We’d rather have a smaller reward now, than a bigger one later

What is Immediacy?

Immediacy is the theory that people would rather get a small reward right away than wait for a bigger reward. 

It plays on our impatience, and how the value of a reward drops the further away it seems. For example most people would opt to get £50 now, than £100 a year from now.

The evidence it works

George Ainslie conducted a study to prove the effectiveness of immediacy.

His research showed the majority of his subjects said they’d prefer $50 immediately rather than $100 in six months. 

But, interestingly, wouldn’t prefer $50 in three months rather than $100 in nine months. Even though this was essentially the same choice – just moved forward three months..

More significantly, the same subjects as above said they wouldn’t prefer $50 in twelve months to $100 in 18 months – the same choice moved forward a year.*

We tend to place greater value placed on immediate rewards, even if that means ending up with less.

Where it fits in our behavioural model – The ‘means’ METRIC

The three core principles of our Behavioural Model is that every behaviour has to have a motivation, trigger and the means.

The means are the resources to get what you want. This isn’t just mean money – choosing and buying also costs time and effort, thought and worry.

In theory, the means depend on what’s in short supply. So if we’re short of time, we’ll spend money. If we don’t want to take a risk, we’ll invest more thought. If everyone else is doing one thing, we’d rather join the queue even if it costs us time, rather than feeling like the odd one out.

But our judgement of these things is often flawed. For example, we can only judge numbers in relation to other numbers and we’re inclined to not waste energy, so the easier something seems the more likely we are to choose it (like joining the queue). Which forms the basis of our Behavioural Model.

The means model is split into six different sections: Money, Effort, Time, Risk, Individuality, and Conscious thought. Which handily spells METRIC.

Immediacy falls under the ‘time’ piece of the METRIC pie, demonstrating the power of ‘now’.

How we've used it with clients

New Balance

New Balance challenged us to adapt its pan-European brand campaign into a retail concept that would drive sales. 

To make it genuinely behaviour changing we leveraged people’s tendency to increasingly choose a smaller-sooner reward over a larger-later reward – a behaviour known as the immediacy bias. 

The ‘Want it. Get it.’ sale concept is a metaphor for shoppers and athletes alike. 

A creative solution that combines familiar retail ‘sale’ cues with language that drives action and a striking visual style that aligns with a big brand idea – all with spectacular results….

Store traffic increased by 280% and the number of units sold increased by 300%, compared with the previous sale period




Again plenty of brands offer this. It’s a great way to draw in your audience with an immediate reward – even if it takes more effort in the long run.

People would much rather drive to collect their item in minutes than wait three days for it to be delivered.

Finance Wren


Lots of companies offer expensive products on finance, from cars, to TVs, to sofas. It’s hugely popular, even if it sometimes comes with a hefty price tag.

It plays hugely on immediacy. People would rather have the car now and end up paying more in the long run, than save up for 12 months and spend less.

How we can help you

We’re a creative agency that uses behavioural science to make marketing more effective.

We deliver everything from insights and strategy development for brand building or big ideas right down to tactical campaigns and execution.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you to apply behavioural science creatively then please get in touch.

By Ellen Jackson

Creative Copywriter