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Magic, ‘pills’ and behavioural science: an evening with Campaign Underground

BY The Springers | Bring Positive Energy | 17/05/2017

Last week I was given the opportunity to go to Campaign Underground’s launch event, ‘Applied Captivation’, which was put on in association with behavioural planning agency Total Media.

I didn’t know much before the event other than the names of the speakers: Christopher Macleod, Transport for London, Ocado’s Thomas Thomaidis and ‘Decoded’ author Phil Barden, and that throughout the afternoon there would be a series of ‘experiments’ to test my sense of rationality. Sounds good so far, right?

I arrived outside Islington Metal Works and was ushered into a dark room, where I was confronted by a pirate who asked me to choose a coloured pill, black or red. I picked my black pill and the instructions read: ‘pour the contents onto your tongue and let it dissolve. Wait five minutes and then find one of our dealers to finish the experience’. So, for five minutes, I wandered around a courtyard with the rest of the guests where there was a tattoo artist, a magician/illusionist, the pirate, and a man making lollies and dispensing flavoured perfumes and colognes. There were also a variety of food tables with marshmallows, popcorn and a bar serving some interestingly-named cocktails. Before I had a chance to take part in anything, a ‘dealer’ approached me and injected a liquid into my mouth. Depending on which pill I’d picked at the beginning it would taste sweet or sour.

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After 10 minutes of being enthralled by magic tricks and watching people getting tattoos, we were asked to take a seat so the talks could begin. The theme of the event was how can we use behavioural science in marketing, and each speaker had his or her own way of approaching the subject depending on the industry they worked in. There were some fascinating examples of how the topic had been approached by various businesses and the results they had seen from implementing these techniques. If, like me, you’re interested in the psychology of why we make decisions then there are a few books that should be on your list: Nudge by Cass R Sunstein; Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman and of course Decoded by Phil Barden.

To wrap up the event, a comedian and illusionist performed a routine where he sent a member of the audience to Australia. I may have had a couple of the strange cocktails by this point so I’m fuzzy on the details, but there were definitely cork-string hats.

From start to end the evening was engaging, captivating and above all, educational. I’m sure this type of event can become dreary, but Campaign put a different spin on it and it was brilliant. The next one’s in September, so get over to the website and reserve your place now, you won’t be disappointed!


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