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Behavioral Economics in Advertising? Yes!
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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If you are one of the loyal followers of Beyond Madison Avenue, then you have read several of my writings drooling over the amazing possibilities marketers and agencies have if they apply behavioral economics to their practices. Truth be told, the art and science of examining human behavior in order to influence it is nothing new; back in the day of Claude Hopkins, it was called scientific advertising. One of our professors in university worked for an agency as a marketing scientist. So the practice isn't new, but the fanfare for it is far from overwhelming.

The Ogilvy & Mather U.K. vice chairman and co-founder of #OgilvyChange went on Bloomberg's "Brandstanding" to talk about how behavioral economics can "save advertising." 

Yes — though we wholeheartedly agree that behavioral economics is the way to go, in order for it to work, clients and marketers must be willing to invest in it. But that's another story.

The man, Rory Sutherland, provides excellent commentary about how behavioral economics is the tangible study of how people behave under certain situations given certain resources and provided certain stimuli. The news anchor is also walked through two situations where #OgilvyChange used human tendencies against the targeted population to receive the desired behavior and outcome.

Take a look.

Science and creativity should both be recognized when forming a marketing or advertising strategy. Behavioral economics is a creative way to use data about people, and the ultimate execution of using the data takes even more creative thinking. We realize that Big Data isn't going away anytime soon, but we can use that data in very efficient ways when we incorporate behavioral economics. 

These kinds of activities can help bring good changes into society. Think about it — studies show that when people stand when they eat, they are less likely to overeat. Why not create a restaurant or cafe with only tall tables? Does it totally go against conventional thinking? Of course it does. But does it influence behavior? Absolutely. We thoroughly enjoyed the example in the video about using graffiti artist in the city to paint wide-eyed pictures of babies in a part of town known for violence. Studies indicate that when art that features big-eyed objects are around, especially of animals and babies, aggressive behavior decreases. OgilvyChange used that to help a neighborhood fight violence.

Now that's goodvertising.

Yes, advertising and marketing folks can indeed use their platforms for bad. But using behavioral economics in advertising can bring good behavior and good decisions to the forefront. Why not try it out?


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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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