[Executive Edge] Reimagining the classifieds

Ezra Ferraz
POP! Creative offers a solution for companies that don't want their flyers to end up in trash

Aya Montebon and her team at POP! Creative, a shopper marketing agency, identified a problem that not many business owners even know they have.

Among the insights gleaned from their shopper studies, they learned that a “shopper will never keep a flyer without an urgent need for a service.” As a result, most flyers – the ones that businesses spend so much time to painstakingly perfect and print in bulk – end up exactly where you don’t want them to end up: the trash.

To address this pattern of consumer behavior, Montebon and the rest of her POP! Creative began to brainstorm. She said, “We wanted to come up with an effective flyer that helps not just big businesses but small, neighborhood businesses as well. Something that people will want to keep and maybe bring along with them so they have a quick reference should they need a service or a product.”

Most entrepreneurs would solve this problem by doing something similar to what others already have in the past: They would produce a generic classifieds booklet filled with listings as well as advertisements. Montebon took this general premise and inverted it on its head. She devised a product known as Zig.

Design thinking

Zig is the kind of product that is simple in its ingeniousness. At its heart, it solves the disposability of single-company flyers by collating and curating hundreds of company listings and advertisements into a single location.

And it does this in as cool of a way as you can imagine (so say so long to bland classifieds booklets that hurt your eyes to skim through). “When folded, Zig is just 3.25 inches x 4.75 inches, small enough to fit in a pocket. But ZIG opens out to a 18 inch x 24 inch spread, filled back to back with ads. Products and services can be seen at a glance, so browsing is easy, and ads don’t get buried in multiple pages.”

Such design allows for comprehensiveness – there are over 200 company listings and advertisements in the first issue alone; as well as breadth – there is a great variety among the kinds of businesses featured in Zig.

They have everything “gadget repair, housekeeping services, discounted spa treatments to doggie daycare,” with a focus on businesses in the areas of San Juan, Ortigas, Pasig, and Mandaluyong.

The net result is a product that is more likely to be of use to a person living in those areas, making them in turn also more likely to hold onto Zig. This has been their thinking from the get-go – they wanted to design Zig from the ground up in a way that would increase customer retention of the product.

According to Montebon, among their design principles was to “clearly communicate that it’s a free neighborhood directory and make the design relatable so people won’t be afraid to pick it up; keep the contents clean and organized; make it easy to use and store.”

These principles served as a guiding light as POP! Creative developed the prototype that they showed to prospective advertisers as well as the first issue that eventually went out to users. They distributed 10,000 copies of Zig’s first issue in “condominiums, cafes, and salons” in their target communities. The only requirement was that it needed to be a place with “high foot traffic.”

Of course, as the companies listed in Zig want to see it succeed, most of them “ask to leave copies in their stores for their customers.” No matter where you pick up Zig, the first thing you’ll notice is the character gracing the cover. This, too, was one of their conscious (and dare I add) cunning choices.

Montebon said, “We created a character, rather than just a name for a free paper, to make it consistent with the positioning – helpful and current.”

Revenue model

PORTABLE CLASSIFIEDS. Zig was designed to be easy to carry around and reference. Photo courtesy of POP! Creative

POP! Creative’s revenue model with Zig is as similarly ingeniously simple as its design: It’s B2B and comes down to advertising space. As there were pretty much no analogues for products like Zig, they used a cost-plus method to calculate just how much their advertising rates should be.

Montebon said, “Just like how a manufacturing company computes the retail price of a product, we factored in the materials and overhead costs (man hours, distribution, etc.) and tried to keep the rates as low as possible to ensure we are affordable even to small business owners.”

The resulting price scheme is comparable to real estate. Listings and advertisements are priced according to their location, location, location. Those spots in the layout that are sure to get the most visibility from the 10,000 Zig holders are those that are the most expensive. These, if you’ll allow me to continue the analogy, are prime real estate.

Still, true to Montebon’s word, their rates are extremely affordable for even small business owners. A one-panel advertisement starts at P1,237.50. But don’t let the price fool you: Listing in Zig is not only affordable, it’s valuable.

Placing an advertisement in Zig will give you an immediate audience of thousands. This is particularly valuable for the types of businesses that people do not normally know off hand, but may need at a moment’s notice. Such examples range from food delivery to beauty services, all of which Zig has in droves.

Montebon said it best: “Zig is a low-cost advertising solution. With 10,000 copies in circulation, businesses can get an ad placement for as low as P1,237.50, design and layout included. It’s by far a better deal than printing and distributing flyers, or placing an ad in a major daily. Businesses big and small alike can count on Zig to reach their audience in a fun yet practical way.”

This is exactly how Montebon and her team tried to sell Zig when first going around, trying to pitch the concept based on a prototype. This method presented its own problems. When asked how she sold Zig with just a prototype, Montebon replied, “Just like how the encyclopedia salesmen used to do it – door to door. The biggest challenge was when we were offering ad space using a prototype. Some business owners thought we were scammers!”

Montebon and her team overcame such skepticism in the only way they could: They pitched, pitched, and kept on pitching. Of note is the fact that most people on their team became – even if it was not their real background – a de facto marketing and salesperson. Montebon recounted, “It’s not easy, it took a lot of weeks, and sometimes almost the whole Zig team was out to sell to whoever would listen.”

In the end, they sold and they sold well. As mentioned earlier, over 200 companies choose to place listings in Zig. In fact, the model is so successful that POP! Creative plans to expand into other areas in Metro Manila soon. They will develop their other iterations of Zig for those communities.

In describing her experiences with Zig, Montebon made sure to remind entrepreneurs that they should always be first and foremost problem-solvers. “If you have a business idea, make sure it solves a problem encountered by many,” she said. “If it doesn’t help anyone else but yourself, park it. No one is going to buy it.”

Montebon continued, “We find meaning in our work by helping other people and businesses.
Every product idea we have always has to have a clear ‘why’ behind it. This keeps us centered on the goal and gives us an idea where to invest our time and money in.” – Rappler.com


Rappler business columnist Ezra Ferraz graduated from UC Berkeley and the University of Southern California, where he taught writing for 3 years. He now consults full-time for educational companies in the United States. He brings you Philippine business leaders, their insights, and their secrets via Executive Edge. Follow him on Twitter: @EzraFerraz

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