Bereavement registry to avert direct marketing gaffes

A UK company Monday said it is launching a service in Canada to allow families of the recently deceased to remove their names from mailing and telephone lists.

The Bereavement Register Canada is a subsidiary of The Bereavement

Register, which has a database of two million dead Britons for direct marketing firms to check their lists against in the UK. Families can register the names of the departed at the Web site, or through a funeral home while making arrangements for disposition of the body.

TBR — which stopped more than 22 million pieces of direct mail to the deceased in the UK last year — was launched three years ago by data company The REaD Group.

Canada is the first country for TBR’s expansion. In the UK, The REaD Group spent a year collecting names of those who had died in the previous 12 months from registrars offices and funeral homes. The 500,000 records represented 90 per cent of UK deaths, according to ReaD Group CEO Mark Roy. The idea was to go to market with a database large enough to be useful to direct mailers, so that, in turn, enough direct mailers would use the service that it would be attractive to consumers. Roy doesn’t think that will be necessary in Canada, where consumers receive nine times as many direct marketing contacts as in the UK.

“”Our research shows consumers really want this to stop,”” Roy said. A grieving family doesn’t need a reminder of its loss in the form of junk mail addressed to their late loved ones, or telemarketing calls for the deceased, he said. For direct marketing companies, soliciting the dead is bad for customer relations and a waste of mailing and telemarketing dollars. He believes uptake will be so much faster than in the UK that TBR Canada will be able to begin publishing useful lists by October.

Canada’s the best expansion opportunity because of the similar legislative environment to the UK’s, the huge growth in direct marketing and increasing disgruntlement among Canadian consumers. And, Roy noted, “”it obviously serves as a test bed”” for the U.S.

At the moment, TBR has arrangements with roughly half the 1,400 funeral homes in Canada, said TBR Canadian general manager Bob Howden

Aside from capturing the rolls of the recently departed, families can also register the names of members who passed on some time ago, but still get mail and telephone solicitations. Howden said mail often persists for two years after the death, though the UK service has seen cases in which it’s gone on as long as 12 years.

The data is collected by TBR, then sent to a service bureau for quality control — de-duping (names are sometimes registered by more than one family member) and address and phone number verification. The data is then sent to service bureaus that handle quality control for direct marketing firms. There are “”just shy of 100 (service bureaus) in Canada, with the top 20 doing 80 per cent of the work,”” Howden said.

The cost “”is based on the number of names we tell a company not to contact,”” Howden said. Bureaus are billed 75 cents per match. Typically, it costs $1.25 to $1.50 for a direct mail piece, Howden said. Direct marketing companies make 43 million such contacts each year, according to the company.

Once the database is large enough to warrant it, yearly subscriptions will be offered. In the UK, TBR subscriptions cost the equivalent of $12,000 to $200,000, depending on the size of the lists and the frequencing of the mailings.

Plans are now to update the database monthly. Bureaus that sign up for the service receive a one-time-use user name and password for an FTP site hosting the database each month. Howden said the company will eventually move to weekly updates, and if a business had a need for daily updates, “”we could arrange something,”” he said.

He said he doesn’t foresee a real-time service — for example, something Web services-based — any time in the near future. “”If there’s enough of a business demand, we could look at it,”” he said, but he added that, with an average of 710 deaths a day in Canada, it would be hard to make the case that it’s business-critical.

Kevin Klein believes a bereavement register would help the direct marketing industry “”immensely.”” Klein is on the database and technology council of the Canadian Marketing Association’s direct marketing council. (Disclosure note: He is also vice-president of data services for Cornerstone Data Innovations, the service bureau which handles list quality control for TBR Canada and IT Business Group.)

“”The direct mail community has been looking for something like this for years and years and years,”” he said. While the CMA does have a do-not-contact list that is updated monthly — and that members must use — deceased contacts aren’t differentiated from the rest of the list.

Roy said that the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s do-not-call list — which 24 per cent of the American population is now on — is an example of the “”sledgehammer”” of government regulation that’s possible if direct marketers don’t make an effort to regulate themselves.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Dave Webb
Dave Webb
Dave Webb is a technology journalist with more than 15 years' experience. He has edited numerous technology publications including Network World Canada, ComputerWorld Canada, Computing Canada and eBusiness Journal. He now runs content development shop Dweeb Media.

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