Hegarty on Advertising. Turning Intelligence into Magic – John Hegarty

How can I review a book from someone whose experience in advertising is around 40 years and he still heads up an agency that I’d like to work for?

Well I can’t so this will be a short review.

hegarty on advertising

It’s part John’s view of advertising and part memoir. I preferred the views to the memoir which did get a little self reverential.

There were three chapters that particularly made the book worth a read for me.

Ideas not because it was revelatory but because it was a reminder. Especially of how creativity isn’t a process but advertising is a process.

The Creative Director because if your in a position similar it reminds you that its YOUR job to provide the philosophical and intuitive leadership that makes the agency greater than just a marketing consultancy.

How Advertising Drove me to Drink because it shows how something – wine in this case – can encapsulate so beautifully a sense of time and place.

I suggest you just buy a copy and read it, there will be something in there that will nudge your conscience and tweak your views.

Title | Hegarty on Advertising. Turning Intelligence into Magic.
Author | John Hegarty
Publisher | Thames & Hudson
Publish Date | 2011
ISBN | 978-0-500-51556-3

Reviewer | Steven Bennett-Day

Buy from Amazon UK: Hegarty on Advertising: Turning Intelligence into Magic

Ordering Disorder. Grid Principles for Web Design – Khoi Vinn

Khoi’s book is something I felt was needed a few years ago, so much so I contemplated trying to write something similar. Luckily for the world though Khoi actually did it and not just thought about it.

ordering disorder by khoi vinn on lightmediumbold.com

For anyone coming from a graphic design background and moving into digital design, applying all the typographic grid principles you studied to a medium that is so fluid was a bit trial and error. We had to get to grips with pages that changed size, not the easiest thing to set a grid to. Plus with the raft of new ‘web designers’ having little training or understanding of grid principles (or design in many cases) we saw some truly awful unstructured aesthetics.

There’s an argument there that some of those early design approaches were ‘ruderal’ in form, the first creative expressions to colonise a new medium, but most of it was the application of rubbish design sprinkled with a few technical parlor tricks.

Since then there has been a number of approaches such as the 960 Grid System to give designers a framework on which to design that can be translated well to code, but this hasn’t addressed why you might want to bother yourself creating a grid in the first place.

That’s where Khoi’s book kicks off, with a couple of chapters about the concept of grids and the process of grids. Obviously if you love grids you’ll know a lot of this, and if you want more, then start your searching here: www.thegridsystem.org

The book is then structured pretty much like an exercise book on how to use a grid system to architect a web design that has order and reason you can apply throughout the wealth of templates you may have to develop. It clearly shows how spending time up front setting out your grid system can make it easier for you to develop new sections, templates etc further down the line.

Khoi quite rightly doesn’t advocate his system to make the design of the web more ‘reductive’, nor does he delight over the ‘old’ analogue methods of design. He simply demonstrates how using structure to create order leads to a good experience.

His concise conclusion aptly points out that the developments in technology are re-shaping and evolving our interactions with media all the time.

I can’t help believing though that an understanding of harmonious grid patterns, proportions and geometry will always help any designer create a better, more approachable interface and aesthetic whatever the new forms of medium there is to work with. With that in mind, go read the book.

A quick note about Khoi. If you’re not familiar with him he was the former Design Director of NYTimes.com and changed the way design was practiced at the New York Times. He a clever cookie and you should keep an eye on his blog www.subtraction.com and maybe stalk him on Twitter @khoi. He also co-created the Basic Maths Wordpress template that lightmediumbold.com is built upon: basicmaths.subtraction.com

Title | Ordering Disorder. Grid Principles for Web Design.
Author | Khoi Vinn
Publisher | New Riders
Publish Date | 2011
ISBN | 978-0-321-70353-8

Reviewer | Steven Bennett-Day

Buy from Amazon UK: Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design: Grid Principles for Interaction Design (Voices That Matter)

Sounds Good On Paper – Roger Horberry

How many emails, presentations or documents have you endured that have too many words, too little meaning and are too easy to ignore? My bet is too many. (I think I may have used an anaphora there.)

roger-horberry-sounds-good-on-paper

Roger’s book demonstrates how to use figures of speech to add a bit of emotional sparkle to what-ever you’re writing and I for one would be thankful if more people adopted at least a bit of this. Even in the creative industry you have to wade through enough business writing that you really notice and appreciate it when someone brings it to life with a bit of a story.

