FDSA program methodology questioned

Plans for a national flyer delivery verification program have come under close scrutiny because of the program’s controversial methodology.

The Flyer Distribution Standards Association (FDSA), a group made up of Canada’s major flyer advertisers and distributors, unveiled plans for a national delivery verification program on Sept. 19 in Toronto.

The national program is designed to ascertain whether flyers are being delivered and received.

FDSA hired research firm Canadian Facts to conduct the pilot study in Ottawa and Peterborough.

Canadian Facts used a diary approach that asked selected residents to log the date of receipt of certain listed flyers.

The intent is to measure the amount of distribution — or over-distribution — of each flyer as well as the exact date of receipt.

ComBase Project Manager Elena Dunn was at the meeting in Toronto and raised two major issues with Canadian FactsÔÇÖ methodology.

She said her issues were the number of households selected per Forward Sortation Area (FSA) and the measurement tool of choice.

An FSA is a Canada Post term for the first three letters of the Postal Code. It is used to send mail to a central sorting station. There are 1,477 FSAs in Canada and 28 in the Ottawa pilot study.

“Urban FSAs have as many as 4,000 households in them,” said Dunn. “So if you are selecting five households, you are saying those households are representing the opinion of those 4,000 households.

“The assumption (of Canadian Facts) was that FSAs were homogenous in that if a flyer went one place within the FSA, it went to all places within it. Obviously five households is not going to represent 4,000,” she said.

Dunn said Canadian Facts chose 188 households in Ottawa and received 96 completed responses. Ottawa has a population of slightly more than one million people.

In Peterborough, Canadian Facts chose 50 households and received 31 completed responses.

The planned national rollout of the study would encompass 37 markets, each of them with more than 30,000 households.

“The sample is too small and the way it was selected assumes too much about the homogeneity of the households,” said Dunn.

Dunn said the other major issue she had with the study was the use of the daily diary.

“Diaries are notoriously bad for recording daily behaviour,” she said. “It is also difficult to determine whether or not the person filling out the diary knows what flyers came into the house and on what day.”

CCNA Executive Director Serge Lavoie agreed that it might be difficult for Canadian Facts to accurately measure the timeliness of distributed flyers.

“If you’re being measured on timeliness or if you can get the flyer out there on a particular day – if you are a Canada Post user, you are at a distinct disadvantage,ÔÇØ he said. ÔÇ£We want to make sure that our smaller members are heard and that the methodology doesn’t unintentionally skew towards dailies.”

Major users of flyers, including Sears Canada, Zellers and Canadian Tire, are members of FDSA along with community newspaper firms such as Metroland Newspapers, Printing and Distribution.

CCNA has signed on as an association member.

The price for the national study is reportedly set at $300,000, and Lavoie said the FDSA is expecting that distributors – not retailers – will bear 100 per cent of the cost.

“It’s unclear how much support FDSA has from the major media groups,” said Lavoie.

The FDSA web site is at www.fdsa-canada.org .