OgilvyOne - Putpockets

OgilvyOne have produced "a hard hitting integrated campaign" for Crimestoppers UK, the crime-fighting charity. The campaign is essentially a leaflet hand-out, but with a difference. 

Based on the insight that people are complacent to the risks of having their valued possessions lifted from their bags and pockets, Ogilvy's idea demonstrates how easy it is to remove a valuable object from a bag or pocket by placing an object in a bag or pocket. Using ex-pickpockets to do the dipping makes it authentic and, no doubt, more news-worthy and it comes with the obligatory video, social media and cross-media activation. 


However, what I'm intrigued with is the nature of the physical communications they used. The targets for thieves are increasingly smartphones and tablets as well as purses and wallets. These are treasured possessions that their owners are intimately familiar with. Using real smartphones and iPads was obviously out of the question, and they could have used simple square-cut leaflets with the message on... but didn't.

A piece of card shaped like a wallet references a wallet in a split-second intuitive encounter

A piece of card shaped like a wallet references a wallet in a split-second intuitive encounter

In the split-second that this idea needs to really hit-home, it needs to trigger primitive responses — enough to get the victim's attention. So, they used printed cards cut into the shape of wallets, smartphones and iPads to momentarily baffle and perplex.

Even though the shaped cards weigh nothing like the real things, their shape and stiffness are enough of a reference to confuse people's primitive instincts — the simple, immediate mental processes that are there to alert us to danger.

This is a perfect example of what Daniel Kahneman describes as our two processing systems — System 1, the primitive, immediate, quick-and-dirty, intuitive reflex that's there to alert us to danger and give us a quick summary of an unfamiliar situation — and System 2, the slower, cognitive process that we employ to actually think. For this communication to work, it has to employ both: the 'victims' need to be momentarily nonplussed when they reach into their pocket and feel something that doesn't belong there — a piece of card is less likely to be in their pocket than a piece of paper — but the alert provided by System 1 is enough to draw the attention of System 2.


As Kahneman pointed out, System 1 is a crude radar-like way of processing information; it works through a series of short-cuts — heuristics —to provide a quick-and-dirty snapshot of the world around us. Because it's fast and crude, it's easily fooled. 

What I find so intriguing with this communication is what it took to fool System 1. Physical objects speak to these primitive systems, whereas words and pictures speak to our intellect — System 2; what we think about.

Had it been a printed leaflet with a message on — to System 1 — it would merely be a piece of paper. As a physical object, it would have no intuitive resonance; it would require reading and thinking about and the reality is that it would probably be ignored. Printing it on card and cutting it into a shape is enough of a reference to tell our primitive brains that this is an object referencing something familiar — the essence of what you need to know without you having to think about it.

The object-reference speaks directly to people's intuitive responses — causing the necessary split-second, momentary confusion to make people pay attention to the written message. A perfect example of Kahneman's Systems 1 and 2 working in concert and of a communication designed to exploit it. 

Images c/o OgilvyOne, The Drum, CabralGoat