In uncovering the figures of speech we are all familiar with, and some we’re probably not, Roger liberally uses great literary and historical examples. It’s surprising just how common and accepted figures of speech are without any understanding of context. Anyway, once you’ve read this, you’ll start seeing them everywhere. You’ll probably have used a load in your writing before without even knowing what they were, or perhaps that’s just my experience.

You might come away from this book not able to remember what all the figures are called, because there are many, but you can’t fail to see that these creative turns of speech have a meaning greater than the sum of their words.

Roger’s final plea is that better writing starts with better listening and reading. The more high quality raw material you expose yourself to, the greater your chances of eloquence. Having endured an education in English language that was somewhat lacking in the education part, and not having an English literature education at all, I can only assume any writing skill I have has seeped into me through exposure.

Concision is something I admire in others writing, so I‘ll end the review here and suggest that if you write anything for others to read then this book is worth occupying the space next to your thesaurus. I just wish I could think of a nice figure to finish it off…

Title | Sounds Good On Paper – How to bring business language to life
Author | Roger Horberry
Publisher | A & C Black Publishers Ltd
Publish Date | 2010
ISBN | 978-1-4081-2231-0

Reviewer | Steven Bennett-Day

Buy from Amazon UK: Sounds Good on Paper: How to Bring Business Language to Life

The Designful Company – Marty Neumeier

Marty Neumeier writes ‘whiteboard overviews’—that’s a concise book to most of us.

His previous two, The Brand Gap and Zag are well regarded. The content of them undoubtably graces many powerpoint presentations and you will find them quoted in numerous brand and marketing blogs.

The Designful Company - Marty Neumeier

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve gagged over a phrase containing ‘zag’ in agency meetings. My favourite being a reference to ‘zagology’ – like it makes it all real and proper if appended with an ology. I think many truly creative people understand the fertility of the path less trodden and perhaps don’t need an ology to enlighten them so. A quick search for ‘zag’ on slideshare produced 2818 presentations containing a bit of zag.

The Designful Company is about non-stop innovation through design thinking. There’s some good thoughts and examples of how companies that use innovation as an ethic are outmoding companies built on mass-production and traditional spreadsheet based theories. Yes, Apple gets quoted a lot.

For anyone looking for a broad definition of design in a business sense, the first part of the book is fairly interesting. I liked the idea of creative people being drawn to the tension between what ‘is’ (reality) and the place we want to get to (vision). The bit in-between those two is where a creative person thrives.

I guess with many businesses placing their emphasis on a deductive process of creating logical simple routines, a book that explains creative such as this works.

I think the best way of summing up is if you find the image below interesting, you’ll enjoy the book.

The Designful Company - Latent Talent - get it?

Title | The Designful Company
Author | Marty Neumeier
Publisher | New Riders
Publish Date | 2009
ISBN | 978-0-321-58006-1

Reviewer | Steven Bennett-Day

Buy From Amazon UK: The Designful Company: How to Build a Culture of Nonstop Innovation

How To Make It As An Advertising Creative – Simon Veksner

There are a number of books that deal with career paths in the creative industries – especially graphic design, but I think this is the first I’ve seen that looks at making it as a creative in advertising.

how to make it as an advertising creative simon veksner

Simon—a copywriter at BBH London—is a well known creative, partly due to his long standing and excellent scampblog. Many of the chapters and sections in this book are extensions of a series of tips that developed on scampblog.

