Hidden Pizza Restaurant reveals not-so-hidden flaws in Yellow Pages’ digital strategy

Hidden Pizza Restaurant reveals not-so-hidden flaws in Yellow Pages’ digital strategy


Earlier this week, a new pizza restaurant launched in Melbourne that has lit up the social media scene. The twitter-sphere is buzzing with mainly positive wraps. Food and culture blogs have universally given it a big thumbs up.

It’s called Hidden Pizza Restaurant, and by all accounts, it’s a pretty exceptional place with sustainable design, delicious pizza, tasty homemade lemonade and a line stretching waaaaaaay out the door (the kind that makes you feel like you’re one of the ‘in-crowd’).

And, oh yeah, the pizza is free.

But here’s the catch. It’s only around for two weeks, closing on April 25. And it’s a bit tricky to find the place.

Here are some typical tweets:

If this campaign was about promoting the restaurant itself (perhaps sans the 2-week tenure) you would have to give it a pretty high mark.

If it were to promote a pizza sauce, or a cheese brand or a shop that sells all things pizza related, again, you would be thinking, “That’s some pretty clever marketing.”

In fact, it is not without precedent.

Several years ago, when the Pure Blonde beer launched, its brand-builders did a very similar thing, setting up a hidden beer garden on the border of the CBD and North Melbourne.

It was a smashing success and an early example of the power of viral marketing in a pre-Twitter, pre-Facebook, pre-Foursquare age. (Well, Facebook was around but it was back in the days before it became mainstream.)

But it was created to do none of these things.

So, who’s behind Hidden Pizza Restaurant?

If you’ve heard of Hidden Pizza, you probably know by now who the promotion is for. It is for Yellow Pages.

If you didn’t know, like me, this is the point where you might start to scratch your head and ask, “Yellow Pages? How does that work?”

The message on the promotion homepage reads:

Finding the restaurant is easy, just look it up the way you would any other business from April 12 – April 25 and the pizzas are free. Make sure you phone ahead to order as no pizza orders are taken at the door.* And get in quick, our restaurant fills up fast.

*Limit one per day.  Melbourne callers only. Subject to availability.

You guessed it. If Yellow Pages has its way, the only way you will possibly find the contact details for this restaurant will be by going to the listing on its website.

But I would love to see the traffic analytics for this promotion. I suspect that it would show that the vast majority of traffic to the Yellow Pages listing comes from Google, Bing or Yahoo (i.e. its competitors).

Let me explain.

The modern web is social. Yellow Pages is not.

Here is a screenshot of one of the worst Facebook Pages most of us will ever come across:

Why has this 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. But this is the reality of the modern, social web. (There are not even photos up of patrons having a great time. And we’re onto day four!)

Contrast this to a screenshot of the Foursquare listing, which Yellow Pages has no control over:

Athan D. tells us to bring a jumper! That is extremely valuable information. But, on all evidence, Yellow Pages doesn’t want you to add that value to its conversation.

In case you can’t read those details:

Does Yellow Pages ‘get’ the social nature of search?

Tellingly, here are the Google search results:

Why are these telling? Ranking ahead of the Yellow Pages listing is a blog spilling the beans on the location and phone number. Yesterday, a second blog also ranked higher.

Here is how a typical restaurant search looks in Google:

And a general search for restaurants:

Now, here are the Yellow Pages results:

Did you notice the difference?

The Google results are the embodiment of the modern web. They are user generated and show the semantic links between numerous sources. Information abounds to help you make the right decision.

The Yellow Pages results, in a modern context, are fairly useless. A bunch of listings, but nothing to help you decide. To further illustrate this point, let’s compare them to the results from WOMOW.com, which is a community powered directory and recommendation engine.

Notice the community testimonial under each search result (click the image for full size):

On WOMOW, the community rates and gives feedback on service providers. Just like you might on eBay. Why doesn’t Yellow Pages implement this? Because its search results are available to the highest bidder, regardless of quality.

The modern information paradigm (i.e. the social web and meta data)

This is the simplest of diagrams explaining how information is sought by consumers today, click the image to see it full size (apologies for the crummy quality):

When you lock information down like the Yellow Pages does (especially with the Hidden Restaurant), you are basically trying to break or bypass the modern web. And guess what? It doesn’t work.

The Yellow Pages is struggling enough with web 2.0 (user generated content). Based on this experience, it is simply not going to survive as we transition to web 3.0 (the semantic/social web).

It’s no secret that Google and the social web are the elephants in the room over at the Yellow Pages

This whole campaign reminded me of the Mac vs PC ads. The socialising web and Google are Mac. And, you guessed it, Yellow Pages are PC.

Actually, I’m dumbfounded at the parallels:

Where to for Yellow Pages?

Invest in the product!

What Yellow Pages has done with this campaign is spend (undoubtedly) an enormous amount of money reminding you that it exists. In the process, it has highlighted just how hard it is to find the information you really want on Yellow Pages.

A basic search for Hidden Restaurant will bring up alternatives to the Yellow Pages in most search engines. This is simply because most search engine ranking systems are heavily influenced by incoming links. And incoming links are driven by the social media, such as Facbook, LinkedIn, Twitter and blog recommendations.

