The principle that makes the cognitive behavioural approach such a success is the idea that if you explain to someone the underlying mechanism of their behaviours, it provides them with a pathway to identifying and correcting maladaptive habits.

So we start with a short film telling a small story.

‘When you first learned to drive, reversing required a major dose of concentration, and for good reason: it involves peering into the rearview and side mirrors and checking for obstacles, putting your foot on the brake, moving the gearshift into reverse, removing your foot from the brake, estimating the distance between the garage and street while keeping the wheels aligned, calculating how images in the mirror translate into actual distances, all while applying differing amounts of pressure to the gas pedal and brake.

‘Now, you perform that series of actions everytime you pull into the street without thinking very much.’

Apply the concepts around Kahneman’s Systems 1&2 theory to explain automatic and conscious processing. Use Charles Duhigg’s words above to set the limits and the tone of the narrative; simplified language and a focus on reversing a car. Avoid names or arcane psychological terms. Minimal use of numbers and statistics, except for ‘1’ and ‘2’. The visuals should complement the simple narrative with technical animatics and metaphorical imagery.

For the sales staff, the primary takeout of this should be the difference between ‘automatic’ reversing and ‘manual’ reversing.


An attachment for a car’s interior rear-view mirror.

It should sit close to the eyes’ focus field when using the mirror, but on the outer edge of the periphery when the driver is looking ahead.

So a fully-coloured frame might be too much.

This is our behavioural cue, piggybacking a component within the reversing habit loop to intervene in on automatic processing.


Tie rewards to group performance.

We are dealing with sales staff so we can feed into their competitive spirit, but we want to circumvent the sensitivities around individual underperformance and culpability. Avoid addressing the issue in dollar terms, keep metrics to ‘numbers of incidents’.

Offer an advanced driving weekend for the best team.


When the sales staff look in the mirror, notice this slight change in that familiar visual environment and then remember why, it should give them pause.

That pause should be enough to prompt a switch from automatic to conscious processing.

Over time, this cue will settle back into familiarity but hopefully will have added an unconscious pause into the habit loop.

It should elicit a change in behaviours for reversing, but it might also affect the surrounding behaviours. CEO Paul O’Neill changed an entire productivity culture at Alcoa by focusing on small but crucial key metrics in safety. Success in these seemingly supplemental metrics spurred improvement across the entire business from his employees.

Our scope is not so ambitious, but we expect this intervention to have a positive influence onto other driving habits.

We don’t want to end up with a car interior plastered in post-it notes.


The damage bill is a true story. But by the time the brief came to the agency, it was already too downstream.

This was a $5,000-budgetted afterthought task with no opportunity to expand upon the original brief. The client got what they asked for; a communication filled with subtle recriminations, patronising instructions and dollar-values in damage.

The film was shown to an event-weary audience still grappling with how they are going to meet their new $KPIs.

It didn’t make a dent on the $1.2 million.