I’ve not followed the typical path in advertising, I’ve split my creative career with other things, so I was definitely interested to read what path a typical ad creative might take.

First thing, this isn’t a book about how to do stuff, it’s a guide to getting a job and managing your career in the creative department of an ad agency. For the person entering the world of ad creative for the first time, there’s really useful stuff like what to put in your book and what level to go into the agencies at to get yourself seen. There’s also some interesting stuff that you might not have considered like what to do if you get fired, raising your profile and thinking about what you look like.

The overall tone is pragmatic and honest. Simon doesn’t reference theories or academia, he gives proper advice based on his own immense experience and I imagine of those around him, which is bang on. The book is peppered with interviews from creatives at the top of the game, of mixed value I think though. There’s more to gain from Simon’s experience than from those interviews.

The book focuses purely on traditional advertising though, and does have a reverence for TV creative. This is of course fair enough, most ad agencies work a hierarchy and method that’s been successful and accepted for half a century, and in those terms this book really helps you see how this structure works for you if you’re looking to be an ad creative.

how to make it as an advertising creative - simon veksner - a review on lightmediumboldI think more acknowledgement of the creativity in other disciplines—especially digital—would have made the read more complete. I guess Simon is drawing on his experience and I’m relating it to mine. It’s useful to understand as a junior heading into advertising that in some ways advertising is changing pretty fast. Many enlightened agencies are bringing creative to new channels quickly, and some are doing it extremely well, but for anyone studying advertising creative now, when you reflect back on your career from a senior level, it’ll look a bit different to how it does today.

Enjoy this book. It offers loads of insight, especially to newcomers. It cuts through a lot of the bollocks, here-say and urban mythology of advertising careers. If you’re looking at working in an advertising agency, and your Dad wasn’t an ad man, this book is the closest thing you’ll get to a map of what to expect.

Most agency creative departments are pyramidal, so there is a hierarchy, and you’ll work your way up that. But do remember there are other ways. Doing nothing with your career apart from advertising can leave you in a cycle of only referencing advertising. Gaining other useful cultural experiences forms a huge chunk of the stuff you draw upon as a creative. So if you get an itch to do something else for a bit, scratch it, it will give your mind a lot more to draw upon when you’re inevitably pulled back to advertising.

Title | How To Make It As An Advertising Creative
Author | Simon Veksner
Publisher | Laurence King
Publish Date | 2010
ISBN | 978-1-85669-657-9

Reviewer | Steven Bennett-Day

Buy from Amazon UK: How to Make It as an Advertising Creative

Graphic Design: A User’s Manual – Adrian Shaughnessy

From the title you’d be forgiven for thinking this book will give you practical advice on the craft of graphic design. Thankfully, for the large part, that’s exactly what it doesn’t do. Best described as an A-Z of current practice, it covers some of the many things you’d need to know as a contemporary working graphic designer.

Graphic Design A Users Manual - Adrian Shaughnessy

It’s written from Adrian’s considerable experience and there does tend to be a bias on the detail around craft related points, which is exactly what you’d expect and hope from an author with such a rich and practical heritage in graphic design.

There are some good insights into areas that support design. Being good at graphic design isn’t the only skill you need to be a good graphic designer, and because it’s a largely unregulated industry there’s not many places to go as a young graphic designer to widen your understanding. Most of us learn it on the job, so there are some valuable short-hands here to opening up your understanding of the stuff you’ll encounter through a design career.

Maybe this is the basis of another book, but I thought some of the content around the ‘business’ side of graphic design, like banking and money was a little more overview than the rest. It’s difficult to combine a brilliant introduction to modernism, a useful statement on ellipsis together with how to negotiate your salary. Hence the A-Z being probably the only workable taxonomy to a career in understanding the stuff around graphic design.