And because, well, most people who get wind of a viral campaign these days head straight to their favourite search engine to see if they can uncover the inside word.

Will Melbourne be sorry to see the Hidden Pizza Restaurant go at the end of two weeks? Most certainly. Will we suddenly believe Yellow Pages is the best way to find the information they’re looking for? Probably not. Indeed, through the process, Yellow Pages may well have demonstrated that it is one of the least effective ways to find information on the web.

It’s time for the Yellow Pages to grow into its new marketplace and build a competitive service that embraces the social and user generated web. More than that, it should aim to use its war chest to become a leader in the evolving web, at the cutting edge. The emergence of augmented reality offers tremendous opportunities for an organisation like Sensis.

It’s time for Yellow Pages to embrace social media, or slip further into obscurity.

Yellow Pages Australia has no Facebook presence. Yellow Pages Australia’s Twitter account (@yellowpages_au) has a paltry 182 followers (almost all of which are other Yellow Pages accounts and employees) and its tweets offer no good reason to follow them. How about creating a #YellowPagesAU tag that people can use to find services on Twitter?

Example Tweet:

“Need a place to eat in Richmond, preferably Italian! #YellowPagesAU”

Example response from @yellowpages_au

“@Lachyw here are 5 great Italian restaurants in Richmond! <link to yellow pages listings>”

Yellow Pages could even find purpose on Foursquare (by dropping tips like confetti).

In short, there is a lot Yellow Pages should be doing. And with its existing strength and reach, the Australian arm of the brand should be aiming to become the leader of the brand’s global strategy. As for this campaign, well as much as we all love delicious, free doughy treats, Hidden Pizza Restaurant does nothing for Sensis. The Yellow Pages is all about providing a local service. But you can no longer provide a useful local service in a digital economy until you think and look global.

Have you heard about the Hidden Restaurant? How was your experience finding it and what did it make you think about Yellow Pages and its place in the modern web? Share your thoughts below.

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  • http://brownbeagle.com.au Alex Pooley

    Excellent post.

    I’m constantly amazed how some large companies are still struggling with the online world. Do you think this is due to ignorance or incompetence?

    • http://www.anthillonline.com Lachy Wharton

      Hi Alex,

      Thanks! 🙂

      It’s hard to say exactly what the issue is with big corporates struggling with their digital presence.

      Ignorance would be a factor if you have a marketing manager who barely uses social media trying to call the shots. I imagine this happens quite a bit.

      Icompetence comes in at that point too. Not because the marketing manager (or other senior employees) is incompetent (they’re no doubt very skilled), but because they don’t know how the online world really works. You need to live and breath it to really get it.

      I also think communication deficiencies in big corporates and conflicting issues across departments play a huge role in these dramas.

      But there are probably several more articles in their own right around all of that!


      • http://www.smartink.com.au Peter

        Great article Lachy.

        Nielsen Online and WebVisible conducted a survey in 2008 of approximately 4000 internet users in the US. The survey was titled “The Great Divide” and it looked at how consumers search for local businesses.

        Here is an extract from the media notes for the report:

        “In this survey, people indicated their most commonly used search tools:

        • 82% Search engines (such as Google, Yahoo!, or MSN)
        • 57% Yellow Pages directories
        • 53% Local newspapers
        • 49% Internet Yellow Pages (such as yellowpages.com or superpages.com)
        • 49% Television
        • 38% Direct mail
        • 32% White Pages directories

        Of those surveyed, 50% said search engines (such as Google, Yahoo!, or MSN) were the first place they looked when seeking a local business. Twenty-four percent chose the Yellow Pages directories and 10% look to Internet Yellow Pages first.”

        Unless Yellow Pages (around the world) wake up to the shift in consumer search behaviour, I doubt that those figures will be getting any better for them in future surveys.

  • http://my247.com.au Chris Kettle

    Nice article.

    The half-a-million Aussie’s that use my247.com.au – for exactly this purpose can’t be wrong…wait til you see our next installment, or if you’d like to play with our beta you can contact me directly.

    • http://www.wordmistress.com.au Gina Lofaro aka the wordmistress

      Ooh Chris, I’d love to play with the beta version! Didn’t know how to contact you directly, hope you don’t mind the mention here?

  • http://www.ifindconsultants.com/?emcc=7352E467041D Mark

    Great (and detailed!)Article Lachy,

    It’s for exactly this reason that buyer centric markets like Anthill’s Business Services Marketplace (http://www.ifindconsultants.com/?emcc=7352E467041D) exist.

    Instead of a yellow pages search turning up the highest bidder, or a Google search bringing up the best at SEO, using a buyer centric marketplace uses real time end-user data to help the buyer determine the best match for their needs.

    And while Anthill’s marketplace is B2B focussed, there are a growing number of sites similar to this that serve the same purpose.


    • http://www.anthillonline.com Lachy Wharton

      Hi Mark,

      I agree. Directories/marketplaces that work hard to pull in heaps of external information (data and metadata) are definitely the future.

      There is just such a phenomenal amount of information out there and consumers are becoming more proficient at navigating it and interpreting it every day.

