What happens when America’s largest Yellow Pages company jumps into online local video advertising without an actual product? Here’s my story of one very frustrated marketer who went through 10 very strange days until realizing that many things in the IYP space are not what they seem on the promotional surface.
Back on Nov 28, YellowPages.com, a subsidiary of AT&T, announced a “nationwide rollout” of video advertisements in their online local listings space. YellowPages.com was now offering 30-second video ad models for businesses: A basic “video profile,” and a “premium” video profile package, which includes on-location shooting and some additional production time.
Some clips of their press release reads as follows:
“New Video Feature Offers Advertisers a New and Exciting Way to Reach Consumers Searching for Local Businesses… YELLOWPAGES.COM, a subsidiary of AT&T Inc. announced today the addition of two new video products to the suite of tools that it provides advertisers to help them reach local shoppers online… YELLOWPAGES.COM has introduced video advertisements in pilot markets and has now begun a nationwide rollout… Helps advertisers get up and running quickly.”
While SuperPages was the first IYP to offer video advertisements (and that on a national scale), I took special interest in YellowPages.com’s announcement of its own launch, partly because they have the largest exposure of any IYP (34 million monthly unique visitors according to Comscore Media Metrix September 2007 stats), and also because several of my clients already have accounts with Yellow Pages, including paid online search listings. One of them is a videography firm, and who better to benefit from this opportunity?
Or so I initially thought.
Even before contacting anyone in sales, I found some questionable items on the YellowPages.com’s website regarding the Video Profile program.
- Poor navigation. You can’t tell from YP’s home page of any real indication about the Video Profile program (Rather strange considering they just issued a press release.) First, you have to know to click on the “Visit our online store” link at the bottom of YP’s home page. That link takes you to a rather unimpressive layout where the “Video Profile” offer is given the minimal display and information. From there, you need to click on the “Product Info” button. When finally takes you to the “Video Profile” page.
- Poor usability. No actual examples are found on the Video Profile page. Really, how are you going to be able to sell people on this if you can’t make demos easily available? (I had to hunt down the original press release with the name and location of the example company, and manually type that in to the search box to find it myself.
- No pricing information. The only information I could find was that having a video display requires a PPC account. (Meaning, you can’t purchase the feature as a stand-alone item.)
After filling out the online form and leaving a phone message, I receive a call back from DexKnows.com/RHDonnely, the sales wing of YellowPages.com for my home state of Illinois. I have to repeatedly explain my inquiry about the video profile to 4 different sales reps, all of whom have never heard about the Video Profile until I brought it to their attention. It takes several days for me to hear back from someone higher up on the chain – an “Internet Specialist.” Turns out he didn’t know about the video profile program, either.
After 9 days, I finally get some information, although not entirely helpful. I speak with a 5th person in the Internet sales chain for DexKnows, who was just informed by YellowPages.com (again after several days of waiting) that they doesn’t offer any video advertising for Illinois. (He also shares his own frustration that YellowPages promotes a program that they give them absolutely no information about, and they’re supposed to be their sales team!)
Frustrated but still wanting answers, I call YellowPages.com’s customer service line. The rep tells me she can’t give out any information on what areas their “trial program” (so apparently its no longer a national program as advertised) for Video Profiles are taking place. Instead, she says can only give me the phone number for any particular state and put me in touch with that state’s sales team, and I would have to find out from them if they know anything about the program.
No thanks, I don’t feel like going through the ordeal 49 more times.
Bizarre, isn’t it? YellowPages boasts about having the largest visitor exposure and is a subsidiary of the largest telecommunications company in the U.S., yet they can’t even put together a proper program for online video advertising for local businesses. Not only is there no real “nationwide rollout” like their press release back claimed there was, but apparently they’re being too secretive to even mention what “pilot markets” they’re actually doing video advertisements for.
On thing the I’ve learned from my many years in the online marketing and search industry – the actual execution of a marketing program is eventually going to trump any hype. YellowPages.com’s bungling of their Video Profile promotion highlights the ongoing troubles in the IYP space between online video advertising and their sales channels. When the largest IYP chooses to withhold important correspondence about promotional programs like this from their own sales reps, much less train them adequately in taking sales calls, all of the buzz that YellowPages.com has generate will eventually sting them.