President and CEO Frank Jules, who has held the top slot at AT&T Advertising & Publishing for a year, laid out a prescription for Yellow Pages growth during a keynote at Kelsey’s Directional Media Strategies conference in Atlanta, noting at the top that his business is “changing dramatically.” Jules’ prescription is heavily dependent on the success of AT&T’s efforts on the Internet, which is growing at a clip of 40 percent per year, and social network models.
Cracking social models such as personalized plans and events is “very, very important. If we do it well, we’ll grow from 20 million to 40 million unique visitors on the Web,” said Jules. “And we think there is monetization for advertisers and customers along the way.”
Social areas that will be tackled by AT&T include movies, autos and restaurants. Video also plays a major role. He noted that AT&T has sold 20,000 video ads to small-business customers to date. “They are the least likely to churn,” he noted. “They’re something that actually stays up there. We’re very big on them.”
Going forward, Jules says he has just finished getting budgeting approved for a three-year growth plan in which the Internet gets the lion’s share of the investment. But the plan also includes investments in print, Hispanic media and rep training. “Simple search is evolving to search, discover and transact in all these categories.
“Lots of capital is being put into mobile apps,” he added, noting that the iPhone is “the premier device. We’re spending lots of time on voice recognition applications.”
AT&T’s free directory assistance service, 1-800-YellowPages, is also part of the mix, as is its recent acquisition of Ingenio, a leading pay-per-call service. “We are using it in underutilized headings,” he said. “But we are only dabbling in it today. We’ll be providing a much more robust offering in 2009. It will be the small businesses’ ultimate proof in value,” he predicted.
Jules also provided details of a digitalized Yellow Pages service in the former BellSouth region called “RealPagesLive.” The service enables users to type in digital Post-it notes as mnemonic devices and to turn pages virtually. He conceded, however, that the service has been under-promoted. Mostly, it is being offered for corporate databases, he said.