      You can’t ignore it any more.


  • http://YourWebsite Neroli

    Excellent article Lachy. I’ll be tweeting the link.

    • http://www.anthillonline.com Lachy Wharton

      Thanks Neroli! 😀

  • http://www.rosshill.com.au Ross Hill

    Nice writeup – that’s a great case study of where the directory scene has gone. I’m really liking using the new Foursquare app. It tells me where my friends are, the nearby places, nearby tips and my profile all in four easy tabs. It’s like a social geiger counter 🙂

    • http://www.anthillonline.com Lachy Wharton

      Thanks Ross!

      Foursquare is definitely rocking my world too. A few weeks ago I was on Chapel St alone and bored, so I checked in (to “Chapel St”) and sure enough moments later an SMS… “come join us at Orange for beers!”

      It’s brilliant.

      Looking forward to the next Hive event on Tuesday.

      and totally agree we should try to get a Foursquare swarm happening!! hehe 😉

  • http://YourWebsite Paul

    There are a number of businesses for which yellow pages is currently the best search solution. Searches where you know the kind of service you are looking for and where location is important and often best on yellow pages. So finding a local plumber or electrician for example is difficult through other search sites. I think this is particularly important where you might hope to have an ongoing relationship with that local provider.

    However yellow pages are hardly a great provider of this kind of information. No doubt they charge to list a website. Yet their online customers will really want that information and without it will go elsewhere to find it. I think they forget that they are a intermediary, selling a service to provide information of businesses to customers. However if they don’t supply the information customers want, the consumers will look for that information elsewhere.

    Perhaps yellow pages should charge extra for entries that DON’T have web links.

    • http://www.anthillonline.com Lachy Wharton

      Hi Paul,

      I see what you’re saying, but do this for me:

      1. Search for “plumbers” in your area (postcode) on Yellow Pages.

      2. Now search for “plumbers [your postcode]” on Google or WOMOW.

      I did “plumbers collingwood” (3066)

      Tell me which results are more useful!


  • http://YourWebsite Sally McNamara

    Great post Lachy! Brilliantly highlights the perils of trying to control information sharing online. Unless Yellow Pages / Sensis start embracing digital trends and showing real value add, they’re going to find it increasingly hard to justify their existence in marketing budgets; resting on their reputation and longevity are no longer enough to guarantee business success.

    • http://www.anthillonline.com Lachy Wharton

      Thanks Sally!

      Really appreciate it 🙂

  • http://www.3aw.com.au/ Ben

    Hey Lachy, great article. I do a segment on air and wondering if you want to have a quick chat with me offd-air right now with a view to on air in around 25mins?

    Ben 0405755160

    • http://YourWebsite Steven

      Nice article, but it still doesn’t take away from the fact it is a bloody good marketing campaign that is creating more buzz than yellow pages has ever seen.

      • http://www.anthillonline.com Lachy Wharton

        Hi Steven,

        It is definitely a great campaign. But for completely the wrong client.

        I don’t believe any publicity is good publicity 😉


        • http://YourWebsite Abhi

          Agree with Lachy. It is a good marketing campaign but I don’t think Yellow Pages is going to achieve what it set out to achieve – convert people to start using Yellow Pages instead of Google and other source of info mentioned in the article. If I was running the campaign, I would have found it hard to show my boss the ROI for this campaign. Sure, it might increase traffic to YP in the short term but how many of these people will actually continue using YP for their search needs?

          When I first told my roommate about the hidden pizza and the clue on their website i.e. “search as you would do any other business” – she replied without blinking that she searched on Google and got the location of the restaurant.

          • http://twitter.com/bespokenNews bespoken

            I don't believe the campaign is necessarily focusing on getting people to use Yellow Pages but rather showing businesses false stats on how successful YP was in launching a new business.

            I think we'll find the ensuing ad campaign will be similar to that of the New Zealand YP http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l4dBNG_A01g .

            When you call to order your pizza they ask “How did you find the number for the Hidden Pizza restaurant”. I used google and saw the number on the yellow pages list that cam up however when asked the question I said “Yellow Pages” because that's where I actually saw the number. With 500 free pizza's per night that's a lot of stats saying that people looked for phone numbers in the YP.

            I was also interviewed by a film crew while I was there. And despite never using yellow pages and believing that their moto should be “Kill the Trees” I went along with the hype and answered there leading questions with polite answers about why YP is an invaluable resource. I simply wanted a free pizza (which they didn't give me after the interview).

    • http://www.anthillonline.com Lachy Wharton

      Hi Ben,

      I’ve just seen your comment! damn! Would love to have had a chat.

      Stoked you found value in the piece 🙂


  • http://www.womow.com.au Fiona

    Thanks for the mentions Lachy.

    WOMOW tries to help people find the best businesses (based on customer reviews) and help these businesses grow with word-of-mouth. Because all of the businesses are entered by users, we don’t have as many listings as YP (we’re close to hitting 100,000 reviews). But if it’s rich content with juicy customer insight you’re after, that’s what we’ve got.

    You’re right when you infer that it’s not the way to maximise revenues – we look like breaking even around 2035 ;). Directories are yet another industry that the internet has flipped on its head.

