A notice plan is a critical component of a class action settlement administration. Failure to provide adequate notice can result in poor class participation rates and can prohibit a settlement from receiving final approval from the court. A notice expert should have a strong understanding of the characteristics of the class and media planning expertise to maximize the notice’s reach and claims rate.
The Limitations of Direct Noticing
Direct notice is a part of most notice plans. Direct notice is contact of potential class members individually using personal information such as a physical or email addresses. Physical mail (including USPS’s increased postcard size) has historically been the most popular form of direct notice with the highest claims rates. Digital methods such as email, and text messages are becoming increasingly prevalent and can be the sole form of notice in many cases.
However, well executed direct notice alone does not always yield results. In a recent report, the FTC found that only “9% of the class members who were sent direct notice bothered to file claims.” This highlights the need to supplement a direct notice plan with additional publication and electronic notice efforts.
In many consumer cases, not all class members are known, and customer records may be incomplete or unavailable. In these cases, direct notice is inadequate or impossible. These situations require more advanced noticing strategies in order to achieve high participation rates.
The Decline of Print Media
Notice experts have relied on traditional print media to improve reach through national or local newspapers and magazines. Typically, the newspaper or magazine also has a digital version as well. However, newspaper and magazines continue to decline in reach each year. According to the Pew Research Center, “in 2020, the circulation (print and digital) of weekday newspapers was 24.3 million and for Sunday newspapers it was 25.8 million, both a year-over-year decline of 6%.” In totality, newspapers and magazines only reach 10% of adults in the U.S. Another major drawback of advertising in print publications is that readers must read through to the section containing the notice—funds are expended whether potential claimants ever see the notice or not.
Social Media Platforms and Targeting Tactics
Depending on the class, social media can be a very powerful and cost-effective tool to target potential class members. According to a 2021 study by the Pew Research Center, “72% of U.S adults use at least one social media site.” This reach is unmatched by any other medium. Another advantage of social media is the ability to target who sees the notice. Interest-based targeting can be used to show the notice to users most likely to share similar psychographics and demographics as the class members.
For example, let’s assume a settlement involves cat food. Instead of targeting all 258.3 million adults in the US, would make sense to target individuals that have an interest in cats. You can then further add or narrow the targeting criteria based on known or likely class characteristics.
Additionally, if you have class members’ email addresses, you can upload the list to Facebook and run ads to ‘lookalike’ profiles that have similar characteristics to the profiles of the known class members. Because social media enables effective targeting and fees only accrue when the notice is viewed, less dollars are wasted and the notice generated for the expenditure is high.
With more than 3.5 billion searches per day, Google Search advertising can provide a direct way to notify potential claimants that are actively searching for a keyword related to a product, subject or company. For example, if a settlement relates to a specific phone brand or model, you can show ad-style notices linked to the settlement website for anyone using related keywords. Google provides historical keyword forecasts so you can predict how many people use search terms related to the class action case. Additionally, Google provides the ability to place notices directly on popular websites.
Many media organizations get their news stories from press releases. Because you only pay a flat fee to publish a press release, it can be another cost-effective strategy for earning additional media coverage and distribution. Prior to publishing a press release, be sure to consider the newsworthiness of the settlement to evaluate the likelihood of the media picking up the story. Another benefit of a press release is that digital news websites and aggregators will also publish your notice on their platforms as well, which can increase the notice’s reach.
A New Age for Televisions
For larger class actions, TV can be another channel to increase the reach of a notice, but for most cases, TV is cost prohibitive. An alternative to traditional TV is called over the top (OTT) advertising. “Videos streamed through over-the-top (OTT) services, like Hulu, Netflix, HBO Max, Disney Plus, Peacock TV, and other video streaming platforms, account for 25% of the collective time consumers spend using their TV,” according to a survey conducted by Nielson. Similar to other digital advertising mediums, OTT advertising provides the ability to target based on demographics, psychographics, and location.
While traditional media publications are still heavily used in notice plans, digital advertising should be considered to enhance any notice plan that involves a large number of unknown class members. It’s important to choose a notice expert that has strong understanding of digital advertising to ensure your notice campaigns perform well and drive claims. A good notice plan will implement strategies with clear methodology and trackable goals. This will demonstrably maximize every dollar spent to provide the best possible notice that is practicable under the circumstances. If you need to provide notice for a class action case, contact us today for a consultation.