If you’re in advertising, then The Advertising Effect: How to Change Behaviour is probably one of the best books you can read on your craft right now.  Basically, it’s Nudge for advertisers. Outlining ten evidence-based effective advertising strategies, each with a scientific underpinning, Adam Ferrier (psychologist and founder of Naked) is up there with fellow Antipodean Byron Sharp in terms of must-reads for marketers.

Ferrier is a fan of ‘Action Advertising’ – influencing people by influencing actions rather than perceptions. Drawing on the evidence that advertising is notoriously poor at direct persuasion, Ferrier outlines 10 ways to influence actions instead.  The underlying logic is that the easiest way to persuade someone is to allow them to persuade themselves – and this will happen quite naturally if you prompt (nudge, spur) people to act in a way consistent with a desired behaviour. Why? Because we tend to align our perceptions with our actions to avoid the mental discomfort of cognitive dissonance. In other words, if you influence action, you influence perception.

Moreover, because perception-change is only a means to an end, the end being behaviour-change (buy, buy more, buy for more) – Action Advertising orientates advertising to what really matters, actioning behaviour change. For Ferrier, advertising is and must be about behaviour change; ultimately if no behaviour is changed as a result of advertising, advertising is valueless.

Action Advertising Framework

At the core of The Advertising Effect is the action advertising framework that plots motivation to perform a behaviour against ease of performing that behaviour. The more motivated and easier to perform the behaviour, the higher the behavioural propensity. So to influence behaviour you need to influence behavioural motivation and behavioural ease.

Motivation Drivers

  • Individual Incentives: What’s in it for them? Will they be rewarded and to what extent?
  • Social Norms: What will others think of them if they undertake that behaviour?

(Motivation Ad Strategies = ‘Utility’, ‘Modelling’, ‘Reframing’, ‘Evocation’, ‘Ownership’, ‘Collectivism’, ‘Play’ – Examples + explanations below)

Ease Drivers

  • Ability: Do they have the resources, competency and skills to do the behaviour?
  • Opportunity: Does the environment allow the behaviour to happen?

(Ease Ad Strategies = ‘Skill-up’, ‘Eliminate Complexity’, and ‘Commitment’ – Examples + explanations below)

Action Advertising Behavioural Framework

This is a fabulously simple clear framework for thinking about and doing advertising, based on sound psychology (motivation, ability and opportunity are indeed the core components of behavioural intention).  And Ferrier subsumes this framework in an equally simple nonsense-free four step model to effective advertising

  1. Clearly define your business goal
  2. Identify the specific behaviour change required to achieve goal
  3. Select one of ten behavioural strategies (‘action spurs’) that will facilitate this behaviour change
  4. Develop a creative idea based on the selected ‘action spur’

Action Advertising Process

Motivation Strategies

  • ‘Utility’ Strategy: Advertising as a service – advertising that adds value by helping people achieve their goals (value = ability to meet my goal/cost (money, time, effort). e.g. Tesco HomePlus

  • ‘Modelling’ Strategy: Using aspirational high-profile personalities – celebrities and experts – to inspire or inform behaviour. e.g. George Clooney Nespresso campaign

  • ‘Reframing’ Strategy: Ads that reframe a target behaviour a positive light, by tapping into pre-existing assumptions and behaviour. e.g. Reframing carrots as junk food

  • ‘Evocation’ Strategy: Ads that stir powerful emotions to motivate behaviour. e.g.Google’s ‘Dear Sophie’ campaign for Chrome

  • ‘Ownership’ Strategy: Inviting the audience to be part of the campaign, so they own it as their own (endowment effect) e.g. Share a Coke campaign

  • ‘Collectivism’  Strategy: Reinforcing or creating social norms of appropriate and desirable behaviour. Dove Campaign For Real Beauty Evolution Sketches

  • ‘Play’ Strategy: Making the desired behaviour enjoyable by embracing the principles of structured play or gamification. e.g. Speed camera lottery campaign

Ease Ad Strategies

  • ‘Skill-up’ Strategy – ads that show someone either how to do a target behaviour, or how to do it more easily. e.g. Amazon’s Echo campaign

  • ‘Eliminate-Complexity’ Strategy – ads that remove or reduce barriers – real, imaginary or anticipated – to undertaking a target behaviour, making it as effortless as possible. e.g. Westpac’s Impulse Saver Campaign 

  • ‘Commitment’ Strategy – ads that invite an initial small action that is consistent with the target behaviour. e.g. Transport Accident Commission SpeedKills campaign 



The ten Action Advertising strategies in The Advertising Effect are not exhaustive, but they provide advertisers with a broad range of options within an elegant framework. And whilst the no-nonsense style makes Ferrier’s model appear uncontroversial, it succeeds in overcoming two pervasive problems in ad land.

First, Ferrier’s model is business-led rather than idea-led in an industry where the tyranny of the creative director still rules. Ferrier’s model flips the agency hierarchy on its head, the creative director is subservient to the business goal and selected strategy.

Secondly, because Ferrier’s model is behaviour-led rather than idea-led, it flips the AIDA awareness-interest-decision-action model of advertising on it’s head. Rather than using ideas to influence minds by generating interest and persuading, Ferrier’s model is about influencing behaviour by making decisions easier – through framing choices in a favourable way and nudging people’s action towards desired behaviours.

In other words, The Advertising Effect is Nudge for advertisers.