  • http://www.wordmistress.com.au Gina Lofaro aka the wordmistress

    Lachy, I’m impressed with the amount of effort that went into producing this piece. Lots of graphic illustration to prove your points. It’s a great read, and really only affirms what I (and I’m sure countless others) believe about the Yellow Pages … that they’re a redundant dinosaur continuing to exist (or perhaps, persisting to exist) only for those who don’t own computers. I wonder if perhaps they do still have a place for exactly those people who are themselves being left behind by technology. Maybe Yellow Pages’ PLACE is in print and they should stick to what they know best. OR, get some skilled social media strategists on the job to make a proper dent. For sure, their days are numbered if they keep up with their existing M.O. and no doubt they’ll get wind of your article and either have a cry or get to work.

    • http://www.anthillonline.com Lachy Wharton

      Hi Gina,

      Thanks! I’m a stickler for detail 😉

      I had a discussion with friends last night and one defended the Yellow Pages as a bastion for those who (for a variety of reasons) reject technology.

      I noted that is hardly a sustainable strategy. They agreed but suggested Yellow Pages has time on their side to catch up.

      Well, not while they’re losing friends and alientating people at the rate they seem to be!

      I really hope for their sake they’re doing just what you’ve suggested and are going to come out with a mind-blowing revamp of their service soon.

      But I suspect not, because then I think we wouldn’t be seeing this Hidden Pizza campaign until then.


  • http://www.d2p.com.au John Weichard

    I’ve been burnt by their less than honorable tactics of grimly trying to hang on to an evaporating market share. In my opinion the sooner they go to God the better of we’ll all be

  • http://www.nobsseo.com/category/blog/ Theo

    Great Article Lachy. I am a firm believer that ANY business, regardless of its name, which doesn’t get found on Google / Bing for the product or service it supplies will die.
    The search for PIZZA RESTAURANT MELBOURNE only shows a yellow pages result in the sponsored links, nothing in the organics.
    Maybe we could ask Jan from yellow pages about the success of this campaign.

  • http://www.bravocharlie.tv Philip Bateman

    Took a few seconds either way of 10 minutes on hold to order the prawn pizza, I’ve been sent an order number and they cook it on-site when I arrive, have to go between now and 10:30 same day. Cheers, and I did the whole thing without having to hit the yellow pages site thanks to this article 🙂

  • http://www.mhits.com.au Harold Dimpel

    Fantastic article Lachy!

    Really well researched and articulated and very comprehensive. Very helpful to put players like Yellow Pages in context with what is happening in the “real world”.

    It’s like the world goes by and and everyone is waving (goodbye) to previous big old fat incumbents who are in denial and who seem to have their heads burried in the sand and refuse to look up….

    It seems like sometimes the bigger some corporates are, the inversely stupid and ineffective their marketing strategies seem to be.

    Look forward to hearing more.


  • http://www.servicecentral.com.au Danial Ahchow

    Great article Lachy! You’ve highlighted the difficulties that all of us in the “local” space have with Google as a Frienemy.

    There is no doubt that to be part of the modern web the service you offer needs to be super SEO-Friendly (happy that Service Central makes the top page on the Collingwood Plumbers example you give in a comment) and social friendly.

    The most important aspect of all, however, is that your site needs to add value that a consumer can’t get anywhere else. That might be knowing where your friends are (as Foursquare are trying to do), or in our case (Service Central) helping identify businesses that are truly available to take on your project when and where you want it, with them opting-into the jobs that they want.

    The challenge for Yellow Pages is going to be finding a way to adapt their billion dollar a year book and online revenue colossus into a relevant business for the decade ahead without losing either their mountain of revenue or their overpaid sales team and bureaucracy.

    My bet is that Sensis will be already planning how then can scale down their staff numbers, and survive with a much lower revenue base.

    P.S. Ex-YP staff, if you’re good and don’t have your head stuck in selling a book from the 19th century, there are job opportunities at Service Central for you.

    • http://www.anthillonline.com Lachy Wharton

      Hey Danial,

      Glad you liked the article!

      I really like service central, it’s a fantastic concept to turn business directories into a buyers market 🙂

      Based on the searches I was testing out for things like “plumbers” and “electricians” I think Google is definitely your friend! (Outsiders opinion though)


  • http://ruthlessreads.tumblr.com Ruth

    Great article.

    The great irony is this:

    “just look it up the way you would any other business”

    Erm, via Google? It honestly wouldn’t even occur to me to look up the Yellow Pages for a business anymore.

  • http://blog.visualjazz.com.au Simon T Small

    If you do a Google search for Hidden Pizza, today, yellow pages doesn’t even appear on Google anymore… haha.

    PS I love the campaign, very interesting. Got lots of people talking about and using Yellow Pages.

    PPS also agree they should improve their product.

    • http://www.nobsseo.com/category/blog Theo

      Yeah it has got people talking about YP but so far no favourable comments.
      There is an “unconfirmed” report that YP is one of the top 3 Australian clients on Adwords. If this is true why would YP be spending so much money on Gooogle when they keep trying to convince us that Aussie consumers search YP for products and services before they search Google?

