Direct Marketing Article
A Yellow Pages Advertising Secret
By Bob Bly
Here's one Yellow Pages advertising technique that may work for you.
Ironically, I learned it from my dad.
I say "ironically" because my father had no interest in advertising or
marketing. His expertise was insurance - he was an insurance agent, and he
knew the technical aspects of insurance inside and out.
He ran a one-man insurance agency in downtown Paterson using his own name -
"F.W. 'Dave' Bly Insurance."
F stood for Fabian, which he hated. Most people who hate their first names
go by their middle name - but the "W" in "F.W." stood for "Wolf," which he
He told me that when he was a kid and he met new kids who asked him his
name, he would mumble "Fabe" - short for Fabian – and hope they couldn't
hear him clearly.
One day, another kid replied, "Did you say 'Dave'?"
"Yeah," said dad, and from then on he went by Dave - for the rest of his
His major means of advertising his agency was an ad in the Yellow Pages.
As a small independent agent in the rather downscale city of Paterson, NJ,
where we lived, Dave Bly couldn't afford the biggest ad on the page - other,
larger agencies could always outspend him.
So one year he decided to try something new.
In his small display ad (I can't remember the exact size), he made the
headline "INSURANCE" in large, bold type.
Underneath, he had two columns of bullets - a laundry list of all the types
of items he could insure for you.
In the list, he focused on items that people frequently asked about but that
other insurance agents did not actively pursue: snow mobiles, I recall, were
one of the items in his bullet list.
Underneath he had the name of his agency and the phone number.
Well, that bullet list ad was far more successful than any other ad he ever
ran, getting him at least one phone call a day from people needing
They told him they were trying to find insurance for a particular item (like
a snow mobile).
So they opened the Yellow Pages to "insurance," and his ad was the ONLY
insurance ad in the book with the word "snowmobiles" in it. So of course
they called him first.
Other agents, of course, could also insure snowmobiles and the other items
in his bullet list.
But if you want to buy a kiwi fruit, which ad will you respond to - the one
that says "fruits" or the one that says "kiwis"?
Consumer Reports used this technique in a recent mailing to sell
subscriptions to their magazine.
The magazine rates consumer products in a wide variety of categories for
quality. Many people, however, think of Consumer Reports primarily for their
new car ratings.
A recent mailing used an oversize envelope. Printed on the outer envelope
were the names of dozens of consumer products covered by Consumer Reports -
everything from loudspeakers and soy milk, to
treadmills and microwave ovens. Literally dozens of different products
Dad never made a fortune as an insurance agent, but he took himself out of
poverty (he was a child during the Great Depression) and supported a family
of four - and his Yellow Pages ads always
paid back their cost many times over.
He was a patriotic American, but not a rapid capitalist - he felt insurance
costs were getting out of control and that the only way to make it
affordable to the masses would eventually be to socialize insurance.
He was also old-fashioned: computers came into insurance offices, but by
then, he was near the end of his career and refused to learn them, never
even touching a PC.
He left the PC work to his assistant, which by that time was my mother - who
now has a computer in her home.
About the Author:
BOB BLY is an independent copywriter and consultant with more than 25 years
of experience in business-to-business, high-tech, industrial, and direct
marketing. He has written copy for over 100 clients including Network
Solutions, ITT Fluid Technology, Medical Economics, Intuit, Business & Legal
Reports, and Brooklyn Union Gas...and has won numerous industry awards. Bob
is the author of more than 70 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to
Direct Marketing (Alpha Books) and The Copywriter’s Handbook (Henry Holt &
Co.). Visit: www.BobBlyMarketingBooks.com