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An Interview with David Lebow

Chief Revenue Officer at YP

December 5, 2014 Download PDF

David Lebow leads YP’s revenue growth strategy, with operational responsibility for all YP sales organizations locally and nationally across the US. He oversees the sales of search, display, mobile and direct marketing solutions to advertisers.

Lebow joined YP in January 2013 with more than 25 years of experience in the media space. He has held a variety of leadership roles throughout his career. At AOL, he was instrumental in transforming the company into an advertising and content leader. During his tenure at Clear Channel, he grew the Western region from 13 to 565 radio stations, significantly increasing both audience and revenue. He also served as CEO and president of Internet Broadcasting (IB) where he helped establish IB as a leading ad network and technology provider for television companies.

Can you describe your role?

David Lebow: I oversee all of our sales channels and revenue, as well as relationships with all our customers. We have multiple revenue channels and a sales organization of nearly 4,000 people, which includes local and national sales.

Tell us something we might not know about YP.

Lebow: There are two things that surprise people all the time. One is that our digital revenue has gone from 18% five years ago to 44% of our total company revenue today. And within a year, we believe our digital revenue will exceed revenue from our print advertising. That always surprises people because they think of us as Yellow Pages. We’ve built a tremendous digital business. The other thing is that we reach more than 80 million consumers a month.

The business is in the process of transitioning as many of its print advertisers to digital as possible. And we’re competing for new business in digital.

How would you characterize YP’s competition?

Lebow: There are two ways to view that. From a consumer standpoint, it’s anyone that caters to consumers who are looking for local information. From an advertiser standpoint, we compete with publishers and ad networks. We have over 500,000 local businesses that do business with us. We have competitive advantage because relative to an ad network, we are a known and trusted brand. And at the same time, we have a lot of reach.

Ultimately, it all ties back to our mission, which is that we’re here to connect consumers to local advertisers and to help local businesses reach consumers. Anyone that attempts to do this is on our radar and in our competitive set.

What is YP’s value proposition?

Lebow: Our belief is that advertisers need a website and to have their listings be up-to-date so that there is accurate information across the massive digital landscape. That is hard for advertisers and we make it easy. There might be people who don’t know the name of a business and therefore they search for the category. So we need to help advertisers remain relevant in a world of search. We also have a series of products—display advertising and direct marketing to help advertisers reach people at certain times of the year—around holidays and special occasions. There are a lot of niche companies that address this but ours is an end-to-end solution that helps the advertiser almost as if we are their agency and consultant. We have the scale to truly help advertisers.

What are your top business priorities over the next year to 18 months?

Lebow: Solving marketing challenges for advertisers is the core thing that we do. That said, our advertising product is a huge priority. We are continuing to evolve our search experience to ensure that it works like everybody else’s search. We have a mobile company we acquired and we’re looking to scale the offering to reach all types of local businesses. We want to help standardize the buying of search for advertisers. Offering ad products that work for our advertisers is a big priority.

We also want to deliver services for advertisers. We know that a lot of advertisers are managing their own marketing spend. We are really sensitive to the fact that advertisers want ROI, they want reporting, results and measurability. We’re focusing on proving results for our advertisers.

We try to make it easy for advertisers to work with us.

Another priority is continuing to grow our usage. The confusion in the marketplace with so many startups helps us because we’re a trusted brand. We are continuing to focus on scaling our consumer experience.

What do you spend most of your time on?

Lebow: We have a tremendous sales organization. For me to be out in the field with them, hearing what their customers are saying, understanding where the market is, where we have a competitive advantage and where we need to improve is half of my job. The other half is building a good constituency across our product, marketing, operations and technology teams to be sure that we’re all in lockstep with the projects that we’re working on. So, building the bridge between our sales organization, massive support team and advertisers is where I spend most of my time. Finally, I spend a lot of time on recruiting new talent.

What are the biggest challenges for your business right now and in the overall digital media landscape?

Lebow: Like a lot of companies that started out as traditional media companies, our biggest challenge is that we’re seeing the migration of our audience and advertisers to digital. We spend a lot of time working with our advertisers to educate them on mobile and helping them on their migration from print to digital—in a lot of ways that’s our biggest challenge and opportunity.

The other challenge is that the buying and selling of advertising has gotten really complex for advertisers. There are so many different ways that the advertiser is able to touch a consumer today. We need to figure out how to simplify that for advertisers. I think that the proliferation of inventory creates a situation where it’s really hard for an advertiser to understand what’s actually going to work.

How does eMarketer help your business meet those challenges?

Lebow: eMarketer is absolutely a trusted resource for me in my job. I use something from eMarketer every week, probably multiple times a week. And in the last two weeks, I would say every day. One of the reasons why I like eMarketer is that it takes complex things and makes them simple, which I appreciate. I use eMarketer information in my presentations, to educate and communicate with our staff. The insights that we get from eMarketer are helpful, clean and easy to use. People ‘get’ them.

I tend to use data on usage trends by media type, so how much money is being spent on TV, on radio, digital, outdoor, directories, you name it. And I use the mobile penetration data—I don’t think we can educate people enough about the pace at which mobile usage and mobile advertising are accelerating.

New business presentations always feature eMarketer data. We bring in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in new business, so the data is a staple of those presentations. I literally see the light bulbs go off in peoples’ heads when we present the eMarketer data.

What value do you think eMarketer represents to a business like yours?

Lebow: It’s a trusted part of our selling process and the education of our teams that build products and market the company. I think eMarketer is a trusted part of all aspects of our value proposition as a company. I really view it as a definitive, credible source of information that helps educate our company and the salespeople, who, in turn, educate and work with advertisers. It comes down to insights. The insights are clear and they’re true. And you need that in a complex digital landscape—you need insights in order to really help steer everybody in the same direction.

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David Lebow

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“New business presentations always feature eMarketer data. ... I literally see the light bulbs go off in peoples’ heads when we present the eMarketer data.”


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