Direct Response Copywriting and The Yellow Pages

THUNK! The Yellow Pages just arrived at my home. The big book has been on a diet and is definitely thinner and smaller thanks to Google and other interlopers.

For this direct response copywriter, The Yellow Pages presents an interesting look into the current state of small business advertising.

Some notes and thoughts.

  • You can tell which sectors 'get' direct response marketing: air conditioning; car dealers; bail bondsmen; dentists (most); garage door people; insurance agents.
  • You can tell which sectors don't get it: accounting; legal; drug addiction; computer repair; contractors.
  • There are some great USPs: ‘One Hour Air Conditioning and Heating.’ ‘Money for Scrap Metal.’
  • Some dismal USPs: ‘Better Call Bob.’ ‘Knowledge, Skill, Experience, and Results.’ ‘We Make the Law Work for You!’ ‘Your friendly scrap metal recycler.’
  • Some companies take the step of making their ad white so they set black type on a white background. Some companies go for 'au naturel' yellow or use black and funky colors as the background. The latter two options reduce readability by about 30%. Crazy.
  • I’m glad I don’t have to design the book. Or proof it.
  • The AT&T ‘house’ ads that fill in the spaces they couldn’t fill are dull and generic—just what you’d expect from behemoth.
  • Every ad could do with a bit more white space—and, dare I say it, a bit less copy: more benefits over a bazillion mostly meaningless bullets.
  • A client, a cosmetic dentist, doesn't use The Yellow Pages and he very closely measures response.

The Yellow Pages is all about the NOW and the biggest lesson we can learn is the CTA. It’s always to call—rarely to visit a website. If I were designing and writing a Yellow Pages ad, I’d find out what works and use that model. 

A lot of companies would increase their response by writing and designing ads that followed more of a direct response model.


I'm a direct response copywriter based in Charlotte, North Carolina. I specialize in providing copy and content for the direct marketing environment for clients around the world. Enter your info to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting CopyOr contact me here for a direct response copywriting quote.