Graphic Design A Users Manual - Adrian ShaughnessyIt was good to see some space devoted to web design in relation to the reality of it for graphic designers. It would have been nice to see those thoughts extended beyond designing for the web and more into digital space in general as so much design now requires interaction thinking. Designers have a role to play in developing interaction. Constantly adhering to compliant usability theories will homogenise the experience and there’s room for us to demonstrate that good interaction design can lead a users experience as much as users dictating that experience.

I enjoyed the section that critiqued the low importance the advertising industry places on graphic design, seeing it as a technical resource to execute the idea and not an opportunity to stop the formulaic sameness of all ads. Having worked in both industries I see the strengths in adland treating graphic design more as a creative expression and graphic design understanding that an idea behind an aesthetic makes it hundreds of times more powerful and interesting.

I’ll end on a quote from Otl Aicher from The World as Design, found on the inside cover. Sums up this book a treat.

“Graphic design is one of the last free professions that is not forced into the corset of a career structure and thus inhibited by standards and guidelines. There is no career structure upon which the state could accompany designers with examinations and checks, and of course also with certificates and prizes, with awards and titles. A graphic designer is a graphic designer.”

Title | Graphic Design: A User’s Manual.
Author | Adrian Shaughnessy
Publisher | Laurence King
Publish Date | 2009
ISBN | 978-1-85669-591-6

Reviewer | Steven Bennett-Day

Buy from Amazon UK: Graphic Design: A User’s Manual.

A Technique for Producing Ideas – James Webb Young

Early cartographers who knew little about what was between two known land masses created elaborate dragons and monsters to fill that void on the globe.

I’ve found a similar process in advertising whereby an agency draws up a formal ‘creative process’ to help rationalise to clients what happens between the brief and the idea to justify charging money. It became fashionable to name your creative process, some agencies even trade marking theirs.

a technique for producing ideas by james webb young - review on light medium bold

Like any creative person though, you know it isn’t as clear cut as that. There IS an intangible bit in producing an idea between a brief and finishing with an idea. However interesting an agency makes this process sound, you know you’ll be the one who has to be comfortable with talking those steps into the ‘intangible gap’.

It’s that very bit where creative people do their work. The process of discovering what those dragons are between the brief and the idea.

James Webb Young first put his process down in 1965, arguably a process which was probably well understood by the social sciences of the time, but laid out in a succinct, easy series of steps that most creative people would grasp.

The first of the five suggested phases is the gathering of raw materials – both for the immediate problem but also general materials to broaden your understanding of everything. I couldn’t agree more with the second part. Many times has my obsession with books, magazines and information about very unrelated material led me to find relationships between things that have yielded an idea I wouldn’t have found otherwise. James suggests collecting and indexing your ideas on cards, a good discipline which is probably better done these days with a range of digital tools such as Evernote.

The second stage is digesting all the research. Finding the relationships and writing down the partial ideas you have until you lose you way and have no clear insight.

This makes way for the third stage where you do nothing. Well, you do something else that interests you and let your subconscious do it’s thing.

Stage four is the birth of the idea. I struggle with the thought of the eureka moment as described, “Out of nowhere the Idea will appear”. I’ve had a couple so can see what James means, but I think leaving your brain to do it’s thing and hope your eureka moment comes before the deadline might be pushing it somewhat. But I do definitely agree that giving your head some space after doing a lot thinking leads to fresh insights when you return.

Stage five is about looking at the idea in context and making it work.

I imagine that most creative people would see it as an expression of some of the steps they go through more than a new set of tools they can use, but it’s worth the short read of around twenty minutes to remind yourself of the practical things you can do to help you get your mind in the right state to generate ideas.

