In just two weeks’ time, Ogilvy Change will be celebrating our fourth birthday. Technically it will only be our first birthday, as we launched on February 29th in 2012. This was probably the first behaviour changing idea we had: hosting our launch on a day that isn’t ordinarily in people’s calendars so nobody could say they didn’t have the time to attend.

At first, having a behaviour change department may have been confusing to some. David Ogilvy’s mantra wasn't, “We improve brand engagement, or else”. From the very start, Ogilvy has always been focused on selling and changing behaviour.  

Fast forward thirty years and our Vice Chairman Rory Sutherland is flying the behaviour change flag after discovering the huge leaps currently being made in the social sciences. Rory was ill for a few days and began reading even more widely than normal and stumbled across marketing’s long-lost cousin behavioural economics. Ogilvy Change opened for business, combining the foundation of science with the power of creativity.

In the beginning, we experimented on our colleagues at Ogilvy and carried out a string of experiments under the radar, which you may have unknowingly participated in. One of the most successful was our breakfast experiment. In the reception of our old Canary Wharf office, we set up a table filled with bananas, apples and oranges, as well as some delicious chocolate muffins. What our unwitting participants didn’t expect was one of the Ogilvy Change team covertly counting their choices. Over a series of trials, we tested out a range of psychological techniques to get people to choose the healthy option. Our most successful nudge was putting a giant mirror behind the table to cause a moment’s self-reflection, which inevitably led to people taking the waistline-friendly approach.

An early piece of creative work with Ogilvy & Mather, spearheaded by Tara Austin, was the Babies of the Borough campaign. Tara uncovered the brilliant psychological insight that babies’ faces elicit an innate caring response in the brain. Just some cans of paint and a night of spraying on shop shutters later, and local babies’ faces were helping to reduce anti-social behaviour by 18% in Woolwich. This became an instant hit, winning a Gold Cannes Lion and demonstrating the power of deep psychological insights in sparking effective creative ideas.

Four years later, we now have nine full-time practitioners in London as well as eight offices worldwide, and we’ve worked across the Ogilvy group companies to create innovative new products and become a point of difference on pitches.

Whether that has been designing nudges on a Kleenex packet to inspire sharing with Geometry Global in Toronto, 3D-printing aspirational goals for call centre agents to save towards with Labs in London, or creating an arm-wrestling juicer that encourages kids to have more fruit with Ogilvy & Mather in Paris, we have created some of the most diverse and creative executions of behavioural science on the market.

Nothing facilitates this better than our new space in Sea Containers, where having everyone together means working across the group companies is easier than ever. Come visit us in our prime spot on the first floor, but watch out – a new building may of course mean new experiments!

To find out more about the science behind the work we do, sign up to our monthly newsletter O Behave! and make sure to get your tickets to this year’s Nudgestock festival of behavioural science