Yellow Pages – The Logo, Line and Campaign

Yellow pages old

A combination of a great logo, slogan and advertising campaign helped Yellow Pages to be the go-to directory for all services

In 1883, a printer in Cheyenne, Wyoming, US, working on a conventional telephone directory, ran out of white paper, so he used yellow paper instead. This is the origin of the “Yellow Pages” moniker and idea. The first Yellow Pages directory was published by Reuben H. Donnelley in 1886.

The phrase “Yellow Pages” is now often used in nations where English is not the primary language. While in the United States, it simply means the type, in other countries it is a proper noun since it is a trademarked term. In the United States, the phrase Yellow Pages is not protected by trademark law and is widely used by a variety of businesses.

Almost every directory publisher that isn’t part of a large chain uses a variation of the iconic logo, and they’re all within their rights to do so. The ‘Walking Fingers’ and the tagline have been permanently implanted in the psyches of both customers and merchants. They have such a strong cultural resonance that no other symbols used to refer to Yellow Pages directories have caught on with the public.

Although Yellow Pages is a household name, its logo and tagline’s beginnings, as well as the launch of its first successful advertising campaign, remain a mystery to many.

The  Logo

New England artist Henry Alexander designed the “Walking Fingers” emblem. Following his graduation from New Bedford, Massachusetts’s Swain School of Design, Alexander went on to work as a freelance artist and commercial designer. He worked at the New England Telephone Company for a total of 31 years. The “walking fingers”  symbol he created in 1962 quickly became a household name in conjunction with the yellow pages.

AT&T never sought trademark protection for the most well-known iteration of the “Walking Fingers” logo, which has three fingers. While AT&T did get a trademark for a variant of their emblem, the three-fingered form was never seen as exclusive and was instead made available to all phone books. In the 1970s, television commercials in numerous places featured a disembodied hand “walking” through an open Yellow Pages with the tagline “Let Your Fingers Do the Walking.”

The Line

After working together at Benton & Bowles’ London office, Americans Bob Geers and Bob Gross established the advertising agency Geers Gross in 1964.

In 1962, Geers Gross came up with the phrase “Let your fingers do the walking” for the Yellow Pages.

yellow pages ad

The First Successful Advertising Campaigns

The art director at Cunningham & Walsh, Stephen Baker, came up with the first few. The company’s sassy advertising helped it become a household name throughout the globe. The tagline and the Yellow Pages name and logo were not registered as federal trademarks, which came as a surprise.

The goal was to promote the Yellow Pages as the first place people go when looking for a product or service in their area. The campaign began its run sometime around 1964, and its catchy slogan rapidly became a commonplace expression.

The goal of the campaign was to get consumers to look up companies in the Yellow Pages rather than via more time-consuming and laborious means like asking around or physically going to various places. The phrase “Let Your Fingers Do The Walking” effectively conveyed this concept to the public, who responded positively to the directory due to its ease of use.

Here are some examples of advertising from 1962:

  • A print ad that shows a man sitting at a kitchen table, looking through the Yellow Pages. The headline reads, “Let your fingers do the walking.”
  • A television ad that shows a woman driving down the street, looking for a restaurant. She sees a Yellow Pages sign and pulls over. The ad then cuts to the woman sitting at a table in the restaurant, enjoying her meal. The headline reads, “Let your fingers do the walking.”
  • A radio ad that features a man’s voice talking about how easy it is to use the Yellow Pages. He says, “Just pick up the phone book, open to the Yellow Pages, and let your fingers do the walking.”

The innovative use of the phrase and the stunning graphics utilised in the advertisement contributed to the success of the campaign. The Yellow Pages became more well-known and more secure in its position as the leading directory service in the United States as a result of the campaign.

The phrase is still used today, making it one of the most famous in advertising history, and the Yellow Pages brand is constantly developing to suit the demands of customers in the modern digital era.


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