Title | A Technique for Producing Ideas.
Author | James Webb Young
Publisher | McGraw-Hill
Publish Date | 2003 this edition (Originally published in 1965)
ISBN | 0-07-141094-5

Reviewer | Steven Bennett-Day

Buy from Amazon: A Technique for Producing Ideas (McGraw-Hill Advertising Classic)

Co-opportunity. Join up for a sustainable, resilient, prosperous world – John Grant

This is a book that is bang on the moment. Not in a fashionable way though. John has brought together a huge amount of thoughts and resources that a lot of people are being touched by and given them all a brilliant terms of reference – co-opportunity. It’s a primer to start to do that thing that humans are naturally good at – working together in groups – to create the change that business and government simply can’t do based on old flawed models about what opportunity and wealth means.

co-opportunity-john-grant

John himself has been highlighted as a change maker. His previous book ‘The Green Marketing Manifesto‘ addressed the need for marketing that actually delivers on green objectives rather than using the “new religion of green” to create just a commercial opportunity.

But it’s Jonathan Porritt’s opener in the foreword “John Grant is your archetypal glass-half-full man” that really sets the tone for the relentless optimism presented throughout Co-opportunity.

Any person giving thought to climate change, peak oil, sustainability etc will see the impending disaster that will hit sometime in the future. John clearly sees this with a lot more depth and experience than most of us. However, what’s really refreshing here is John’s motivating exploration of all the creative ways people can make a difference. There’s such a collection of positive grassroots projects curated in one place. I have so many folded corners on the book to take me back to the places that sparked ideas that I will be reading the entire book again.

There’s persistent references to how today’s media opens up the possibilities of collaboration, many of the projects involve Web 2.0 in some way. So much so that you’re left feeling that it’s possible this could be the backbone through which Co-opportunity could happen.

A couple of things that struck was the observation of two key themes emerging around what the next generation of the web might mean (I can’t quite bring myself to call it Web 3.0). Prosocial networks, communities of people collectively achieving something worthwhile, together with networks that extend real world interactions as opposed to just online interactions. These seem to fit with an approach that needs the co-operation and intelligence of the globe with the ability to act on and affect the local.

The book is arranged in five parts. Part 1: A Climate For Change? Suggests why the obvious signs, some laid out here, are not being heeded because the communication isn’t right and isn’t working because in itself it can’t create a climate for change.

Part two of the book is named after a quote from David Puttnam, “Marketers will have a role to play in helping society to relocate dreams.” Relocating dreams is about re-defining what a better future looks like. One that is more ‘elegant, wise and enjoyable.’

It begins by challenging consumerism. The assumption that ‘selling more stuff’ shouldn’t be questioned in a business sense. In a ‘relocated’ world do people want ‘more stuff’?. The rational economic assumption that a healthy economy only works through persistent growth generates a perpetual desire that may not be in our nature. I’m no economist (and probably not that rational either) but constant growth has to end somewhere. John rightly picks on the fashion industry, a business model that is reliant on rapid cycles of obsolescence and disposability. There are of course moves against this such as howies who produce the hand me down range.

Part 3: Co-operative Responsibility uncovers how transparency in business can create change. As a citizen seeing how things really work can change your behaviour. Remember the small glimpse into the world of battery chicken farming from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall changed the mainstream view?

Another interesting development comes from Wal-Mart (yep!) who propose their 100 000 suppliers have to disclose information about the sourcing of their ingredients. Amazingly Wal-Mart want to compile this information into a database and make it open source. This means any organisation can use the information to create sustainability ratings standards. A revolution from an unexpected source for sure.

“Economic growth elevates emissions; what is the point of making a fetish of growth if it in some large part diminishes welfare?” This quote by Anthony Giddens, former Director of the London School of Economics is the opener to Part Four: Economic Resilience. For me, addressing our obsession with economic growth feels like a cornerstone in changing our attitude towards the planet and each other. John looks at the work of Tim Jackson one of the leading questioners of the economic growth myth. He moves on to look at other formats such as microcredits using the Grameen Bank, whose founder Mohammed Yunus won a Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of a new way of doing business, as a light, and shows how social ventures work.

For those of us who work in marketing, there’s some good reference around crowd funding, co-innovation and particularly a short but sweet section on loyalty. The latter reminds us of the in-elegance of acquisition as a model for sustainable marketing, a tough cookie in an industry designed to help people sell more, not look at the benefit of selling less.

