How to Open a Yellow Pages Dependent Restaurant

A yellow pages company in Australia ran a poorly rigged test to “prove” that yellow pages are still relevant:

Importantly for Yellow owner Sensis, a division of Telstra, an average of 70 per cent of those customers said they found their way to the unsignposted Hidden Restaurant via a paid Yellow online listing, search engine marketing services such as those Yellow provides its customers, or through the local Yellow Pages directory, which was delivered to homes shortly before the campaign began.

It turns out that if you open a pizza shop, then promote it only through print and web YP properties, that the majority of people visiting your restaurant will come from YP channels. Of course, if the only way people could find out that a new restaurant existed was through YP channels, it would take a considerable amount of time to build an audience. Clearly, many people looking for pizza in the yellow pages would choose a place they’re already familiar with unless they had a reason to go deeper.

So, to speed up the process of promoting the business, what did the yellow pages do? They turned to social media. Facebook, specifically:

Hidden Restaurant, which also represented Sensis’s first major foray into the world of social media, opened on April 12 following the distribution of flyers in the Fitzroy area and the launch of a Facebook page and website with the following prompt: Finding the restaurant is easy, just look it up the way you would any other business from April 12 to April 25 and the pizzas are free.

They put out a note on Facebook explaining to people that they could get free pizza if they could figure out the location of the pizza. Rather than just tell people on Facebook, the way a sane restaurant promoter would do, they forced people to turn to the yellow pages, which led to 70% of patient pizza fanatics calling in to book a reservation via the phone numbers listed in the YP ads (no walk-ins were accepted for tracking purposes).

Amazingly, this was an attempt by the yellow pages industry to prove that they’re still relevant.

Compare this to what we’ve seen in Minnesota. If Punch Pizza opened a new restaurant somewhere in the Twin Cities tomorrow, what are the chances that they could pack the place on the first night by offering free pizza? Would they wait until the next print yellow pages spam hit doorsteps, or would they send out a Tweet, mention something on Facebook, or drop a coupon on Flickr? Regardless, the cost would be nearly nothing, on their on time and terms, and not YP dependent. Put another way:

An analysis of the campaign on online magazine Anthill1. was dismissive.

“Why has this (Facebook) Fanpage disallowed comments and fan interaction? Because then fans would quickly reveal where the restaurant is hidden, what the phone number is and no one would head to the Yellow Pages listing,” it stated.

Running tests to prove that yellow pages are still relevant does make sense, but tests like the one Sensis ran are so laughable in their rigging that they can’t possibly convince anyone to consider legacy yellow pages advertising.

1. The Australian newspaper, not unlike American newspapers, did not link to the blog they cited. But I did because I think readers occasionally like to go learn more than fits into a post/story. When will newspapers figure this out?

4 thoughts on “How to Open a Yellow Pages Dependent Restaurant”

  1. Yellow Pages Australia (Sensis) have remained a formidable small business advertising force in Australia and I have likened small business reliance in Australia on Yellow Pages in one of my blogs to something like Stockholm Syndrome.

    There is no length they will not go to, to convince small business they have their best interest at heart. Yet continue to charge excessive rates in the face of a digital revolution. They continue to charge a paid inclusion advertising model for their Yellow Pages online and nearly all of my clients (I build websites for small business) leave this format of advertising after having a website for approximately 6 months and they learn the benefits of SEO and Google Adwords.

    It does not surprise me in the slightest that they can pass of the success of Facebook as their own success? Go figure.

  2. @Karl, the funniest part of this, to me, is that they drove interested patrons AWAY from Facebook, where they easily could have provided the business contact info, to send them to the yellow pages, where a business has to compete against all of their competitors on the same page. No business would ever do that.

  3. …but it wasn’t a real pizza shop, just an elaborate advertising scheme…

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