TAFA and AR 2014 – Animal Advocates Embrace Market Research
This week, Faunalytics co-founder and marketing specialist Anthony Bellotti reports on his participation in market research panels at the recent Taking Action for Animals conference in Washington, D.C. and Animal Rights 2014 conference in Los Angeles.
If it’s summer, then it’s conference season in the animal advocacy community.
I just spent the last two weekends speaking and exhibiting on behalf of the Faunalytics and White Coat Waste Movement at two of the largest animal advocacy gatherings: Taking Action for Animals (TAFA) and Animal Rights 2014 (AR2014).
Here’s my key takeaway: interest in market research continues to grow among animal advocates. In fact, there’s never been more chatter about data-driven campaigns and success metrics within the movement – at least not since I attended my first animal advocacy conference back in 2002.
This development is shocking, but not surprising to me.
You see, for much of our trailblazing first decade at Faunalytics, we actually had to justify a place for research in the movement. In our ten-year retrospective we noted the following evolution:
“Ten years ago, when we founded the Faunalytics, some animal advocates were skeptical when we made the case for investing in strategic research. We routinely heard questions like ‘why do we need more research?’ or ‘don’t we already know the answers to these questions?’”
This is no longer the case. These days, research doesn’t just have a seat at the table… it now occupies a bigger role in the dinner table conversation.
From casual discussions with activists to question-and-answer sessions following presentations, much of the conversation centered around effective animal advocacy. What does the body of research say about leafletting for anti-vivisection? What evidence exists for using the ethical veg argument? What does public opinion say about us? These are the kinds of questions I heard throughout both conferences.
At TAFA in Washington, D.C., I spoke to a capacity crowd about “mad communication skills.” My fellow panelists were pollster Josh Ulibarri, and John Goodwin of the Humane Society of the United States. All of us stressed good solid research as the cornerstone of an effective persuasion campaign. As I stressed in the session, if I leave you with only one nugget of wisdom in crafting your persuasion campaign, it is this: when you emphasize everything, you emphasize nothing.
My first presentation in Los Angeles at AR2014, on behalf of White Coat Waste Movement, focused on my area of specialization: lessons from anti-vivisection campaigns. Bottom line: public opinion is moving in our favor. Yet the number of animals in laboratories continues to move largely in the wrong direction due to a stalemate on the issue. Thus, a fresh new message and bold, new approach is needed to thaw the issue freeze.
My second panel shared the stage with Jon Bockman of Animal Charity Evaluators (ACE). Bockman’s group is a relatively new organization that focuses on highlighting effective animal protection organizations who are making the biggest difference. Bockman’s presentation reinforced my perception that there’s a growing awareness among grassroots animal advocates that we need to maximize the impact of work through solid research and hard data.
My final panel on behalf of Faunalytics was an analysis of our vegetarian/vegan recidivism study. This groundbreaking research and forthcoming report will shed light on a hotly debated, yet poorly understood subject: why vegetarians and vegans fall off the plant-based wagon.
So the trend in favor of research makes me an optimist for animal advocacy. And while much work still needs to be done, we can rest comfortably that the most difficult sale – finding a seat at the table for what we do – is behind us.