Home Articles Yellow Pages responds to Hidden Pizza campaign critics

Yellow Pages responds to Hidden Pizza campaign critics


Editor’s note: A couple of weeks back Lachy Wharton’s article Hidden Pizza Restaurant reveals not-so-hidden flaws in Yellow Pages’ digital strategy set off a tide of comment here on Anthill and through various social media channels. Much of this sentiment, like the article itself, was critical of Yellow Pages’ campaign. At the time, the marketers at Yellow Pages were staying tight-lipped. However, now that the campaign has concluded, Stephen Ronchi has accepted our invitation to present the Hidden Pizza campaign from Yellow Pages’ perspective.

Hiding pizzas and proving value

By Stephen Ronchi

With the doors closed and the pizza oven cool, Yellow Pages is pleased to take up Anthill’s offer to join the discussion and provide some insight into what the Hidden Pizza Restaurant was all about for us, the public and for small businesses.

Starting from the top, the primary reason for the Hidden Pizza Restaurant initiative was to highlight the value of Yellow Pages to small businesses. The secondary reason was to get people talking about our brand and to engage them in the use of our products. We did this by setting the challenge for people to find the contact details of the restaurant by looking it up the way they would any other business, in order to get a free pizza and visit our hidden location. The only place we published the contact details was in the Yellow Pages.

In the two weeks of operation, the restaurant received just over 8,000 calls. Each time someone called, we asked them where they found the number. The results showed more than 70% of callers found the number in Yellow Pages. Here’s a breakdown of the results:

  • 6079 calls found the number in Yellow Pages
  • 2167 calls found the number in other ways (word of mouth, email, blogs, etc.)

With this type of exercise, we knew there would be a number of ways people would find our contact details. But what the results show is that for businesses (and consumers) Yellow Pages is a very effective way to reach customers. It is not the only way, but it is a very effective way, particularly for small businesses who may be time-poor and don’t always have the necessary expertise in marketing and advertising, web and content development, search engine optimisation, search engine marketing, etc.

One of the key learnings for us has been how little awareness there is about Yellow Pages content being available on search engines. A couple of years ago, Yellow Pages made the decision to open up its online content so that it could be crawled and indexed by search engines. This means that Yellow Pages business listings are available to be found in the organic search results of all the major search engines.

While the restaurant was open, the Yellow Pages listing for Hidden Pizza Restaurant was among the top organic search results on Google for the keyword search “hidden pizza”.  Add to that the high brand awareness of Yellow Pages and its recognised role providing business information and you can see how these organic search listings become very valuable.

The results reinforce this. Of the 539 calls to the restaurant that said they used Google (it’s likely there were more), 255 said Google took them to Yellow Pages and 284 said Google took them to another site.

To credibly demonstrate the value of Yellow Pages, we had to operate the Hidden Pizza Restaurant under certain limitations. This meant disguising our involvement and not interfering with the search challenge we created. Of paramount importance was being able to maintain the integrity of the exercise and have legitimate results we could use at the end of it.

This meant taking a limited approach to using social media. For example, the Hidden Pizza Restaurant page on Facebook was very basic and didn’t take advantage of all the interactive capabilities on offer. We recognised an open Facebook page could make it possible for fans to reveal the phone number and location of the restaurant.

So rather than us create a presence that might influence the search process, we decided to leave that to others in places like Foursquare. After all, the exercise was about putting our brand and products to the test so it was important for us to keep our distance and see what happened.

We were confident our combination of a mystery location, the challenge to find our contact details, high-quality free pizza, an interesting restaurant space and interior design would prove successful in creating demand and generating interest from a social media perspective.

The next phase of marketing activity for the Hidden Pizza Restaurant is an important part of the concept. All the way through the build and the operation of the restaurant, we took photos, shot footage and interviewed patrons in order to feature them in our above-the-line ad campaign which will tell the story of the Hidden Pizza Restaurant and the results it generated. This approach has enabled us to leverage the investment in the restaurant phase for the benefit of our traditional media campaign, which begins in mid-May.

For Yellow Pages, strategic investment in product innovation has been critical for us as we have evolved from a print-only product in the mid-1990s to a multi-channel search network available in print, online, mobile (including iPhone and Android devices), over the phone, on search engines, on digital mapping sites and on satellite navigation devices today. Our strategy is about making Yellow Pages content available to more people in more places and, in turn, delivering better returns for our advertisers. Product development, particularly into new digital channels, is a key part of that.

We also view greater integration with social media as a key part of our future success. It is new territory for Yellow Pages and the Hidden Pizza Restaurant campaign represents our first steps. As firm believers that you need to walk before you can run, we’re pleased with the results we’ve been able to generate to date and look forward to learning and developing our capabilities so that we can play a greater role in the social web in the near future.

Stephen Ronchi is Strategic Communications Manager at Sensis, which owns Yellow Pages Australia.

Photo: wEnDaLicious