Hat’s off to Ogilvy for nailing twelve hours of Nudgestock 21. 

As a creative agency that applies behaviour science creatively to make marketing more effective, we were excited to see what the event had in store. Here’s a roundup of our top insights from our favourite sessions during this years’ Nudgestock 2021

Traps of efficiency by Guru Madhavan

In his Nudgetstock talk, Guru Madhavan highlighted the love affair we all have with efficiency – the concept exists to boost performance and who doesn’t want to save time and money and ultimately get more for less? But efficiency has become insidious, something that should exist to help us save time can lead us into a trap in itself. 

Efficiency acts as an energy drink, producing a fast acting game at the expense of long term distress.

Madhavan explained there are three forms of efficiency and four functions. 

The three forms are:

  1. Hard efficiency – Where all options and outcomes are planned
  2. Soft efficiency – Where the endpoints are unclear
  3. Messy efficiency – Where efficiency is only the starting point and not the end goal

The Ergodicity Alarm by Ollie Hulme

In his slightly mind-blowing talk, Ollie Hulme explains that the ergodicity theory predicts that under multiplicative dynamics, (most situations in real life) you should be more sensitive to losses than gains. This explains why insurance benefits the economy and why companies exist because arguably they are risk-pooling entities. It’s also why wealth distribution might be economically beneficial.

So what can ergodicity offer to behavioural science?

  1. Firstly, it offer a warning – not all averages are equal or relevant
  2. It offers simplicity – maximising time averages grows wealth faster
  3. It offers an explanation – beyond providing a description, it explains and unifies.
  4. It can provide clear quantitative behavioural predictions

To summarise, you can annoy one person ten separate times or ten people at once, and the maths would say that the result is the same, but ergodicity (and 1-10 miffed people) would argue against it!

Rethinking psychopharmacology and behaviour change by Professor David Nutt

The award for the world’s best job title goes to Scientist David Nutt, Head of the Centre for Psychedelic Research. In his Nudgestock discussion, that was unfortunately cut short due to connectivity issues (a sign of our times). He explains that when we drink alcohol it affects many parts of the brain, mostly negative effects from memory loss, cravings, violence etc with just two positive outcomes of alcohol, sociability and relaxation. (see image)

He explains if we can harness the chemical that elevates the green positive effects, rather than power up the red negative effects, we can create a substance that is less harmful. 

And brucie bonus, you can now get some low-alcohol botanical spirit developed by scientist:

You can get yours here 

David Nutt

Decarbonisation by Shahzeen Attari

Shahzeen Attari told us that the energy sector accounts for the highest amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Which begs the question “What’s the most effective way to conserve energy?”

You might think of turning off the lights. Think again. While flicking the lights off is a good start, it doesn’t have a great enough impact. In fact, it has very little impact in the grand scheme of things compared with living a vegan lifestyle or driving electric cars.

While our behaviour as individuals is helpful, it isn’t enough to address the problem. We must now group together to accelerate system-wide decarbonisation strategies.

Moreover, we don’t have a true grasp on conserving energy, as real energy consumption isn’t widely understood.

It’s clear that heuristics encourage us to do what is easiest for us, and these thinking patterns must be replaced by something more effective. For example, powerful narratives that draw on feelings and facts paint a clear picture of the problem can initiate behaviour change and help to solve climate issues.

Humanomics: A new and old way of looking at the economy by Deidre McCloskey


Economic historian Deidre McCloskey reinforced the importance of feelings, ideas (and how we talk about them), and innovation in building economies as opposed to more quantifiable measures. 

She believes that we need a (new) approach to economics, which she terms “humanomics’ putting the human at the centre of economic thinking.

We need to be careful about trying to quantify things that aren’t quantifiable. Think about global happiness surveys – the results of which could end up being akin to taking one measurement in Fahrenheit and another in Celsius and then calculating the average and ultimately being left with a meaningless measurement. 

Feelings are crucial and they are to be discovered in what we say and how we talk. Talking is a big part of what we do as humans. She argues that one quarter of national income is earned through what she terms as “sweet talk”, especially in the context of advertising and leadership. 

Talk is creative and it isn’t routine, it can’t be reduced to a marginal cost. Ideas, and how we communicate them, matter. The 3000% increase we’ve seen in real income per head for the poor since 1800 didn’t come from trade, investment or banking or any of the usual explanations, it came from new ideas or in other words, inventions like the steam engine or cardboard. 

What makes us succeed is invention and innovation, not relying on last year’s routines.

John Cleese 

Yes you heard right, THE John Cleese, who surprisingly has written two best-selling books on psychology: Families and How to Survive Them, and Life and How to Survive It and in 2020 put pen to paper about the art of creativity, in Creativity – A Short and Cheerful Guide. 

In his talk he discusses what distinguishes the creative type from uncreative type and it was fundamentally that creatives knew how to play. This ability to play allows us to tap into our unconscious brain and the power of the unconscious mind in solving problems for us, is amazing.

Moral to the story, play more, be silly and have fun.

About The Behaviours Agency

We are a creative agency that uses behavioural science to make marketing more effective. We have developed our own unique behavioural model that allows us to create compelling brands, experiences and campaigns that lead to real commercial value for our clients. If you want to hear more about what we do and our behaviour-led approach then please get in touch here.


By Janey Leonard-Myers

Senior Account Manager