  • http://www.SpeddosHire.com.au W Spedding

    Fantastic Post, congratulations.
    We have been doing a survey of our new commercial customers, we ask them how they found us, guess what – its Google.
    We came up second in the listing! A tiny little business like us!
    Yellow pages on-line was a no show for our business name as the customer had to SPELL THE NAME EXECTLY RIGHT for our name listing to appear. With Google we showed OK, the name is Speddo’s, type in Speddos in yellow and then Speddos in google – yellow cannot handle the different spelling.
    We have a full page in the local yellow pages – you can guess that cost an arm and a leg, we paid extra for the Yellow pages on line listings and —–WE DO NOT NEED TO SPEND THAT SORT OF MONEY!!!!!!
    Yellow pages – wake up – the commercial customers upon which you depend are walking away with their money, next year it is a small add, maybe 1/8 page, geus what – yellow pages just lost a 4 digit income stream! In a few seconds!
    Wow- I feel good about this
    Also I just got a beaut holiday 🙂
    Stick it into them Antill, I love ya.

    • http://www.wordmistress.com.au Gina Lofaro aka the wordmistress

      Lesson learned, eh W Spedding? And probably being learned in vast numbers every day. Yeah, I find that the Yellow Pages web page takes so long to load that it’s incredibly frustrating waiting for it. Not only that but whenever you try to type in the search fields, it skips some of the characters you type in because it’s not finished loading, even though it seems to be. THEN, it comes up with a range of useless suggestions, followed by more suggestions to do with geography, and eventually, you might just find what you’re looking for. Google for me, all day, every day! YP bites!

  • http://www.august.com.au Daniel Banik

    Awesome post Lachy! Wouldn’t expect anything less from you. Keep up the great work.

    • http://www.anthillonline.com Lachy Wharton

      Thanks Dan! Really appreciate it! 🙂

  • http://wolfiesworld.wordpress.com/ Wolfie Rankin

    I’ll tell you what Yellow Pages doesn’t get, They don’t get that every physical yellow pages book I recieve, local or otherwise, goes straight in the recycling bin.

    • cheewah

      You should opt out of the Yellow and White Pages to save paper – that's the only option they offer. You have to call in and advise them which does take some effort but it is more wasteful to kill a tree.

      • http://www.radicalgrocery.com Anikee

        I tried opting out of receiving the physical yellow pages. I called the number in the book, got transferred to another part of the call center, got a machine I couldn't respond to and was then hung up on.

  • http://paperradio.net Jon Tjhia

    Excellent analysis of this whole campaign. I think it’s fair to say the product doesn’t deliver; while there’s probably a wonderful, eloquent pizza pun to make there, I have a headache.

  • http://kaindustry.com kris wood

    Yellow Pages know where to find their new social media marketing strategist

    • http://anthillonline.wpengine.com LachyW

      Heh, thanks Kris! Jokes in the office have been more around constantly looking over my shoulder! 😉

  • http://YourWebsite Adam

    This is similar to another telstra derived social media experience. Check Cabbie-Oke. http://www.cabbieoke.com.au/

    The idea is to drive the ‘demographic’ to a Telstra branded website to elicit a better reaction with 18-24 y.o so they will go to Telstra stores having gained a better brand appreciation, via a ‘fun’ marketing campaign.

    The problem starts with a sub-par product, the target demographic don’t want Telstra products, so even if you get a positive brand change, the product (as it is in this case of yellopages) is inferior, then it doesn’t matter what the feeling is toward the brand it won’t yield the sales they really want.

    It seems like Telstra are going to these agencies and giving them a tonne of cash and telling them to ‘engage with social media demographic in a fun hip way’. Whats the point of driving people to an oldinferior product be it the less than useful yellowpages site or the less than deseriable Telstra mobile products.

    • http://YourWebsite Adam

      Sorry just to clarify now the Cabbie-Oke website is on a new Telstra stunt, Cabbie-Oke invited 18-24 y.o into a cab that doubles as karoke, people can go where they want for the cost of them singing on camera, the footage is uploaded onto youtube and the people are asked to share it with their friends. But you can make some more references to the new party catcher promotion.

  • anthillonline

    Could this be Lachy's 100th retweet?

  • anthillonline

    Could this be Lachy's 100th retweet?

  • Dave

    Took a while to get through and was on hold for 10 minutes
    an operator then collected some marketing information postcode. My friends who had to call separately got frustrated with waiting on hold and bailed on the whole thing. Without friends to go with it seems kinda pointless. If I have to queue to get into the place I won't bother with it. When asked how I found the number I told the operator I found it in a blog that pointed out the obvious flaws in yellow pages digital strategy. I didn't use the yellow pages for this search and I wouldn't in the future. I don't see why anyone would waste there money on a yellow pages entry these days unless there target demographic is solely luddite baby boomers. Still if the campaign serves as a wake up call to sensis about how far behind they are its probably money well spent.

    • ludditeliz

      Luddite baby boomer alert!

  • joshn

    aaaaand for bonus points, who is behind Yellow Pages and failing to grasp modern internet? Telstra!!!!

