Creative Campaigns: Curious Yellow

Martin calls Jon Lovitz for a return engagement
There’s no listing in the Yellow Pages for “smarmy comedians.” If there were, you might find a number for Saturday Night Live grad Jon Lovitz, who reprises his role as “The Man Who Wrote the Yellow Pages” in 13 new TV spots from The Martin Agency in Richmond, Va.
The $21 million campaign, which broke Jan. 17 and runs through May, touts the phone tome as an “idea source.” It builds on last year’s national effort–the Yellow Pages’ first since the early 1980s–which was designed to raise the book’s awareness.
Phase two is more straightforward. Where last year’s eight ads put Lovitz on a celebrity tour bus and were steeped in irony and subtle humor, the 2000 effort is less about the alleged writer of the Yellow Pages and more about the book itself.
Unlike the first campaign, which had a print component, the 2000 advertising effort will focus entirely on network, cable TV and radio.
“Because of Jon’s animated way, he plays much better on broadcast,” explains copywriter John Mahoney.
The ads–three 30-second spots, the rest 15-second spots–are also built to last. They “will give us a saturation campaign, but you don’t want it to hit burnout,” says account supervisor Tim Geisert. “Research [indicated] the more people saw [the campaign], the more they liked it.” Martin’s media strategy calls for the ads to run more than 5,000 times.
The new work continues to use the lightbulb graphic instead of the walking-fingers logo. Each ad for the Denver-based Yellow Pages Publishers Association is tagged: “Get an idea.”
The longer ads are flashier for network airplay since “people are expecting something more sophisticated,” says Clint Pollard, evp of marketing for the client. A third 30-second spot puts Lovitz in a posh spa. Instead of irony, the humor is broader and includes an Indiana Jones’ knockoff and a campy take on The Sopranos.
Geisert says the content of the 15-second spots is designed to blend with niche programming for greater viewer impact, noting they were easier to place on cable. The agency could produce almost eight of these spots for the same price as a 30-second commercial, he explains.
The 15-second spots find Lovitz in an all-yellow room telling stories and making points. They end with references to specific directory headings and the different ideas found under those headings.
These ads are designed for the Sci-Fi Channel, Travel Channel and HGTV. In one that runs only until April 15, Lovitz spends 15 seconds weeping before the “tax assistance” heading is revealed.
While most of the ads were scripted, many were changed on the spot. Some, including the tax-consultant spot, were “created on the fly” by Martin creatives, Lovitz and director Noam Murro, says Mahoney.
“I thought they were fooling around,” Mahoney relates. “They just filmed Jon laughing and crying. Later, we flipped through the Yellow Pages to find something to go with it.”
During the three-day shoot in Los Angeles, Murro says Lovitz offered his own ad libs to the scripts.
“Jon had a certain idea about his persona. Sometimes, he’d be [protesting], ‘That’s not me!’ And I’d tell him, ‘I’ll decide what’s you or not.’ ” Murro explains.
“Hey, we’re both Jewish. He would kvetch, I would kvetch,” says Murro, “and sometimes that would lead to something better.” K
Yellow Pages Publishers Association
Agency: The Martin Agency Richmond, Va.
Creative Director: Mike Hughes
Assoc. Creative Director, Copywriter: John Mahoney
Assoc. Creative Director, Art Director: Cliff Sorah
Producer: Mary Holland
Director: Noam Murrow Stiefel & Co. Las Palmas, California
Editor: Charley Chubak
Music: Hum Music Design

Publish date: January 31, 2000 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT