The Impact of Online Campaigns in Vegan Outreach: An Interview with Claudio Pomo of Essere Animali

Essere Animali, an animal rights and vegan organization based in Italy that is dedicated to information-sharing to overcome exploitation of animals, is changing the world for farm animals with their campaigns, which include undercover investigations into animal welfare issues as well as support and guidance on vegan living. Claudio Pomo, online campaign manager for Essere Animali, shared with VegFund how online campaigns can effectively challenge consumer attitudes.

Using Facebook Ads Manager, Essere Animali gained more than 3.3 million impressions in June from Italian men (ages 16–54/16–35), women (ages 16–54/16–35), and both genders together using the two same age groups, measuring a cost-per-click (CPC) of €0.05 ($0.06 U.S) and €0.02 ($0.02 U.S.) for all campaigns — which is incredibly cost-effective! Essere Animali’s continued goal is to maintain a similar CPC with the objective of reaching more than 4 million impressions.

We will take a more detailed look at how Facebook Ads Manager works after comments from an interview with Claudio Pomo, Essere Animali‘s Campaigns Manager.

Insights from Claudio Pomo, Essere Animali’s Online Campaigns Manager


VegFund: What are the reasons for the demographic, age, and gender you targeted? Did you arrive at any interesting findings through targeting these?

CP: The age demographic was chosen based on what seemed to be the most promising. International research shows that young people are the individuals most likely to change their diet for ethical reasons, which is the objective we are pursuing with our ads. Polls among Italians proved it: per capita consumption of meat in Italy has lowered by 10% in the last six years, and this trend has been led mostly by millennials. So the choice for our ads was quite easy.

As for gender, we started with test groups of male-only and female-only of the same age and also tested the same ad for both male and female genders together. After a few months, we saw slightly better results with the female-only group, but more testing is needed before we can draw clear conclusions from this.

This result supports other research showing that females are more eager to adopt a vegan or a vegetarian lifestyle and are more interested in animal rights in general.

Regardless of this supporting research, even if one gender group achieves better results and lower CPC, we think that there is still importance in targeting the other gender group, investing less, and testing the content to see what works best.

VegFund: Could you provide us with examples of the Facebook ad campaigns that you ran throughout June? What were some of your reasons for creating these particular ads?

CP: We advertised some of the best-performing videos tested in previous months. These are both sad videos from our investigations and happy animal videos showing the emotions and capabilities of farmed animals that people often ignore. One short video of our footage from Italian farms — very sad and highly emotional, but not graphic — has been the best-performing video to date and was designed to work well with people not informed about these issues. So far, it is our most successful video content.

During June, we also tested images and links. With the right picture and good copy, a link can grab lots of attention. In one ad, we linked to an article on our website. The reason for this choice was to try to bring people towards a better platform for communication. The website is a space with much less distraction compared with social media, enabling people to delve deeper into the issue, finding more information and useful links or downloadable material. This type of content may reach fewer people than video content, but I think it can achieve better results overall.

VegFund: Can you offer some tips and best practices for other activists working on online campaigns to achieve low CPCs?

CP: Videos are surely the best content and a must! This is nothing new, but we see it when we try to use other content (links, images, etc.). Videos always win.

Short videos work much better than longer ones, especially when we look at the number of viewers who watch the whole video or most of it (most of the views in Facebook are just a few seconds in length). The perfect video is less than one minute long and should be minimal in terms of graphic content. This kind of graphic content can gain a lot of views, but most videos are too short to have a real impact because people tend to stop them after just a few seconds. The attention span on social media is getting lower every year, so it is vital that we adjust our communication tactics to get the most out of these channels.

Happy videos of farmed animals doing unexpected things work very well too and are important. Other videos get people to understand what happens in farms and slaughterhouses, but happy videos help them empathize with animals and relate to them as individuals who have feelings.

If there is some content that we find relevant, we always test it.

VegFund: Can you provide any further insight into the best-performing groups during your first months of tests?

CP: The best-performing group we created is female-only, ages 16–35, with interests in companion animals, cooking, and food, health, wellness, yoga, and the environment. People in this demographic, we think, can be more interested in the suffering of animals in factory farms or the impact of eating habits on our health and the planet. This target audience, we hope, also consists of people who are more eager to challenge their eating habits — the ultimate result we want to achieve.

Facebook Ads Manager requires a little research before you’ll feel confident using it, but it’s becoming more user-friendly by the day as it gains popularity. It’s worthwhile spending time learning about it for your online campaign efforts. Read on for an overview of how it works.

Facebook Ads Manager and Cost-per-Click

Facebook Ads Manager lets activists set up online campaigns that:

  • measure results
  • test different audiences, and
  • identify which advertisements perform better in terms of cost-per-click (CPC) and impression acquired.

“Impressions” refers to the number of times a web page or element on a web page (such as an ad) has been viewed or appears on a page of search results. “Cost-per-click” measures the revenue a “publisher” (anyone who creates and places an ad) receives each time someone clicks on the publisher’s ad.

