Monday, January 12, 2009

Easter Island, the Upper East Side and Madison Avenue.

All over the Upper East Side this morning sprouted strange monoliths, like the statues on Easter Island, the meaning of which very few can discern. These monoliths--two foot cubes of shrink-wrapped Verizon white pages got me thinking about dominant complacency, doing things because they've always been done.

I'm sure in Telco Towers there are scores of people charged with the procuring, production and proferring of phone books. I'm sure it is a major deal that takes countless hours and generates lots of stress. I wonder though if anyone at those telcos ever questions the efficacy of those phone books. At one time, yes, the were vital. They had a special place in a special drawer near the phone. As a society, we looked things up.

Today, however, we are always on. And we Google everything. I can't imagine either of my daughters, 17 and 21, wanting, needing, using a phone book. In fact, I can't imagine them even having a land-line.

Yet, phone books keep on coming.

Our whole industry is operating a lot like the telcos, if you stop and think about it. Watching just a few minutes of football this weekend I saw car commercial after car commercial. Nothing that betrayed an awareness that sales were down close to 40% last month. Would sales be any worse if car advertising ceased? I'm sure "marketing" people in all four corners bemoan the lack of effectiveness of :30s. I'm sure the cable stations and networks are panic-struck about declining ad sales. But ad innovation is non-existent. (:30s once made sense. I think it's a dumb length now. The internet has whetted our appetite for more information than the :30 can provide.)

But somehow the same tired formula prevails. We keep producing phone books. The man in the gray flannel suit is becoming as ancient and isolated as the the guys pictured above. However, instead of looking over the horizon, we are looking into the past.


Teenie said...

For some reason, a Yellow Pages rival popped up a few years ago and now we receive 2 phone books a year. We live in an 8- condo complex, and all 16 of those things end up in the recycle bin.

Maybe the ad industry needs a recycle bin.

Anonymous said...

Yellow Pages are a license to print money. These guys used to make 60% margin on these things and still make huge, but diminishing, money.

It really doesn't matter if anyone uses them, as long as local retailers are afraid not to buy ads.

As for advertising, your wish for longer formats will soon come true. The absence of demand for local tv time (strangely, network tv still has large demand) will force tv stations to lower rates significantly (just as websites have done for banner ads.) This will create opportunities for longer format spots.

george tannenbaum said...

I wonder about the yellow-pages longer term. Someone will catch on someday that no one uses them.

I await a :46-second cable spot. It makes sense to me, any way.

Anonymous said...

I am considering performing a reverse cell look up by going on the internet. I'm receiving all of these phone calls by someone who I really don't know and am wondering who believe that they're calling. Various crazy texts and also messages are being left on my personal voice mail and its starting to drive me nuts. And so, where can i locate these reverse mobile phone search services?