Canada Post Helps Fetch Customers

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Canada Post, Ottawa, said yesterday that in the first two weeks of its pilot for fetch, its service that lets consumers interact instantly and anonymously with advertisers, more than 2,000 people have registered and 3,000 "fetches" have been processed.


Fetches refer to consumers' responses to ads from advertisers participating in the program.


Canada Post launched the service Jan. 24 as a test in Calgary, where residents see an ad tagged with the fetch icon in magazines, on billboards, television, online or radio, where they can hear the fetch sound effect.


They can respond to the ad by looking for the fetch keyword (adjacent to the fetch symbol) and calling 877/FETCH-03, or they can text the defined keyword to FETCH (33824) using the text-messaging feature on their mobile phone.


The fetch system sends a message back to them that might offer more information and request contact information such as an e-mail address or phone number.


All personal information becomes the responsibility of Canada Post. Advertisers never receive the information and cannot contact the consumers again unless the consumers wish it. Canada Post also does not use the information.


"We call that an intimate and anonymous relationship," said Warren Tomlin, Canada Post's director of marketing and product development and co-inventor of fetch.


For an even faster response, Calgary residents are encouraged to register as a fetch user via www.fetch4.info.


"When a person registers, his [contact] preferences are already there, so when he responds to an ad, it automatically sends [information] to that person's address," Tomlin said.


Tomlin said Canada Post devised fetch because "consumers told us that the invasiveness of some marketing tactics prevented them from taking advantage of what they recognize as valuable information."


Canada Post thought it would be the right company to offer a solution because "Canada Post is one of the most trusted brands in Canada for keeping information private," he said.


Fetch is also a potentially revenue-generating program for Canada Post. Though fetch is free for consumers, advertisers pay Canada Post a percentage per prospect.


Tomlin could not offer pricing specifics because the program is in test mode, but he said the price is right because "if you think about putting a [toll-free] number as a call to action on a billboard or radio ad, to staff that call center and pay the toll for that call can be a $15 call. We anticipate that our service should [cost] 10 percent of that."


Tomlin added that "we have a business that is in decline -- physical mail is declining -- and this is a way for Canada Post to maintain relevancy in a changing business environment."


Canada Post said advertisers using fetch should expect exceptional results because customers will be actively seeking further information from them, indicating a predisposition to buy their products.


"Advertisers know the huge value of sending a message to someone who has asked for it," Tomlin said.


Twelve advertisers in the Calgary area have signed up for fetch: Shoppers Drug Mart, Safeway, Telus, Domino's Pizza, Royal Lepage Benchmark, Royal Lepage Pinnacle, Royal Lepage Foothills, H&R Block Canada, Whiskey Nightclub, Mynt Ultralounge, CitiFinancial and Pointe of View Development.


H&R Block Canada, Calgary, starts an interactive advertising campaign in the city next week featuring the fetch service.


The campaign involves luring customers to an H&R Block office to have their tax returns prepared by offering a free camera cell phone. The offer runs Feb. 15 to April 28. Filings are due April 30 in Canada.


An ad will be shown at all Calgary cinemas from Feb. 15 through March. It says, "Want a free phone? Go fetch." It shows a picture of a cell phone and tells consumers to "get a fetch code, then prepare your taxes at H&R Block and get a free cell phone." To access the fetch code, viewers can call an 877 number or text message the keyword (TAXES) to FETCH (33824). When they have the code, they can bring it in to receive a coupon for a free phone from Westco Communications.


Todd McCallum, assistant vice president of international business development at H&R Block Canada, said the company worked on the fetch test because "we saw the initiative as being fairly progressive and an opportunity to take a look at reaching maybe a younger demographic and start to build a life-event opportunity with them.


"We are very interested in seeing what the take-up rate will be based on somebody seeing the ad and being able to act right on the spot by using text messaging."


Privacy also was an issue for H&R Block Canada. McCallum said that last year "a new federal policy went into effect in Canada, so all large organizations are very cognizant of the fact that privacy is going to become more and more relevant."


Canada Post's test continues until the end of March. At the end of the pilot, results will be evaluated and the future of fetch will be discussed at Canada Post.


"We are very pleased with these early results," Tomlin said. "These numbers would suggest that Calgary has quickly embraced the idea of being able to take advantage of special offers and incentives without fear of generating unwanted advertising or messages."


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