  • http://twitter.com/Nicchamberlain Nic Chamberlain

    Thoroughly excellent.

  • http://twitter.com/Nicchamberlain Nic Chamberlain

    Thoroughly excellent.

  • http://twitter.com/natgimm Natalie Gimm

    Hear! Hear! Lachy

    After years of searching online databases as a librarian (before the web), I was used to knowing what to enter in order to get the exact info I was looking for (even with very challenging search subjects). Search engines took a little getting used to (and I still can't narrow it down as I would like). Not only do YP have no handle on social media, they haven't even caught up with usability.

    My dad is an electrician, he has an ad (and photo) in the local council newspaper classifieds. He is overwhelmed with work and still trying to retire at 69 years old! That tells me that people want a local tradesman, so they look locally. That's what I do! I don't want to search for a plumber in Subiaco and receive results for plumbing supplies in Kalgoorlie (800kms away).

    I suspect that YP spent millions on a proprietary search engine that never paid for itself (with specifications that were vendor-driven, with little consideration for user needs or testing). They will stubbornly spend even more money justifying it, than starting over with a clean slate.

    Having said that, I think yellow pages are fantastic, ie. the printed version, used as office furniture, for raising my computer monitor … hmm pity they don't make a nice burgundy version!


    • http://anthillonline.wpengine.com LachyW

      Hi Natalie,

      I think you're pretty spot on about the very expensive proprietary search engine.

      Thanks so much for the comments! Some very interesting perspectives for a broader follow-up piece I'm planning.


  • http://from.simontsmall.com Simon T Small

    I think it's funny that most people went to Google to “just look it up the way you would any other business”… Their strategy was flawed when at day 6 of the campaign the yellow pages listing didn't even come up in Google, let alone everything above…

    But all the cynicism aside, this campaign generated lots of discussion, and made me and I'm sure lots of other people use the Yellow Pages site, which I hadn't for months.

  • http://from.simontsmall.com Simon T Small

    I think it's funny that most people went to Google to “just look it up the way you would any other business”… Their strategy was flawed when at day 6 of the campaign the yellow pages listing didn't even come up in Google, let alone everything above…

    But all the cynicism aside, this campaign generated lots of discussion, and made me and I'm sure lots of other people use the Yellow Pages site, which I hadn't for months.

  • http://www.exchange.telstra.com.au Dan

    Well done on a great article Lachy, I have shared it with my colleagues with whom I work with on Telstra's Social Media blog – http://www.telstra.exchange.com.au

    I don't have any affilliation with Yellow and I agree with your comments above, and when I saw the promo I was unsure why I thought it was a typical #fail until I read your post.

    The only thing I can think to add is that perhaps with people such as yourself and myself (read digital natives) that maybe we are too 'hooked in' and we instinctively, like hard core gamers, try and go to the source ie Google and find the answers we seek (pun intended)… however I must admit that being a logical thinker when I first saw the ad it actually triggered an automatic response in me which was 'what does that mean, where would normally look up a business in the 'normal way' and funnily enough I answered myself the Yellow Pages.

    I would normally head straight to Google and I admit I did that second to find out more but I did automatically make the connection to Yellow first. So in my mind it isnt a total bomb.

    The only other defense I have is that I find the Yellow Pages App on my iPhone extremely useful! I only hope that we can have some cut through with high comment related social posts such as this and the people that can do something about it at Yellow, DO. The swithcing off of Facebook interaction with 'fans' (read people who want to eat free pizza!) is particularly sad.

    Again great post mate.

    • http://anthillonline.wpengine.com LachyW

      Hey Dan,

      Thanks for the thoughts! And thanks so much for sharing the post, really stoked you found value in it.

      I know that YP has enduring value for many. It's a powerful brand that isn't just going to disappear from our conscience overnight. As you say, for non-dig-natives, it is a key resource.

      However, we're all seeing this change rapidly. And as such, the YP do have a major challenge ahead of them because they are letting themsleves slowly slip into obscurity.

      I think, especially based on the responses to this campaign, the disruptors and challengers are definitely winning the battle for people's hearts and minds (and, increasingly, their wallets).

      There's definitely major (MAJOR) opportunities opening up in the directory market (which is too narrow a term now really). Right now YP seem to be content to flog their web 1.0 horse, and I think this hurts them more everyday. Especially as the challengers and innovators keep pressing (and impressing).

      I definitely understand that there are a multitude of reasons for this though, and that's the subject of a broader follow up piece I'm working on.

      Anyway, I'm really hoping we're going to see some serious innovation from YP.

      But I do worry because I think if anything like that was about to happen, we wouldn't be seeing this Hidden Pizza campaign just yet.


  • http://www.exchange.telstra.com.au Dan

    Well done on a great article Lachy, I have shared it with my colleagues with whom I work with on Telstra's Social Media blog – http://www.telstra.exchange.com.au

    I don't have any affilliation with Yellow and I agree with your comments above, and when I saw the promo I was unsure why I thought it was a typical #fail until I read your post.

