Review: Richard Shotton – The Choice Factory

My pet peeve is when people ask me Hey Tim, if I only read one book about this subject, which would you recommend? Because really, how can reading just one book give you enough information on any subject to be truly useful?

Very occasionally however, a book will come along that I can happily suggest in these instances. Because it truly covers a lot of ground in an accessible way. Luke Sullivan’s classic Hey Whipple, Squeeze This is such a book about copywriting. And now, Richard Shotton has written one about applying behavioural economics to advertising.

Of course, much has already been written about Behavioral Economics. But, sadly, little of it is read inside the walls of traditional advertising agencies. While I have lamented this state of affairs, it is to a certain extent understandable. Because much of what is written, blogged and podcasted falls roughly into two categories.

B.E. between science and simplification

On one hand there is scientific literature, either popular or hardcore. Interesting, stimulating, but often difficult to link directly to the advertising practice. Yes, findings from research can be converted into valuable advertising insights. But I can tell from experience that this takes much time, effort, and quite a bit of trial and error.

On the other hand, there are more opportunistic publications. Simplistic, click-baity. I will teach YOU how to WIN at marketing with Bob Cialdini’s Principles! As a general introduction, these are not so bad. But take these simplifications as the gospel truth and you’re likely to produce work that’s both annoying and far less effective than promised.

Practical and profound

The Choice Factory however, manages to be both practical and profound, with one foot firmly in the everyday reality of advertising and the other in science.

Much of this has to do with the fact that Shotton is not just recycling scientific findings from universities. Over the past 12 years, he’s actually done tons of original research, testing the effects of mental biases and heuristics on the effectiveness of real advertising.

Here, he offers 25 of those ‘brainbugs’ or as evolutionary psychologists would likely prefer, automatic adaptive behaviours and shows you how they may be and have been used in advertising.

Remember Keyser Söze?

To quote from The Usual Suspects: They realized that to be in power, you didn’t need guns or money or even numbers. You just needed the will to do what the other guy wouldn’t.

As a creative, that means reading about behavioural science. And now finally there is that one book that will make you your agency’s Keyser Söze. Highly recommended.

Hey Tim, if I want to see a video first …