An online campaign using Facebook Ads Manager involves creating one or more advertisement. A campaign manager chooses one advertising objective for each campaign and defines a target audience(s) (for example, demographic, genders, age ranges, lookalike audiences), budget, schedule, bidding (which can focus on impressions, conversions, views, or engagement), and placement (where you want your ad to appear).

You can learn more about the Facebook Ads Manager here.


Thanks again to Claudio at Essere Animali for taking time to speak with us. We look forward to seeing what else Essere Animali has planned in the coming months. Stay up-to-date with their latest activity on Facebook and Twitter.

Find out more about how VegFund can support you with online campaigns today! We’ll delve further into some more of our grantees’ online campaign successes in the coming months, so watch this space.

Everybody’s Doing It: How the Psychology of Social Norms Affects Advocacy

By Leslie Brefeld, 2014 Winter Intern

As animal advocates, we have the challenging task of encouraging people to make lifestyle changes that most of society has yet to adopt. So, it’s critical for us to understand how societal pressures play into people’s decision-making processes. Otherwise, our message might fall on deaf ears, or worse, it may reinforce the negative behavior we are trying to get people to stop (namely, eating animals). In this AR Trends article, we’ll explore how the psychology of social norms affects advocacy and provide some concrete tips for making sure we don’t accidentally send the wrong message!

Everyone is subject to the pressures of society, or social norms. These social norms influence a person’s actions in two fundamental ways: by what s/he sees others actually doing, known as descriptive norms, and by what a person believes s/he ought to do, known as injunctive norms (Cialdini, 2003)

An example of the way these two psychological factors can conflict is illustrated by a 1971 TV commercial dubbed “the Iron Eyes Cody spot,” which was the trademark of a campaign to reduce littering. Although the ad was effective in eliciting sentiment, the PSA might have had the opposite of its intended effect.

To paint the picture (or even better, check it out on YouTube), in the ad a Native American man is seen paddling through the water only to eddy out onto a shore filled with trash. To top it off, he sees a motorist on the highway throw trash out his window. The viewer watches as the camera gets a close-up of the Native American’s face with a single tear running down his cheek.

The problem here is that the ad actually has two messages. One is obvious: Don’t litter; it makes people who care about the environment cry. The second is more subtle but equally persuasive: People litter, and they litter a lot (Cialdini. 2003).

The studies suggest that these two factors–what people see others doing, and what they believe they should do–need to be in alignment for effective advocacy. If a person detects that most people are doing something, they reasonably believe that it is acceptable and maybe even the right thing to do, even if they are being told to do the opposite.

A recent study by a group of researchers in Irvine, CA (Misra, Stokols, & Marino, 2011) illustrates the power of social norms. The researchers were interested in finding out if they could increase survey participation rates using descriptive social norms (i.e., “everyone is doing it”). In one group, potential survey takers were told that most people in the past who were asked to take the survey did so. In the control group, that part was left out. The findings showed that using the “everyone is doing it” (descriptive social norm) appeal significantly increased the number of responses to the surveys (Misra et al., 2011).

Another study looked at the concept of descriptive and injunctive norms in the context of selling eco-friendly apparel. However, the researchers took it a step further and also examined how social cues, which they dubbed “extrinsic” forms of marketing, and personal values, or what they called “intrinsic” marketing, affected consumers.

They found that those who didn’t have a commitment to the environment were more likely to be influenced by an argument that used social cues. In other words, if these consumers saw that purchasing a product would go toward a large campaign that helped the environment, they were more likely to buy. People who already believed in the importance of eco-friendly goods were more persuaded by claims that related to the product itself.

In short, as animal advocates, we need to be aware of the messages we are sending, both directly and indirectly. According to the studies, it’s best to steer clear of anything that reinforces the notion that most people eat meat and animal products. For example, it might be tempting to say something like, “Every year, billions of animals are slaughtered for food,” in order to convey the vast amount of unnecessary suffering that takes place. But, in doing so, we may inadvertently be promoting eating animals as a social norm.

So, what should we do? In advocating to people who are less inclined to veganism, the best route may be to show them all the people and groups who eat an animal-free diet in order to send the message that it is a normal thing to do. For people who are more inclined to veganism, like vegetarians and others in the likely demographics, citing specific benefits of the change could be more effective.

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you have ideas on how the psychology of social norms can be applied to our activism? We’d love to hear from you! Post your opinions and comments below.


Cialdini, Robert. (2003). Crafting Normative Messages to Protect the Environment. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 12(4), 105-109.

Kim, H., Lee, E.J., & Hur, W.M. (2012). The Normative Social Influence on Eco-Friendly Consumer Behavior: The Moderating Effect of Environmental Marketing Claims. Clothing and Textiles Research Journal, 30(1), 4-18.

Misra, Shalina, Stokols, Daniel & Marino, Anne Heberger. (2011). Using Norm-Based Appeals to Increase Response Rates in Evaluation Research: A Field Experiment. American Journal of Evaluation, 33(1), 88-98.