AT&T Goes Nationwide with Ad-Supported Directory Assist

Having received high marks from users of its initial, limited foray into pay-per-call- based directory assistance, AT&T has expanded the service nationwide.

The company announced this week that callers anywhere in the U.S. can get free, ad-supported directory assistance by calling 1-800-YellowPages. Early this year, AT&T rolled-out the service in three test markets, Bakersfield, Calif.; Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Columbus, Ohio.

Callers accessing the service hear short audio ads targeted to the category of the number being requested. For the test roll-out, AT&T partnered with technology provider Apptera to do the targeting and ad serving through its MobileAd platform.

AT&T’s recent acquisition of Ingenio, a provider of pay-per-call ad services, raises questions about potential competitive conflicts and technology redundancies. Ingenio has customers that compete with AT&T in the free directory assistance space, most notably Jingle Networks’ 1-800-FREE411, but an AT&T spokeswoman said it is “business as usual for Ingenio customers.” She also reiterated a statement offered at the time of the Ingenio deal: “Over time, as the businesses integrate, Ingenio’s customers will enjoy greater reach through AT&T’s extensive distribution network and access to a wider array of advertising products and services.”

Regarding whether AT&T will continue working with Apptera, SVP of Customer Information Services David Huntley said, “the service is the same service that we rolled out in various markets earlier this year.”

Huntley said the test rollout of the directory assistance program was an unabashed success. “We received overwhelmingly great feedback from the people who participated in the limited roll-out, both the consumers and the advertisers,” he commented.

The benefit for advertisers “comes down to being able to capture a consumer at exactly the moment they are ready to buy,” said Huntley. He said those who call directory assistance “are ready to go.”

“They know they want that pizza or need a dry cleaner, so it is the perfect chance for a business to provide them with information about their business and what they can offer the consumer at the moment, whether that is a special promotion, savings or added services,” he said.

AT&T’ allows local and national advertisers to choose from several options, including category, requested listing, redirect and sponsorship ads.

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