Close-Up: From fly fishing to 90s trance - Yell is seeking a fresh hit

Ed Morris on the potential profits and pitfalls of updating Yell's 'JR Hartley' for today's audience.

It's too early for the full picture but, as of last week, downloads of Yell's iPhone app were up 127 per cent, mobile searches were already up 28 per cent, and Pulse And Thunder was 11 and rising in the iTunes dance charts.

The idea to update "JR Hartley" came from solving two things at once. How do you make people love us like they used to but think of us like they never have before?

You turn the withered, fly fishing-obsessed JR Hartley into the cooler 90s trance-obsessed Day V Lately. It's a simple plot to redescribe the Yellow Pages of back then as the new Yell of today.

What really sold this thought to us was when we started to think of the campaign from a wider perspective - the notion of mimicking the whole JR Hartley phenomenon again was irresistible. Blurring the lines between advertising and reality in the way JR Hartley unintentionally did back then seemed a perfect way to integrate.

Demand for JR Hartley's Fly Fishing led to its publication. So we said that we'd publish the record. We set Day V Lately up as a real character with a Facebook page, blog and website. He plays gigs, we press the vinyl and plant it into specialist record shops all over the country. And we incentivise the public to join in the search via PR, press and online activity.

When we began to research all of this, some intriguing things came up. First, it helped us explore nostalgia in an interesting way - the ad draws a lot of latent love for the brand from the past. But also within the storyline, it prompted us to look back into our own more recent history to the early 90s and the days of clubs and vinyl.

You can't underestimate the public's love for this; they really related to it personally. It loads the plot with empathy.

From this research, we knew that authenticity was key, and nailing it tonally was crucial. We were very careful to ensure that we weren't parodying the "JR Hartley" ad - we were instead setting out to make a film that would stand as good in its own right.

The moment this was on the page, I knew I wanted Chris Palmer to shoot it. He got it right from the off; his treatment basically revolved around one line: "You find him, he's out there somewhere. Then you build everything around him."

The man now known as Day V Lately came into the casting suite looking exactly like he does in the ad; he's a musician and is completely typecast. We used this to our advantage throughout the campaign by interweaving his true history with our made-up one.

Meanwhile, the PR company Shine helped us parallel all this activity with a second character, Mike Sawdale. He is a music and vinyl enthusiast who is a mate of Day V Lately and talks from his blog, "The Ministry Of Found". It acts as a pop-up shop, a small business helped by Yell. Through his blog, RSS and Tweets, Sawdale channels interest without breaking the Day V Lately spell. It really layers seamlessly into product education and offering. You can access all this via Yell's Facebook page.

We also built a site for Day V Lately intentionally made to look like it was put up in the mid-90s. Check it out, it's hilarious - there are even authentic photos of him as a younger man. Ironically, the 90s website was particularly hard to build as we had to get everything completely authentic.

Of course, getting the track and vinyl right was a big deal. These things are collected and doted over by a vast and serious online community. They don't miss a trick.

We needed a tune that could stand up to the big tunes of the day. We called Spencer Hickson and David Fletcher, music producers and DJs whose music has been played since the 90s by big-name DJs such as Sasha and John Digweed. The real artistry here was to ensure the track felt technically like a '92 track. We needed someone who knew what constraints existed back in the day and what constituted a great tune.

We set up our own record label, Found Records, with its own P&L and are monitoring the demand. When it hits a certain level, we will then look at launching a remix created by a seriously big club DJ.

Generally, Day V Lately was designed to get Yell out there and up there quickly. We think that we've now done that. But we still have a lot more in-store. There is a great outdoor and digital follow-up, for example, that we are very excited about. But now, with consumers steadily rekindling their love for the brand, we feel that anything is possible. The beat goes on.

Ed Morris is the creative partner of Rapier.