While DMS tends to focus on the North American marketplace, one great perks is the opportunity it offers to network and share notes with the many participants it attracts from around the world. Along these lines, participants were excited to kick off day three of DMS ’09 with some exciting and “refreshingly candid” updates on things happening in Europe from Truvo CEO Donat Rétif.
Rétif is unique in that he built his industry experience on both sides of the Atlantic, including posts at Verizon and Belgium’s Promedia, before joining Truvo in 2008. He offers an informed point of view, as someone “who loves this industry and owes much of my personal success to print” but still makes unflinching statements like: “If we think we can do this business the same as we have for the last 30 years, we’re going to die.”
Under his direction, Truvo – a local search and advertising company serving six markets across Europe – has made some interesting strides and bold steps in its attempt to navigate through the global economic downturn and become “the first choice in local search and advertising.”
Here are a few of the key ideas Donat shared at DMS ‘09:
Perceptions, Expectations & Brand Equity
One of the most interesting moves Truvo made was to take steps away from the Yellow Pages brand. On this point, Donat talked about perception research findings: “Outside the industry, the perception of the Yellow Pages brand is that it’s for old-fashioned people who don’t know what’s going on. The perception of digital, on the other hand, is of young people who are totally clued in to what’s going on. This may or may not be true, but we have to acknowledge the perceptions.”
Not to say that the Yellow Pages brand doesn’t still have strong equity. The Yellow Pages are still strongly associated with being “dependable”, “comprehensive” and “trusted”. “When the rep says I’m from the Yellow Pages, it still opens the door,” said Donat.
This insight guided Truvo’s strategy to introduce an umbrella of platforms under the Truvo brand. With the strategic objective of creating integrated platforms across various media with increased user-generated content, the company chose to depart from the brand heritage.
“People don’t go to Yellow Pages sites to add content,” he said. “They go to a user-generated content site – like Yelp! in the US, for example – to add content. Truvo was launched to be the umbrella for all our new platforms. There is a light link to YPs but we emphasize the Truvo brand.”
Local Content, Universal Business Trends
Another surprising point of discussion was Donat’s assessment that: “YP is a very local business. But actually, we are seeing all of our markets converge to the same points, with less local differentiation.”
Those points of convergence include a fast decline in print sales and double digit growth in online search. Across the company, revenue is 73% print / 27% digital, but Donat said he expects that ratio to reach 50:40 by next year.
Giving People What They Want
Donat echoed other sessions’ observations about the changing needs of user and advertisers, but added his own touch. “Google has won the battle for usage,” he said. “But beyond Google, users want simple, fast, rich search results that they can access across multiple access points. They don’t want to just tap into the content, but also personalize it and add their own.”
Finally, Donat emphasized the great opportunities that exist by expanding beyond proprietary directories. The future is about access, he said. The Truvo model provides integrated content across owned properties (print, online and wireless Yellow Pages and White Pages) and third-party properties (search engines, social networks and syndication partners). “We own a tremendous volume of content,” he said, “We just need to get it out across multiple platforms”.