Editor’s note: Stefan Althoff is marketing research manager at Lufthansa Technik, Hamburg, Germany. This article is a summary of presentations given at the GOR06 General Online Research conference in March 2006 and at the European Research Event in November 2006.

In the summer of 2004 the market research department of Hamburg, Germany-based aviation services firm Lufthansa Technik undertook an online customer survey. At that time, the market researchers had just eight months of experience in constructing online research projects. For whatever reason - poor questionnaire structure, the length of the survey, the season, the sample or the theme - the response rate was relatively low.

After one week in the field, a reminder was sent out - by a trainee named Julia. The response rate spiked to 30 percent. Could it be that, within a male-dominated business like the aviation industry, it is easier to convince potential respondents to take part in a survey if the sender of an invitation or a reminder mail is female?

For some later online surveys the researchers of Lufthansa Technik used female senders to dispatch the e-mail invitations and reminders. No methodical study was run but anecdotally there seemed to be evidence that e-mails from female senders were read earlier and the surveys were started faster. This assumed effect, dubbed the Anita effect, was named for the last female sender before the General Online Research GOR05 conference in Zurich in March 2005. (The conference is a joint effort of the division of Social and Business Psychology at the University of Zürich and the German Society for Online Research.)

A talk on the Anita effect was presented by the author at the GOR05 for the first time. In Zurich I spoke about the Anita effect with Professor Bernad Batinic from the Johannes Keppler University in Linz , Austria. Batinic is one of the pioneers of online research in Europe . He is one of...