    The only thing I can think to add is that perhaps with people such as yourself and myself (read digital natives) that maybe we are too 'hooked in' and we instinctively, like hard core gamers, try and go to the source ie Google and find the answers we seek (pun intended)… however I must admit that being a logical thinker when I first saw the ad it actually triggered an automatic response in me which was 'what does that mean, where would normally look up a business in the 'normal way' and funnily enough I answered myself the Yellow Pages.

    I would normally head straight to Google and I admit I did that second to find out more but I did automatically make the connection to Yellow first. So in my mind it isnt a total bomb.

    The only other defense I have is that I find the Yellow Pages App on my iPhone extremely useful! I only hope that we can have some cut through with high comment related social posts such as this and the people that can do something about it at Yellow, DO. The swithcing off of Facebook interaction with 'fans' (read people who want to eat free pizza!) is particularly sad.

    Again great post mate.

  • http://levlafayette.com Lev Lafayette

    “In the process, it has highlighted just how hard it is to find the information you really want on Yellow Pages.”

    This part is very, very true.

    “It’s time for Yellow Pages to embrace social media, or slip further into obscurity.”

    And this part is completely wrong. There is no reason for Yellow Pages to embrace social media. It's an information service, not a social forum. If they concentrate on delivering the information that users want quickly, accurately and without distraction then they will serve their goal.

    • http://anthillonline.wpengine.com LachyW

      Hi Lev,

      I have to disagree with you on that. In fact, I think the two points you've pulled out are intrinsically linked.

      Let me explain:

      1. Embracing social media as a push channel.

      At the most basic level, this is about going where the crowd is. You pay a LOT of money to get listed in the Yellow Pages. However it is completely free (aside from your time) to get yourself a presence on Google, Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, etc.

      As I discussed above, locking information down on the Yellow Pages website is a redundant business model.

      Yellow Pages have a powerful brand and could, if they put some effort in, no doubt command a serious presence in the social media landscape. Getting this right means massively increasing the exposure of businesses listing in the YP. And that, obviously, massively increases the value of listing in the YP. Perhaps bringing it closer to what they charge you 😉

      That's just the tip of the iceberg on that point.

      Check out this post from Julian Cole on bought vs earned media, a very insightful extension of this.


      2. Embracing social media as a pull channel.

      One of the points I made was that other directories and search engines are working hard to pull in as much data and metadata as possible to make their content/information stream more valuable.

      This is where innovation in this market is centred.

      I also mentioned that the YP reject this because their listings are driven by cold hard cash.

      But wait a minute… so are Googles… hmmm.

      Old school, stand-alone directories simply will not survive moving forward.

      Bing came out and called themselves a “decision engine”, and it's a poignant term.

      The future of directories is in search, information, recommendation and ultimately decision.

      To specifically answer your point, the information users want IS in social media. And we're not just talking facebook and twitter, 'social media' is a much broader term than that. We're also talking reviews, comments, ratings, recommendations and all manner of other data.

      Again, that's the tip of the iceberg 🙂


      • http://levlafayette.com Lev Lafayette

        Hi Lachy,

        I understand what you're saying, and that's a particularly pithy summary at the end. The problem for YP is that before they can seriously move into the highly competitive social media space – which you are very right, they could do well in – they must make their core product not only functional, but the preferred choice among users.

        At the moment the preferred choice for finding businesses is not the Yellow Pages, because the “user experience”, as you've illustrated, is so poor. People prefer to use Google, which should be counter-intuitive, but it's a reality. Google works because of modular design, simplicity, speed etc.

        I am trying to imagine what the Yellow Pages would be like if they embraced social networking technologies with their current technology. It is a very unattractive mental image.

        All the best,


  • http://www.mcmissy.worpress.com mcMissy

    Hi Lachy,

    This is a great article, you've certainly covered all bases. But I thought I would play a bit of devils advocate ;).



  • Teylu

    Great article and very thorough.
    I also too wondered was this the best excercise for Yellow pages to embark on.

    Anyways I thought I would try Plumbers Collingwood search too.
    I too only found 1 YP sponsored ad on the side. I clicked on the map listing in google that came at the top of the search and notice in the next window at the bottom it says business listing provided by Yellow Pages.

    I wonder if that is where they are spending thier advertiser money??

    Cheers for the great read. Keep up the good work.

  • http://simonfoodfavourites.blogspot.com simonfoodfavourites

    very interesting read. maybe Yellow Pages will learn a lot from this exercise and use the information to create a better Yellow Pages. i really wanted to try the pizza but didn't have the time when i visited Melbourne. i was hoping they were going to keep the pizza place. sounded like a place with a great environmental message to give too. 🙂

    • http://anthillonline.wpengine.com LachyW

      Hi Simon,

      Full credit to the restaurant staff. The pizza was absolutley delicious and though there were some grumblings about the service and staff attitude early in the promotion, when I went they were all smiles and helpfulness.

      One problem was that the place was constantly packed beyond its capacity. It was like a crowded nightclub… except it was a restaurant. The night I went, they were filming a TVC that is coming in the wake of this. So I think it's fairly obvious they wanted this crowd for promotional reasons (photos, TVCs, etc).

      That cuts to the heart of my biggest grind with this whole promotion. The whole excercise and 'eco-system' that it existed within was manipulated well beyond reason.

