A little over a year ago, a report was released by Faunalytics (then the Humane Research Council) which highlighted the extremely high recidivism rates among vegans and vegetarians (I will refer to both of these as “vegetarians” for simplicity). A staggering 80% of people who try veg eventually start eating meat again within a few years. This means that while the current population of vegetarians in the US is around 2%, the population of former veggies is x5 higher at roughly 10%.
Shortly after this report was released, I was talking with Alan Darer who runs the large-scale Facebook advertising program at Mercy For Animals (among other things). We were discussing the high percentage of former vegetarians and whether it might be easier to recruit from this group back to an animal free diet than the population at large. After all, they had already expressed interest in a veg diet in the past. Perhaps by tailoring the message appropriately, and by providing resources that they may not have had before (including a free Veg Starter Guide with simple recipes, health information, info on meat-less meats, and social tips like suggestions for dining out, eating with friends, etc.) they could be convinced to give it another try.
Working with Nick Cooney (also at MFA), Alan and I organized a small study to investigate this. Given the extremely high recidivism rate, we reasoned that most of the people who had “liked” a vegetarian Facebook page in the past would have gone back to eating meat. So by targeting people who had "liked" pages or terms like Vegetarianism, Flexitarianism, VegNews, Vegetarian Cuisine, etc, we would effectively be targeting a large number of former vegetarians. Alan put together a series of Facebook ads targeting these people with messaging specifically meant to encourage them to “give it another try” (see example ads below).
The study ran over a two month period late 2015, and the results were very promising. The average cost of getting a person in the former-vegetarian community to pledge to go veg (again) and order an MFA Vegetarian Starter Guide was about 2-3 times less ($2.65) than for the general population ($5-$8). The budget for this study was fairly small (~$2K), so while these results are tentative, they do provide motivation to continue to explore how this population can be effectively re-engaged.
Alan is interested in securing funding to run more of these campaigns in the US, and also to try them out in other countries that MFA advertises in, particularly Latin America where advertising is very cheap relative to the US. If you're interested in getting involved with this don't hesitate to reach out to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.