Years and years before you were born, there was a book called The Yellow Pages. Once a year It was delivered free to every household in America. The book listed all of the local businesses in each city and town.
The more that people used The Yellow Pages, the more the client could charge for display advertising. But revenue was falling off. People looked up the handful of businesses they normally used, then the book would just sit on a shelf by the phone, gathering dust.
We needed to blow the dust off a product that people had come to take for granted, a product that had become almost invisible, a product that people only thought they knew.
There was an interesting fact on the creative brief. The Yellow Pages was the second-most popular book in the world. The art director and I threw around a bunch of ideas. We couldn’t make people look for businesses they had no interest in, but we could make people see the The Yellow Pages in a new light. We could give it a fresh new attitude and even a sense of humor. This was our pitch to our creative director.
The Yellow Pages is the second most popular book in the world. Let’s introduce the world to its author.
As a creative thinker, whenever you’re connecting the dots in a new way, it’s always helpful to stress-test your idea first. Is there tension you can play against? Is there a character or story arc you can build on? Can the idea sustain itself over time?
This is how we stress-tested our idea. First, we figured out who the author was going to be. Then we wrote an imaginary interview with the author. Once we wrote the interview, we felt we had the beginning of an idea. Here are the interview and how the final ad turned out.
INT: So, Jon Lovitz, are you saying you are the author of The Yellow Pages?
JON: Yes. Yes I am.
INT: Why haven’t we heard about this before? Was it a secret or something?
JON: Yeah, that’s it. It was a secret. It was a great big secret.
INT: Okay…so where exactly where did you write The Yellow Pages?
JON: I can’t reveal that, but it’s a place I go to get away and think. Thinking. Ever heard of it?
INT: Yes, I’ve heard of thinking. Jon, why did you write it?
JON: For the betterment of humanity. Why else? That, and I’m waiting for a big movie deal.
INT: How long did it take you to write The Yellow Pages?
JON: Longer than you think. It’s a big book. There’s a lot in it. In fact, everything’s in it. I l bled ink for my art!
INT: You bled ink?
JON: Okay, it was a paper cut. But I almost required medical attention.
INT: I’m curious. You chose to write it alphabetically? Why?
JON: Well, I tried stream of consciousness, but I kept losing my place.
INT: Interesting. Last night I was skimming…
JON: Skimming? It’s not a vat of cream. It’s a book I wrote the book to be read.
INT: Yes, I realize that. But as I was saying, I was skimming through your book, and I noticed that Hair Replacement and Hair Salons are in close proximity. What were you trying to say?
JON: Nothing. Are you accusing me of wearing a rug?
INT: No, not at all. But now that you mention it… Let’s move on. Why yellow?
JON: Why not?
INT: What about a book tour?
JON. In the works.
INT: Okay, I think we have enough for now. Anything else you’d like to add?
JON: Is this going to be on 60 Minutes?
INT: No, it isn’t.
JON: Did I mention the paper cut?
INT. Yes, you did.
JON: I almost required medical attention.
INT: Yes. It sounded quite serious.