FEATURE6 April 2011

Giving ain't easy


It’s been a fairly slow start for Pause to Support a Cause, the CMO Council initiative to drive charitable giving through surveys. It launched with much fanfare 18 months ago – but is only now in a position to start fielding its first surveys. We speak to vice president Liz Miller.

The model remains the same – get people to take surveys and donate their incentives to a charity of their choosing. But the process is now being managed by a new partner, the panel company Op4G. Research caught up with CMO Council vice president Liz Miller to fill in the gaps.

It’s 18 months since we last covered Pause to Support a Cause. How has the initiative progressed?
Over the past 18 months, our efforts focused almost exclusively on developing relationships with 200 non-profit organisations around the globe, addressing a key need of the programme which was to enrich the panel base and bring in as many new consumers to the panel as possible.

We also needed to gather a group of partners and service providers who could execute the surveys, process payments to the non-profits and manage the panel. While striking partnerships with non-profits was challenging, it was actually locating a partner who could manage the entire end-to-end survey operations that caused the most problems.

While we had terrific partners on the panel management and survey fielding side, they were not able to process payments quickly and directly to the charities an individual respondent chose. All too often, the scenario would be that a single lump sum for the entire respondent base would be distributed to a single charity.

It was not until we finalised our partnership with Op4G that we were able to officially begin to take that first request to field a survey. We now have several initial pilot campaigns in planning stages to field our first stage Pause panels.

“Striking partnerships with non-profits was challenging, but locating a partner who could manage the entire end-to-end survey operations caused the most problems”

Wasn’t Peanut Labs managing the panel for you originally? What happened there?
The panel had been managed internally by the CMO Council. Peanut Labs was not managing the panel, but did provide us with a unique opportunity to blend our panel with their existing social media panel. However, through the course of building the panel, we realised it would be critical to locate a partner who would have the capacity to manage the panel, facilitate payment to the NGO partners and field surveys to the panel. This is why we established a partnership with Op4g.

All panellists who had opted into the Pause panel previously have been notified about the change and have been welcomed to the Op4G panel, where they will be able to have far more flexibility in identifying causes to support. Each panellist may support up to two charities at any one time and may reward their charities with between 25% and 100% of their ‘earnings’.

This operational shift has very little to do with panel performance or our relationship with Peanut Labs – in fact, the CMO Council uses Peanut Labs to field consumer research from time to time. This was more about partnering with a company with an almost identical mindset, the operational expertise and a track record in cause-driven research and research in general, and the case studies that validate the premise of cause-directed marketing.

At launch you encountered some hostility from research companies who were worried about the threat of competition. Has this hostility eased?
I think there was a belief that the Pause panel would replace other panels, which it was never intended to do. Pause was always directed as an opportunity to blend in a highly attractive, hard-to-reach demographic. Now, with Op4G, that direction certainly remains. The targets that most readily participate in the Op4G system are engaged and motivated… and do not represent the standard [panel] fare.

I also believe that part of the hostility when we introduced the concept was fuelled by a belief that marketing and market research should not intertwine – and that marketers had no business having an opinion, let alone say-so, about market research. I clearly remember being told that “the minute marketers get involved with market research, the purity and honesty of research is destroyed”.

But I think much of the hostility and misunderstanding of our intentions has dissipated. Instead what we have found is that panel providers are also frustrated with the level of participation from certain population segments, and see the benefit from tapping into a high-quality panel in a hard-to-reach market segment.

When we last spoke you said the aim for Pause was to have upwards of 10% of the $18bn spent on research annually going through the panel. Eighteen months on, how close are you to reaching this goal? Do your ambitions remain the same?

You bet. Our goals are still the same, and thanks to the time we took to build the right infrastructure to power the Pause system, they are now attainable.

What does the Pause/Op4G panel look like?
Compared to the US census, Op4G’s panel is:

  • heavily weighted towards females
  • well-distributed across standards age groups ( 25-64 ), but not the youngest and oldest age groups
  • respondents are less likely to have children, but if they do they are more likely to be under the age of 11
  • respondents are slightly more likely to be married or share a household with someone
  • panellists are more likely to be employed, significantly more educated and have a higher household income
  • panellists are predominantely white with lower percentages of other ethnicities than the US census

Based on an analysis as of 1 February 2011