What is the Most Effective Veg Outreach Video?
At Faunalytics, we always emphasize the need to research the efficacy of outreach tactics and messages and we’ve helped dozens of animal organizations do just that. While animal advocates spend a lot of time debating which outreach methods are most successful, these discussions are often fueled by opinion and anecdote rather than evidence. One such debate is over vegetarian/vegan (“veg”) outreach videos. Should they focus on health, the environment or ethics? Should they show graphic images? Should they encourage veganism only or focus on meat reduction?
Of course, these questions cannot be answered with a single research study. But the team at VegFund – a leading supporter of veg outreach and advocacy – understood that we have to start somewhere.
They commissioned Faunalytics to help advocates begin to better understand this issue with a study comparing the efficacy of four veg outreach videos among youths and young adults. The study emulated the increasingly popular “pay-per-view” advocacy model by providing a modest incentive for watching a four-minute video. What we found was surprising—there were only minor differences between the videos in terms of motivating respondents to plan to reduce meat, dairy or egg consumption. However, the differences we did find are important and the study leads to additional questions that future research should seek to answer. You can download the full study here.
A random sample of 500 U.S. young adults between the ages of 15-23 watched vegetarian/vegan outreach videos and then completed a survey. Each respondent was randomly assigned to watch a clip approximately four minutes long from one of the following four veg outreach videos:
- Farm to Fridge (Mercy for Animals): A graphic appeal to ethics/compassion using footage of farm animal abuse sourced mostly from undercover investigations.
- Maxine’s Dash for Freedom (Farm Sanctuary): Appeal to ethics/compassion by telling the story of a cow who escaped slaughter and was rescued.
- A Life Connected (Nonviolence United): Appeal to environmental concerns with information about resource usage and pollution related to animal farming.
- Geico Couple (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine): Appeal to health concerns by telling the story of a couple that adopted a vegan diet and successfully lost weight.
After watching the video, respondents were asked questions about what they learned, if they want more information about eating vegetarian or vegan, about their current levels of meat, dairy and egg consumption, and whether they intend to reduce consumption of any animal products in the future.
Overall, the effectiveness of the videos varied surprisingly little even though the videos themselves varied in important ways, such as the level of graphicness depicted in images, the specific appeal being made (health, the environment, animal cruelty), and whether the subject(s) of the video were human or nonhuman animals. Watching any of the videos resulted in an average of 31% of respondents considering a reduction of animal products and 9% indicated considering eliminating animal products.
The one video that seemed to have a slight edge over the others was Mercy For Animals’ Farm to Fridge video. Those who watched Farm to Fridge had a significantly higher likelihood of considering reducing or eliminating consumption of eggs and/or dairy (though not meat products). Interestingly, however, this video had the lowest amount of user engagement. Respondents watched significantly less of Farm to Fridge compared with the other videos, viewing on average only 78% of the video, whereas they watched 84-91% of the other three videos.
There were few differences by demographic characteristics, but they were significant factors in some cases. Although the video watched didn’t influence a respondent’s desire to get more information about being vegetarian or vegan, age did. Respondents over the age of 18 were significantly more likely to request more information. In addition, this group was more likely to state they learned something new from watching the video. Women were more willing to consider eliminating at least one meat product in the future. Those with a bachelor’s degree were less likely than those with less education to consider reducing meat, egg, or dairy consumption.
There were few significant differences between videos in terms of motivating behavioral change surrounding the consumption of animals and their byproducts. Based on these findings we can assume that any well-produced video that educates the public about factory farming will encourage a sizable minority of viewers to reduce consumption of animal products in the future and a small minority to plan to eliminate at least one animal product altogether.
Importantly, however, respondents were given incentives to watch this video and take this survey, much like the pay-per-view programs supported by VegFund, which offers viewers $1 to watch a video. Given the lack of significant differences between the videos, it may be that the video content itself is a less important factor than simply having the complete attention of a captive audience, which is typically the case with pay-per-view video outreach.
Of course, this study is only a drop in the proverbial bucket and many questions are left to be answered. Faunalytics’ final recommendation is for advocates and scholars to conduct more research on the topic of effective vegetarian/vegan outreach to answer more precise questions about what makes videos effective. For example, comparing the effects of a pay-per-view setting versus a setting without an incentive, better understanding the role that graphic images play, understanding how different age groups respond to different messages, etc.
One of the topics Faunalytics will be exploring in the near future is veg “recidivism” – understanding how many people are reverting back to consuming animal products and why. This information will be crucial for vegetarian advocates to identify effective ways of both creating new vegetarians/vegans and helping those people sustain compassionate diets for the long-term.
Please contact us if you are interested in learning more about the recidivism study.