What Is Directory Advertising?

Helen Akers

Directory advertising is the placement of print ads and business contact information in the yellow and white pages of phone books. Publishers of directories may place white and yellow page listings into separate publications. Phone directory advertising is typically grouped by major metropolitan areas and their sub-communities. Advertisements are usually listed in alphabetical order by category, such as legal and counseling services.

Ads may be bought in the Yellow Pages.
Ads may be bought in the Yellow Pages.

For most businesses, placing a listing or a display ad in the yellow or white pages is an economical way to reach potential customers. The fact that many consumers consult phone book listings when searching for a business that can meet their needs is one of the reasons behind its low cost. Besides a listing or display ad, some directories sell cut-out coupon space and full-length cover ads.

In phone books, the white pages are a directory of names, phone numbers, and addresses.
In phone books, the white pages are a directory of names, phone numbers, and addresses.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of directory advertising is that the publication usually contains emergency and public service information relative to the community it is distributed in. In most cases, the local phone company takes the responsibility of producing and distributing the directories on an annual basis. The company's sales representatives solicit local and regional businesses to take out or renew display ads and basic listings.

White pages differ from yellow pages in that the publications list residential phone numbers in addition to local businesses. Yellow pages focus exclusively on commercial listings and may feature quarter page, half page, or full-page advertisements. Depending on the area's population, two separate directory advertising publications may be produced. In smaller communities, the yellow and white page listings are usually combined into one book.

While the white pages will simply list phone numbers and addresses in alphabetical order, yellow pages directory advertising will group listings by business type. For example, all law firms that choose to purchase ad space in the directory will be listed under "law firms" or "legal counsel." In some cases, sub-groups or specialties will be grouped together in separate sections. For instance, some yellow page publications break up law firms according to specialty, such as "family/divorce" and "workers' compensation."

Phone companies usually distribute directory advertising publications to most residents of the community, as well as to commercial and government establishments. Since the publication costs are covered by advertising fees, residential members do not pay for the books. Many use it as a resource when they move to a new community and are unfamiliar with what services may be available. In addition to print publications, Internet yellow and white page directory listings may be available.

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