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Advertisers caught in the middle; Tele-Direct at odds with independent consultants.

The long-running battle between Tele-Direct Publications Inc. and several private sales consulting firms has caught some Northern Ontario businesses in the crossfire.

Tele-Direct is at odds with the consultants because they are profiting by hurting its bottom line. In addition, many of the consultants are former employees who are using their Tele-Direct training as a competitive advantage.

"It (the battle) just goes on and on," commented Pat Wojokowski, owner of Sudbury-based Busy Beaver Boys. "It's a vicious circle."

Wojokowski hired Ad-Vice North Telephone Directory Consultants Ltd. in Sudbury to design and book her firm's advertisements for the Yellow Pages. However, Wojokowski claimed that Tele-Direct's Sudbury office refused to accept the ad, claiming the ad was submitted late and not on the company's official forms.

The advertisement was finally accepted when Ad-Vice provided an affidavit proving that the advertisement was delivered before the deadline. The consulting firm used Cambrian Alliance Protection Services of Sudbury to deliver the finished advertisement to Tele-Direct in order to have a written record of the delivery.

Wojokowski recalls that when Tele-Direct first refused the ad, she told them to call Ad-Vice.

"It's like when you hire a lawyer, he does the talking for you. It's the same with Ad-Vice," she explains.

However, a Tele-Direct spokesman insists that Wojokowski is misinformed.

"We have no contractual arrangement with any consultant," says Jim Sweeney, Tele-Direct's director of communications. "We don't bill the consultant, we bill the customer, and we have to deal with them if there is a problem with the ad.

"We've got to get their approval on our forms. That is the way it is, and that is the way it's always been."

Sweeney says Tele-Direct does have contractual agreements with recognized advertising agencies which submit advertisements on behalf of their clients. These firms, he says receive a 15-per-cent commission from Tele-Direct.

"I don't want a contractual agreement with them," responds Ad-Vice North owner Chuck Blais. "I work for my customer, not Tele-Direct."

Ad-Vice North, which operates in an area from the Quebec border to Wawa, claims it can help businesses reduce the cost of their Yellow Pages advertising by changing the wording, colors or other design elements. It is paid a percentage of the savings.

"It's the consultant's purpose in life to decrease the client's bill and, in turn, our revenue falls," says Sweeney.

"I don't get paid to sell more color or larger ads," counters Blais.

Blais, Ad-Vice South owner Serge Brouillet and officials with similar firms in Montreal and Ottawa are all former Tele-Direct employees.

"We know what does work," Blais says. "We know the codes. We know the procedures."

Claiming that he is an advocate of free enterprise, Blais says he has asked Sudbury MP Diane Marleau to intervene in the current dispute between his firm and Tele-Direct.

Marleau believes an agreement can be worked out between Tele-Direct and the private consultants.

"They (Tele-Direct) have to realize that in a free society you have the right to decide if you want to use a consultant," she says. "Sometimes you want to pay a little extra for people who know a little more about the matter than you do."

Meanwhile, the business practices of the Bell Canada corporation are being investigated by the Ministry of Consumer and Corporate Affairs.

Ministry spokesman Murray Hamley confirmed that an investigation is under way, but he refused to give any details.

To strengthen their position in the marketplace, officials of Ad-Vice North, Ad-Vice South and Cepac 2000 of Montreal are investigating the possibility of forming an association to represent their interests.

At the same time, some competitors in several business sectors are making agreements to limit the size and colors of their advertisements in order to curb their spending on Yellow Pages advertising.

"It's healthier for the industry if they don't go nuts trying to compete with each other in the Yellow Pages," explains Lockerby Taxi owner Kenn Flynn of Sudbury.
COPYRIGHT 1991 Laurentian Business Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Tele-Direct Publications Inc.; Ad-Vice North Telephone Directory Consultants Ltd.
Publication:Northern Ontario Business
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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