Awards case study: Yell's creative approach yields 179% increase in target number of leads

Discover how True Agency's creative campaign for Yell led to a 125% uplift in awareness of Yell Connect and an increase of target leads by 179%

The Yell brand has a long-standing relationship with the British public, with their advertising becoming particularly famous in 1983 with the JR Hartley ads. It touched hearts with the Christmas ad of the young boy standing on the Yellow Pages to reach a kiss with a girl under the mistletoe and made us laugh with the James Nesbitt ads that followed a decade later.

But this giant struggled as the digital age eroded their traditional directories business, leading to a major downturn in fortunes in 2012. The introduction of new digital marketing services for SMEs has since provided steady growth, despite very low awareness in the marketplace that Yell now offers services such as website design and build, PPC and display advertising. Yell’s raison-d’être has not changed - it still helps local businesses connect with more customers.

True's campaign needed to reconnect businesses with the Yell brand, raise awareness of their new services and convince small business owners that Yell is the right company to help them attract more customers in a digital world.


In 2007, Yell was a member of the FTSE 100 index and worth £5bn. However, the digital age was making its traditional directories business more and more irrelevant; and the move online to was significantly challenged by the likes of Google and Yahoo.


In 2011, Yell announced a new transformation strategy that would see it add more digital products to their offering, providing digital marketing services to SMEs – including website design and build, PPC and display advertising. However, double-digit revenue declines were not being replaced fast enough by income from these products and their share price dropped from £4.16 in 2007 to 1.1p in 2012, when they defaulted on their debt.

Fast forward to 2016 and Yell has seen steady market growth for four years, with its digital service offering growing among SMEs. However, despite having a very famous brand with a strong history, awareness and loyalty among the British public, there is extremely low awareness that Yell has moved into this new area – with a brand research survey showing that only 3% of the market knew Yell for digital marketing services.


Due to recent budgetary restrictions, True's pilot campaign in the Manchester region needed to prove that the company could reconnect with small businesses, raise awareness of Yell's digital marketing products and generate immediate sales leads. A positive ROI was paramount in order to secure further investment in marketing. True therefore needed to prove the positive impact of improved brand awareness and attribute sales directly to marketing activity in the short term.

Target audience

Yell's prospects, local businesses with low to mid-level digital maturity, don’t always understand how digital marketing and the internet can impact their business, and how detrimental it can be to have a poor online presence. True therefore needed to make the audience aware of the dangers that having a bad online presence can have and the positive impact that digital marketing can make to their business. Lack of knowledge in digital marketing leads to real fears for business owners of small and medium sized companies in the UK who know they should be doing something online but do not know where to start. 

The big idea

True wanted to challenge the audience to rethink their relationship with the online world. The ads took typical online issues for SMEs and dramatise them with an emotionally led ‘smile’ in the mind. It introduced the smart-phone device (branded Yell yellow) as a way of depicting the online world in relation to each of the scenarios.

In an instant, readers can see the potential chasm between their offline business and how it is represented online. Having clearly set up the problems, the copy outlines the solutions. True also used a ‘Yell Business’ sub-brand to differentiate this division from the directories business.

Word of mouth is now online

A common objection from prospects is that they 'do not need to do anything online' because they get all their business from word of mouth. But the SME does not understand that people are leaving (sometimes poor) reviews about their business online without them being aware of it. This press ad prompts the user to place their mobile phone over the mouth. The ad then talks to them - explaining the benefits of an intelligent online presence.

Awards case study: Yell's creative approach yields 179% increase in target number of leads

Is your business invisible online? (see headline image above)
Here True makes the audience’s business literally invisible to demonstrate the reality of what it now means to not have an online presence. (The ad promotes Yell’s new Connect product which gets businesses listed across hundreds of websites and social media.)

Media and channels used


True's radio ad execution uses a man searching for a business using Siri. Siri tells him the reason he cannot find the company is because they don’t use Yell Connect... have a listen, it sounds better in the flesh.     

A multichannel strategy was adopted, to balance awareness with lead generation.

Reach to drive awareness

  • Out of home: billboards at mainline stations, on trams and busy traffic ways
  • Press (local newspapers and magazines)
  • Traditional display advertising
  • Radio.

Targeting to drive awareness and leads

  • PPC
  • Programmatic online advertising
  • Remarketing
  • Sponsored social posts and lead gen activity
  • Third party publisher lead gen programmes
  • Email.

Engagement for education and conversion

  • Landing pages
  • Content
  • Social media (earned).


  • Full social media mix
  • Website skins and digital placements with publishers targeting small businesses
  • Word of mouth press ad
  • Lead gen activity on Facebook
  • Lead gen activity on Twitter
  • Local newspapers (mix of placements)
  • Metro panels ad.

Campaign timescales

  • Planning and research: November 2015 - February 2016
  • Pre-campaign brand awareness survey: February 2016
  • National digital campaign launch: March 2016 – May 2016
  • ATL campaign launch in Manchester region: March 2016 – May 2016
  • Post-campaign brand awareness survey: May 2016.


  • 39% of local businesses had noticed brand advertising from Yell
  • 125% uplift in awareness of Yell Connect, a social media platform
  • 93% uplift in awareness of Yell
  • 19% more likely to use Yell (Research: independently verified)
  • Target number of leads (inbound sales calls/leads and online registrations) exceeded by 179%.    

“We tasked True to balance delivery of immediate leads for the business while repositioning the Yell brand as a leading digital solutions provider. As our first big ad campaign for some time, it was important to make it a success. The campaign has over-delivered on our expectations creatively, strategically and financially and we are extremely excited to be rolling the campaign out further over the coming year,” Mark Clisby, marketing director.