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A Review of The Choice Factory – Richard Shotton

We asked Kevin, as CSO of a big agency to review the book with 2 questions in mind: What is interesting about this book and what is going to be useful to planners in the day job? As far as Kevin is concerned, pretty much everything. So get hold of a copy of Richard’s book and see for yourself. It’s available on Amazon, of course. We’ll be following up with a review from a planner just starting out, and asking them the same questions. Watch this space


I’ve always said that the job of any planner is to separate the useful from the interesting. Luckily Shotton’s book contains the most ridiculous dollop of both. But it is certainly very useful in every conceivable way to your day-to-day life as a planner.

This book is a whistle-stop introduction into the cognitive biases that govern all our actions. We are all (hopefully) in the business of understanding how people behave and how to take advantage of those behaviours to commercially apply creativity. Therefore, this book is invaluable. Think of it as a York Notes to social psychology.

What was interesting in it? Everything, pretty much.

What was useful in it? Everything, pretty much (at some point in the next year – I defy you to find any problem or any brief that couldn’t be aided or augmented with something in this book)

Behavioural science is a proper silver bullet for agencies, IMHO.

As a planner, behavioural science will make every single brief you write instantly more interesting and (more importantly) useful. Creatives will love you for it.

As a creative, behavioural science will validate the gut feel you’ve had around pretty much every idea since you joined the agency world. Creatives will love everything about it.

As a client, behavioural science will give you a little bit more certainty that the solutions you choose from your agency will deliver against the purse-strings as well as the heartstrings. Creatives will become instantly more loveable to you.

So, back to this book. It would be impossible to summarise it in 500 words so I won’t bother. Whether he is discussing the pratfall effect, wishful seeing, bystander bias, confirmation bias, primacy effect - I defy you to dip into this book and not find something massively useful to whatever problem you are currently trying to solve. 180 pages of aceness. 180 pages of a fascinating dive into the world of social psychology and how it applies to human behaviour. This book will pay for itself within two minutes of it arriving at your desk. Guaranteed.

I’m the luckiest CSO in London. I have my own behavioural science practice, Ogilvy Change, that I can call upon whenever I want. I genuinely have no idea why other agencies haven’t discovered this or chosen to invest in it as a science (and it is a proper science). But as long as they don’t I’m happy as Larry because it gives us a massively unique competitive advantage in a straight fight. If you’re a planner and you don’t employ behavioural science in your day job then you’re a bloody idiot. It would be like being a pilot and forgetting to use your eyes.

Behavioural science is essentially magic, apart from the fact it is real.

Buy this, read it every day, and you’ll be a better planner because of it.

Now, how many books can you say that about?

Kevin Chesters

CSO at Ogilvy & Mather London


You can buy a copy of 'The Choice Factory' here

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