Portable Yellow Pages Idea Pays Off for WSU Seniors

PULLMAN, Wash. — Vision and hard work paid off — literally — for three Washington State University graduating marketing students who created a way to take the Yellow Pages on the road.
On April 28, the Yellow Pages Publishers Association (YPPA) awarded seniors Mike Bomgardner, Kara Howard and Kristine Kober $1,000 checks each for winning first place in a marketing idea competition that drew more than 90 other project teams. The association also awarded another $3,000 to the College of Business and Economics’ marketing department that will be used for research by the trio’s professor, Steven Silverman.
The WSU proposal calls for capitalizing on new technology to develop “Wireless PCS Yellow Pages.” PCS — Personal Communications Systems — is based on a technology called Code Decision Multiple Access that was originally developed to insure secure communications on the battlefield.
PCS is used in special audio/visual cellular phones that are only manufactured by Sony and Qualcomm. The cell phones have a flat screen to receive five lines of graphic information in addition to the usual features of sending and receiving audio signals. Spokane is one of the first cities in America to offer PCS service.
The student trio proposes that Yellow Pages advertisers — specifically restaurants, auto service shops, personal service specialists and shopping sites — connect with the PCS system. Why? To capitalize on the new PCS system to localize their advertising down to “cells” within a specific broadcasting range, to update their advertising messages frequently, and to reach customers who can’t let their fingers do the walking because they don’t have access to a hard copy of the golden pages.
A PCS cell phone always “knows” where it is, so it can receive information on Yellow Pages advertisers who are closest to the user at any given time. The students suggest that an “Info-Roamer” — any subscriber using a PCS phone — could scroll through a menu on the phone and select, say, the “restaurants” category. Then, the shopper would receive information on the visual phone about those advertisers who are closest in physical proximity to the phone. The Info-Roamer might then be likely to choose one of those restaurants for lunch plans with a client. For PCS Yellow Pages advertisers, this system could allow frequent updating to promote, for example, daily or weekly specials, an impossibility in the printed phone books.
The 40-page proposal presented by the undergraduate student trio represented hundreds of hours spent researching, strategizing and writing. It includes a list of references heavy with website locations, a five-year sales forecast for the PCS-Yellow Pages project, a Yellow Pages sales history analysis and potential Info-Roamer demographics. After working for months on the project, computer formatting problems nearly brought the trio to its knees the night before Fed Ex’ing to meet the deadline.
“We learned about teamwork in our classes, and working on this proposal proved how much more can be accomplished quickly and accurately by working as a group,” says Bomgardner. “Everything came together, the ideas flowed,” agrees Howard. “We worked very well together,” adds Kober.
“This was an excellent project for these undergraduates to have volunteered for and completed in such an outstanding manner,” comments Silverman, assistant professor of marketing. “Projects like this help me realize that what we are teaching in WSU classrooms is preparing our students for tasks in the real world of business.”
On their first-place winner’s certificates, Silverman’s students were recognized for “excellence in marketing innovation” by the YPPA.
Bomgardner of Redmond, Howard of Kennewick and Kober of Edgewood will graduate during Commencement ceremonies this weekend in WSU’s Beasley Performing Arts Coliseum.