      Anyway, it would be great if the place was going to stick around. But I guess the thing here is to stay tuned to head chef Tony Fazio's next move.


  • http://www.semi-blog.com Seb

    The pile of uncollected yellow pages at the bottom of my apartment block pretty much sums up the future of YellowPages. Good article, I really like the #YellowPagesAU idea, perhaps someone should just do it for YP?

  • CC

    What idiot signed this off! Let's see … they spent $2m in the shop design, they gave away FREE pizzas, and they got friends and family of Clemenger to get one every day for 2 weeks! A big success they say – and yes, it'll be entered into the self service advertising awards. Come on this is getting ridiculous!! How about accountability? – how do you think a small retailer would feel seeing a case study about how much of a success this was only using Yellow Pages online(sort of)? Oh – and to duplicate it – you have to GIVE AWAY your product! Bloody idiots! Shame shame shame – on all concerned and shame on the advertising industry if you reward this rubbish. $2m/2weeks and free product – what a revelation. How do I know? I am one of the family & friends asked to sign up to make it a success!!!!

  • Matt

    Great Article – I 100% agree – cool concept that completely fails to showcase the product benefits of YP. The issue is of course that with the lack of product development at Sensis, their online products are lamentably bad. When WP and YP were 2 of the top 5 Web sites in Australia (pre-Google gasp!) it was because they worked….astonishing concept, I know.
    Try searching for a person or a business in either directory online – it's hopeless, as they sold their soul for the commercial dollar, whilst forgetting what made them useful in the 1st place. Be as anti-Google as you like, but it has always stuck to its guns in terms of providing useful contextual search, and then added great products like GMaps and GMail.
    I think Sensis is a dead man walking….

  • http://hiddenpizza.com Benjamin H. W. Sheedy

    Half way through the hidden pizza campaign I set up

    Until now I have avoided commenting on these sort of blog posts to properly test Google's speed to react… Turns out Google's pretty good. Who'da thunk it.

    I was quick to reach the Top 10 for “hidden pizza” and was number 1 for “hidden pizza Melbourne” (the main terms which drew people to my site).

    I'm a web designer/deveolper that build to Web Standards, but did not put any thought to any SEO strategy.

    Had the corporate hidden pizza site had the phone number (like any other business would) I don't think YP would have faired too well.

  • http://YourWebsite PC user

    RE: Your comment
    “This whole campaign reminded me of the Mac vs PC ads. The socialising web and Google are Mac. And, you guessed it, Yellow Pages are PC.”

    Wouldn’t it be the other way around, MAC is Yellow Pages. PC is the internet.

    MAC doesn’t work with anything but authorised MAC product. PC’s run anything.

    Most recent example of Apple’s behaviour is the ipad. They refused to have flash operate on it, saying it’s not secure. The truth being that Adobe, the owners of flash wouldn’t bow to the onerous demands of Apple.

    A more visible example of some questionable behaviour by Apple is it’s itunes store and it’s DRM (digital rights management)it imbeds in most product you get off the site.

    DRM is like buying a pen but it only working on certain paper sold by the company that sold you the pen. It also prevents you taking the product you bought and use it where and when you want….this is like those Aldi shopping trolleys that have some sort of inductive brake mechanism that turns on a brake on the wheels if you venture too far from the store with the shopping trolley…but Aldi’s behaviour is reasonable. You haven’t purchased the shopping trolley.

  • Jademunk

    Uhhm. Your comments were great. Until.. you attempted to make a pro-mac correlation. Those video ad's are either way old or simply lieing. Mac lost the hardware battle… 'Macs' are now what was traditionally simply pc architecture with Mac OS on them, nothing more, nothing less. I like two mouse buttons.

  • Jademunk

    Oh and yeah, like 5999, out of the claimed 6000 calls by Yellow Pages's Hidden Restaurant site, I found it on a blog through google.

  • http://www.astutebuyersadvocates.com.au/ Buyers Advocates Melbourne

    Love the idea on the design of the inside – recycled stuff – that’s just too cool and earth friendly. And the concept of Hidden .. sounds like the pizza is too good that they have to hide it afraid that people might storm the place .. very interesting

  • http://farmingclassifieds.co.uk/ Farming Classifieds

    LOL at that facebook page, I have even made better ones than that!

  • http://www.peterkingplumbing.com.au/ Commercial Plumbing Brisbane

    It is wonderful post

  • Breece

    Hi Lachy!
    Great work on this analysis. 
    We’ve been researching ways to use social media for our business (www.hubplan.com.au) and found your article provided a really good insight into how web marketing can work and how it can fail dismally. 
    I hope there’s some marketing geniuses out there identifying your skills.
    Good luck mate,

  • http://1seocompany.com.au/search-engine-optimisation-services-seo SEO Services Melbourne

    Thank u for sharing such a nice post and provide some tips and strategy for improvement the business.

  • Beacon Cove

    new pizza restaurant is launched in Melbourne with great offers and good
    arrangements. It have a great tasty and fresh pizza.
    Bar Restaurant Melbourne

  • Ant Agonist

    Talk about a post with longevity.