The fifth and final part of the book is about abundance. Perhaps because I’m not someone with a background in the trends of green language it seemed a strange word and concept to come across. It does however make perfect sense.

John suggest his model of thinking about abundant systems as “being like sailing. It’s about catching abundant resources from your surroundings, rather than chugging away with a motor (i.e. high energy inputs). And because of this you need a sailor’s eye for patterns in the systems around you: weather, tide and so on.”

Designing a system which is abundant means it works for the common good, it gives a ‘wellbeing return on resources’. This is against the mechanical ‘return on investment’ definition of productivity. I can hear lots of marketing people who make ROI their core product switching off there, but some of the principles of abundant systems are central to some of the case studies we all love. Distributedness, for example, is the core behind Craigslist, YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr and Facebook. Small, smart contributions by members working better than a centrally organised corporation. John picks up on ReCaptcha, that lovely little service that proves you are human when subscribing to a web service and uses your human intelligence to digitise old books one word at a time.

The book ends with abundancy as an ethic. A shared ethic that unites communities rather than central control. “…an aligned group working towards something they believe in.” John suggests that an ethic goes beyond a purpose, agenda, target or mission because many central government and big business actions can be aligned with these. Where they differ though is that “they do not share the passion for grass-roots involvement. Conversely the genuis of Web 2.0-style social production systems, highly relevant to sustainability, came out of a belief in a more democratic, distributed arrangement of society.”

It’s worth pointing out that the book itself is a demonstration in collaboration. John worked with the PSFK.com readership in an experiment of collaborative editing as well as drawing from “many of the inspiring conversations and characters I’m in contact with.”

I couldn’t recommend a book much higher than this, but I am indeed an idealist. I think for anyone working in the creative and marketing fields who sometimes find it hard to square what you do with how you feel,  it’ll consolidate a lot of things you may have heard about and suggest that you should use your skills to play a role in how we evolve from here.

Title | Co-opportunity. Join up for a sustainable, resilient, prosperous world.
Author | John Grant
Publisher | John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Publish Date | 2010
ISBN | 978-0-470-68436-8

Reviewer | Steven Bennett-Day

Buy from Amazon: Co-opportunity: Join Up for a Sustainable, Resilient, Prosperous World

Buy from Amazon: The Green Marketing Manifesto

Other links:

Leonora Oppenheim posted a brilliant really in-depth review of Co-opportunity on Treehugger.

The Co-opportunity blog.

And a short intro video to Co-opportunity on YouTube.

Slideshare presentation on the ‘Pro Social Internet’ given to the APG by John.

101 Things I Learned in Architecture School – Matthew Frederick

I’m not a student of architecture and never have been, but have always loved architecture enough to have more than a superficial interest in the way space is designed. To study architecture is a huge commitment as there are so many disciplines in which you have to skilled and learned, yet it still requires a nebulous approach because it is a creative field.

101 Things I Learned in Architecture School - Matthew Frederick - Review on LightMediumBold

Anyway, the book. Billed as a guide to demystifying and simplifying some of the complex things a student is likely to encounter at architecture school. True or not, I doubt it has the requisite depth to be more than a pointer or an inspiration to get your thoughts moving in that case.

But that, I believe, is the point of this book. It serves as an interesting series of thought points you can dip in and out of to kick start your brain. Many of the points do relate to architecture or the design of space, but many are also broader design and thoughtful principles. I enjoyed the depth of stuff like “The most effective, most creative problem solvers engage in a process of meta-thinking, or thinking about thinking” and the simplicity of “If you can’t explain your ideas to your grandmother in terms she understands, you don’t know your subject well enough.”

Many of the principles are described with thoughtful illustrations and a particularly nice sense of wit. “When introducing floor level changes, avoid the Dick Van Dyke step.” Describing that a single step between floor levels is rarely sufficient to create a meaningful differentiation of space.

