David Blecken
Sep 15, 2013

Drive action before emotional connection: Adam Ferrier

SPIKES ASIA 2013 - In his presentation this afternoon, Adam Ferrier, head of behavioural science at Naked Communications, argued that over-emphasis on creativity at traditional advertising agencies risks stifling the potential of campaigns to effect real behavioural change among consumers.

Adam Ferrier
Adam Ferrier

Ferrier argued that “creativity left on its own equals risk”, adding that science has to play a role if an initiative is to encourage people to do things differently. He suggested that brands should aim to encourage immediate action among a segment of their target audience and amplify that as a means of effecting large-scale behavioural change.

He explained that the principle of collectivism is made up of three quarters science and one quarter creativity. “Agencies are finding it hard to inject behavioural economics into what they do because of the rule of the creative director,” he said.

Ferrier drew on a number of well-known experiments from the 1960s to illustrate people’s fundamental willingness to do things that they are instructed to do. “If you want to get people to clap louder for you, all you have to do is ask them,” he noted, having done just that at the start of his presentation. He then pointed to an experiment by the social psychologist Stanley Milgram into obedience, which found 70 per cent of people were prepared to administer a fatal electrocution when asked to do so by someone in a position of authority.


Another important human trait, he said, is the tendency to conform. This was illustrated by the Asch conformity experiment. “We are hard-wired to go along with what our group says,” he observed, adding that amplifying the behaviour of a few in the initial stages of a campaign can have a profound effect in spreading that behaviour among a much larger group.

He used cult initiations as an example of social binding. The more embarrassing the initiation, he said, the more people are likely to justify it and to like (or feel a sense of belonging with) the cult.

He urged marketers to “get people to act first” before thinking about building a rational or emotional connection. “Get people to interact, and thoughts and feelings will follow,” he said. “Emotional connections, lovemarks—are all a bit iffy.”

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