Canadian Pizza Magazine

Are you yellow, or are you read?

Stacy Bradshaw   

Features Business and Operations Marketing

Are your ad dollars drawing readers, or just commissions for the salesperson

Advertising space in the yellow pages is expensive, and for pizza operators the competition is particularly fierce.

Your phone book advertising

pages-yellowAdvertising space in the yellow pages is expensive, and for pizza operators the competition is particularly fierce.

Numerous pizzerias offering seemingly similar products are pitted against each other in very tight quarters. Making your ad stand out is the name of the game.


At the 2006 International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, Larry Mersereau, a specialist in small business marketing and promotion, told independent pizza operators that there are specific things they can do to create a yellow page ad that has impact – and gets results. Following the basic principles of graphic design and a few marketing fundamentals, Mersereau shared some keys pointers that will guarantee your ad will stop “walking fingers” in their tracks.

1. Never let the yellow-page advertising representative design your ad.
“They’re in the business of selling ads, not pizzas,” said Mersereau. Yellow page reps will stroke your ego – they will plug you, your name, and your company, because they want to please you. But according to Mersereau, they’d be plugging all the wrong things. The customer wants pizza, not you.

2. Do not make your company name the headline
Customers are looking for a solution to their problem, so your headline should reflect the solutions you can offer: free delivery, gourmet taste, whatever it is that differentiates your establishment, should be in your headline.

Mersereau said the headline is 80 per cent responsible for the success of a marketing piece. “If it doesn’t stop them and make them want to read more, they’re never going to see the rest."

He explained that, just as people read text linearly, they read advertisements from left to right, top to bottom. You can assume they will read whatever you put in the top left hand corner first, and that will influence their decision to either read on, or turn the page. So make it good.

3. Resist the urge to fill up every last bit of space  available
People are drawn to large type surrounded by white space; it’s an oasis for the eye. “And if everyone in your phonebook is in colour, go black and white, and you’ll stand out.”

Make sure the headline will distract the customer away from the other ads, then direct their eye to the next step in Mersereau’s magic formula – proof of the promise you made in the headline.

Half the population does not have the same sense of humour as you do. So avoid trying to be funny in a yellow page ad.

“Guarantee” is the most powerful word in marketing. But always be careful of what you promise. For example, “the best pizza you’ve ever had” is a subjective claim that may invite skepticism.

Curiosity always kills the cat. “Clever” advertisements that don’t have anything to do with your product – those that attempt to keep them guessing – are very, very dangerous.

If you’re the first one to make a promise, you own that promise. It doesn’t have to be something that only you can do – you just have to be the first one to promise it. Then drive it in every marketing piece you create.
– Larry Mersereau

4. If you promise “fresh hot pizza,” then you have to prove it
Consumers are always scared they’re going to make the wrong decision. Take away that risk by proving that their hard earned cash is safe with you. Some of the best “proof statements” are: awards that your establishment has won; how many years you’ve been in business; or quite simply, a picture of your pizza.

Always use real pictures, said Mersereau. “People don’t believe graphics.” And if you can’t afford a professional food photographer, try sourcing images from stock photography websites like and

5. Entice the customer to take action
Invite the reader to take that next step by giving the phone number, website or address significant prominence on the page. Contact information is most effective in the bottom right hand logo. This is also where you’re company logo should be. Print the credit cards you accept in close proximity to the contact info.

Proposition the customer with coupons or value-added rewards. “I don’t like straight discounts,” admitted Mersereau.

Discounts tell the customer the product wasn’t worth that much to begin with. If you discount price, you lower the value of the product, he said. Offer free garlic bread, pop or salad with an order; but never discount. And always keep in mind – a yellow page ad is set in stone for an entire year. Don’t include prices or anything else that could potentially change within that time.

6. Remember the “Rule of Seven” and always maintain consistency
Mersereau said people have to “see you” seven times before they know and remember your name. If you don’t look the same every time, the repetition is lost. He suggested only changing the upper 2/3 of the ad, ensuring the bottom section (with your contact info and logo) always stays the same. Keep the same font, the same logo and the same look in all of your marketing materials.• 

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