So, this isn’t going to teach you how to do anything. But for anyone who works in and around design principles, I think you’ll enjoy some of the wisdom captured in this nice simple format.

Title | 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School
Author | Matthew Frederick
Publisher | The MIT Press
Publish Date | 2007
ISBN | 978-0-262-06266-4

Reviewer | Steven Bennett-Day

Buy from Amazon: 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School

Predictably Irrational. The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions – Dan Ariely

Economics is generally viewed from the rational point of view. The assumption is that when faced with decisions, people are capable of thinking about the value of the different options they face before they act. It argues that our rationality steps in for important decisions and this is what makes markets effective at finding value.

“Somehow, the basic ideas of economics and the belief in overarching rationality have become so ingrained in our understanding of the social world around us that people from all walks of life seemed to accept them as basic laws of nature”

Many economists disregard the relatively new field of behavioural economics which draws on aspects of psychology and economics. Presenting human behaviour in a far less rational light than accepted economic theory assumes.

Here Dan Ariely uses social experiments to demonstrate that we’re not only irrational in our behaviour, we repeat this behaviour systematically and predictably. These experiments are based on what people actually do when they make real-life decisions.

Whilst this all sounds a bit dry, his wit and the ease at which he flips from the lab scenario to real life and broader social questions makes it not just an interesting read, but you (well at least me) start to consider how these behaviours and scenarios have affected you and how you might think a bit differently in the future.

What interest is this to anyone who works in the creative industries? Well that’s pretty simple, I think. Advertising and marketing can sometimes have a tendency to make similar assumptions about human behaviours as the economists – or at least view consumer behaviours in a rational way – and there’s scope with these experiments here to see beyond the economics.

How many times have you read very detailed and extensive research into consumer behaviour commissioned by a brand which has ultimately resulted in a proposition that your gut feeling tells you is at best – wrong? It’s logical, it fits and even some of the early research might well have some good insights, but sometimes at the point the brands assets are woven into the plan the whole idea  becomes either so contrived or safe it doesn’t work. But it must be right because we’ve fully researched the behaviour it’s based upon and it’s rational.

Transposing Dan’s approach to human behaviour over to the creative industries leaves you with a few thoughts. Why don’t we use psychology more in our understanding of consumers?, they are after all, humans before they are consumers, and consuming is a behaviour.

Take the results explored around the cost of free. Ariely and his colleagues conducted a number of experiments which demonstrated that free is one of the most powerful ways to trigger a behaviour. Humans are loss averse – when something is free there’s no possibility of loss so we take it, we even queue for it. When choosing something we consider the up and the down sides, if it’s free we forget about the downside. The choice of getting better value for a small cost over getting something for free doesn’t even sway us – we don’t do the calculation, we take the free option.

From a marketing point of view then, we should see free as powerful. It appeals to a predictable human behaviour – so is there an argument for not spending a fortune on research to acquire new customers? – give them something for free and our behavioural instinct takes over.

The book is full of behavioural insight that can be applied to marketing or advertising, but aside from that it shows an approach to things based more from social norms and less from market norms clearly gives you creative scope.

If I was putting together my creative dream team, Dan (or someone like him because I guess he’s busy and not that into advertising) would be on the list. In advertising I’m not sure if behavioural planning is a discipline – but maybe it should be.

Ariely’s journey to behavioural economics began after an accident left him with 70 percent third-degree burns. The next three years in hospital left him so removed from society he began observing activities as if he was an outsider. I recommend your journey, like mine, begins by reading this book. It might not change your mind if you’re an economist, it might not change your working practice if you’re a creative but it will make you start to think about human behaviour in a different way if you’ve not been exposed to psychology before.

Dan on Ted.com

Predictably Irrational Website

Title | Predictably Irrational. The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions
Author | Dan Ariely
Publisher | Harper
Publish Date | 2009
ISBN | 978-0-00-725653-2

Reviewer | Steven Bennett-Day

Buy from Amazon: Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions