Do you think newspapers have it rough? How would you like to be in the telephone directory business?
When was the last time that you cracked open a Yellow or White Pages phone directory? It’s been some time, hasn’t it?
Directories once thrived as a cash cow for phone companies and a lucrative business for ad agencies. The arrival of the annual phone book was a big deal. It wasn’t that long ago (1979) that Steve Martin wildly celebrated the coming of the new phone book. After finding his name on page 73, he ecstatically proclaimed "I'm somebody now. ...Millions of people look at this book everyday," Martin said in the film gem, "The Jerk."
Carved out of Verizon in 2006, Idearc boasted a stock price of $37 in '07. Thirty-seven dollars can buy 1,234 shares of that stock today.
Like the newspaper business, Idearc has Internet dreams. The Dallas-based company faces a long slog. Online revenues in advanced a mere 5.3 percent to $300M in '08. That’s a small fraction of its $2.6B print revenues. Print sales slid 7.9 percent.
The economic downturn undoubtedly has contributed to Idearc’s woes. CEO Mark Klein alluded to the recession when he launched the “SuperGuarantee” program in February, offering a shield of approval to local plumbers, dog groomers, auto repair shops, contractors, wedding consultants and others who are listed in his books.
Interpublic’s TM Advertising created TV ads for SuperGurantee that ran in primetime spots such as the “NCAA Basketball Championship,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Private Practice.”
Klein believes SuperGuarantee will reduce consumer risk and drive business to Idearc’s advertisers. He assumes people will remember where they stashed their old phone books.