having on SMB advertising.

Day 3 SuperForum: Customer Acquisition and Retention

Acquiring and retaining customers has never been more critical for
SMBs, and this is even more true for the local media companies selling products and services to SMBs – Yellow Pages publishers, SEM firms, social networking sites, ad networks and others. This special session will explore the latest thinking on acquiring and retaining SMB advertisers.

Additional session highlights include:

  • Mobile Ad Networks: The Stakes for SMBs
  • SMBs and Self-Serve: Ready for Prime Time?
  • SMB Perspectives on Daily Deals
  • Location-Based Services: SMB Initiatives
  • Local Display: Coming to an SMB Near You
  • Demos: Local iPad Apps — The Next Phase

When we asked Laughlin why companies and industry professionals should be attending the conference, he noted four major reasons:

  1. It is for companies that understand the need for new partnerships      and relationships to grow their businesses.
  2. It frames which questions they need to be asking (and solving) to      be leaders in this evolving advertising space
  3. This conference offers a detailed look at how innovative companies are approaching the small business opportunity. It’s a must attend for those who want to stay at the leading edge of industry transformation.
  4. Provides industry professionals with unique networking      opportunities to develop relationships that can go well beyond just    setting up a LinkedIn profile or Facebook page.  BIA/Kelsey events have always been known for their superior networking opportunities.  This event should be no different.

For more information about DMS ’11, including the complete agenda, list of speakers and companies attending, visit www.biakelsey.com/DMS2011. NOTE:  conference prices increase August 20th!  Conference participants should also consider booking their hotel room now! Special DMS ’11 room rate only available until Sept. 2

Free webinar this week

Because BIA/Kelsey believes that DMS ’11 will be of critical importance to companies involved in directory publishing, local search, coupons, group buying, newspapers, location-based services and social media, on Thursday, August 4th, the company will host a free conference preview webinar at 2 p.m. EDT / 11 a.m. PDT, titled, “The Hot Digital Advertising and Social Trends for Small-Business Advertisers.”  For more information and webinar registration, go to: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/535703200.

Yellow Book – New Campaign Rolled Out – “Beyond Yellow”

Yellow Book USA today announced the launch of its new advertising campaign “Beyond Yellow”. This effort is suppose to show how small businesses are leveraging the company’s Yellowbook360 suite of products and services, to help grow their businesses.

The campaign developed by Gotham Inc. will run nationally in TV, print, radio, mobile and digital banners featuring local business clients who’ve have used Yellow Book’s products and services such as online ads/video, website packages, search marketing, and direct mail.

The company CEO Joe Walsh noted that “…today, with so many ways to search, the business owner’s job has become more complicated and they’re turning to us for help…”

Marty Orzio, chief creative officer at Gotham was left to comment that “…I believe the way we’ve executed this idea will certainly attract the small and mid-sized business owner seeking confidence, clarity and growth.”

Our take:

So where’s the print??  It is exciting to have anyone in the industry tout the benefits the industry brings to small/midsized businesses who are trying to sort through the many options they have available to them and make the best decision they can with what limited money they can allocate to advertising during these tight economic times.  But it’s a little disappointed that the print products, which still yield the vast majority of the company’s revenue, and continue to provide top value to their users and advertisers, only gets an “oh yeah, we do that too” kind of mention.

Perception is becoming reality for the industry.  Maybe this is what Yellow Book wants???