old school yellow pagesThe Intern is a delightful, Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway comedy/drama. Those of us in healthcare marketing and advertising see some amusing contrasts between old-school business and present day online enterprises and Internet ads. If you’re old enough to remember phonebook advertising, you’ll likely recognize that Internet ads are the new Yellow Pages (print) advertising.

Ben, the 70-year-old De Niro character, takes a post-retirement internship with an Internet-based startup company. Ironically, the new office is the same building where Ben worked for decades publishing (now extinct) phonebooks.

In its place, about 200 employees—all mostly 20-somethings—publish website/catalog, handle online orders, and facilitate customer service and promotion via social media and email.

But 70 is the new 50, and the De Niro character, a genial-retiree-intern, adapts to the radically different business environment.

Robert De Niro The Intern

[Spoiler alert: “experience never gets old.”] But in real-life—unlike our senior-citizen character, Ben—the phonebook business hasn’t done so well. Yellow Pages advertising has not made a smooth transition from its glory days of print-on-paper.

OK, there are some small exceptions. In fairness, there are a few geographic, and narrow demographic, pockets where YP advertising is useful. However, for the most part, printed phone directories and Yellow Pages are on a fast track to the Smithsonian. Contrast this with the advantages of search engine marketing, AKA Pay-Per-Click (PPC) to reach online visitors directly and locally. These digital alternatives have displaced YP for many reasons:

Convenience. These days, if you can find a phonebook outside of a landfill, its first and best use is as a doorstop.

Internet ads are on your desktop, tablet or mobile device. Your smartphone weighs four ounces or less, it’s always in your pocket, and, by way of Google, it always knows the phone number, location and a million other answers.

Printed directories don’t update. An ad in the YP book doesn’t change until or unless another directory replaces it…maybe next year. Listings are often incorrect or dated.

In contrast, Internet advertising is flexible, easily scheduled, rotated, changed (or omitted) with a direct link to the advertiser’s complete online presence.

Great for services beginning with AAA. Alphabetical listings, usually by size and seniority, require the book user to search manually. (Remember; “your fingers do the walking.”)

In addition to being convenient and timely, online advertising is keyword driven. It appears immediately—and locally—when a user search qualifies the need or topic of interest.

Cost efficiency and effectiveness. Your monthly YP bill—for one ad, in one directory—is due every month regardless of effectiveness, lack of distribution, bad timing or whatever. Circulation and use is shrinking.

Internet ads are affordable and more cost-efficient, reaching specific audiences on a timely and local basis without a long-term contract. Return on Investment is trackable; budgets are predictable and adjustable.

For more about online marketing, attracting customers and a free, confidential healthcare marketing assessment, connect with us here. We are happy to help. For additional help with this topic, see these articles:


Stewart Gandolf, MBA, CEO

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Stewart Gandolf

Stewart Gandolf

Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder at Healthcare Success Strategies
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is CEO of Healthcare Success, a medical marketing and health care advertising agency. He is also a frequent writer and speaker. Most importantly, he is happily married and a "rock-n-roll daddy" to two wonderful girls.
Stewart Gandolf
Stewart Gandolf


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