Jose Valle is co-founder and Director of Investigations for Animal Equality. He currently manages the organization’s online ads program.
The following is a summary of a conversation that took place on March 14, 2016 as part of our investigation of online ads. Jose spoke with Jacy Reese, ACE Research Associate.
In October 2015, Animal Equality started an online ads program on Facebook. The ads appear in viewers’ News Feeds, along with stories from their friends and subscribed pages, and invite the viewer to click on them and watch a video. They link to a landing page, “descubrir la comida” (ads are currently being run only in Spanish), which roughly translates to “Discover Your Food.” This page features a 10-minute-long video about factory farming, made specifically for the ad campaign and featuring multiple animal species, including cows and chickens. Much of the footage is taken from Animal Equality’s undercover investigations and from those of other animal advocacy groups, and some is stock footage. The website prompts users to download a free vegetarian starter guide and register to receive email updates from Animal Equality.
So far, the ads have been run in Spanish and designed for a Mexican audience, but Animal Equality is working on different versions to run in Spain, Venezuela, Germany, England, Italy, and possibly India. These will differ not only in language, but also in the imagery they use. In the future, Animal Equality aims to use as much footage as possible from the same country as the ad is targeting. For example, the original video ends with a scene of Mexican people eating in a Mexican restaurant, intended to look familiar to viewers.
The ads have targeted young women between 24 and 34 years old who have animals or pets listed among their interests. Animal Equality has also experimented with more specific targeting, such as towards dog- or cat-lovers or even fans of a particular celebrity. They looked into targeting supporters of other causes, such as cancer research, especially after new findings were announced linking meat consumption and cancer. However, the results of these refinements did not justify paying the additional fee imposed by Facebook to narrow the target audience.
Animal Equality’s online ads had directed 8,472 new registrations over the five months prior to this conversation, but Jose was disappointed by that number. He thinks that 10 minutes (the length of the video) may be too long to expect to hold viewers’ attention. Moreover, there has been a decrease in the rate of new registrations, suggesting that most of the receptive users among the current target demographic may have already seen the ad. This is an additional reason for the organization to invest in targeting new demographics. The cost-effectiveness of the ads so far is estimated at $3-4 per registration. The program has a budget of $6,000 per month.
Jose only spends about seven hours per month publishing and reviewing the ads. He considers the use of online ads a pretty straightforward development from his previous experience with the use of promoted posts on Facebook. However, he also spent some time learning about online ads, including several online courses on Facebook advertising and advice from Alan Darer, Education Project Coordinator at Mercy For Animals.
Plans for Development
Animal Equality was inspired to explore online ads because of their cost-effectiveness – especially in terms of staff and volunteer time – compared to handing out leaflets on the street or hosting public events. While there are no immediate plans for expanding the program’s budget, it is a high-priority area for marginal funds, and Jose would eventually like to recruit an employee who could dedicate far more time to online ads.
Asked to comment on Mercy For Animals’ recent study on the effectiveness of Facebook ads, which found a null result, Jose said that he still thinks it’s worth running these ads, given how cheap they are. He also suggested that there might be an effect of people seeing an ad in their News Feed, even if they don’t click on it. However, Jose is concerned that the effectiveness of online ads as an animal advocacy intervention might decline over the next few years if people become used to seeing them, similar to the decreased response his ads have seen over time within a single target demographic.
After the call, Animal Equality sent ACE the following data for their online ads program:
- Cost per 1000 impressions (cpm): $0.76
- Cost per click: $0.02
- Cost per conversion (signing up for the veg starter guide): $3.12
Because Animal Equality started running online ads less than a year ago, we expect their impact-per-dollar will increase over time if they continue with this program.