Scientific Hacks to Make Your Ads Irresistible

A great ad has extraordinary power, but what does it take to create one? 

It starts with the big idea

A flash of insight to light the spark that inspires your buyer to take action.

The key to generating an idea with this level of traction is to work it up in reverse.

Here’s why.

Because of the way our brains work—our biological instincts play a central role in the success of an idea.

Humans make 95% of their buying decisions in the subconscious mind.

And, since we’re hardwired this way, we can use what we know about human behavior to reverse engineer an irresistible idea.

brain illustration

The human brain instinctively sifts through thousands of messages each day.

It uses shortcuts—to register patterns, identify what’s familiar, and red-flag anything that feels off—before letting us know which messages warrant our attention.

These ingrained behaviors came about hundreds of thousands of years ago to help our ancestors make split-second decisions and avoid danger.

They still exist in us today and trigger our brains to pick up on things that are unusual, catch us off guard, or heighten our emotions.

Insights into human behavior help us understand what drives decisions, why people respond the way they do, and how to make the most of the time we get with our prospects & customers.

Let’s break down three ways you can use scientifically proven methods to step up the viability of your ideas and, ultimately, the success of your marketing campaigns.

Three Science-Based Principles that Make Your Ads More Powerful

Advertising is more engaging and, at the end of the day, more effective when it:

  • Stands apart
  • Uses surprise
  • Evokes strong feelings

Well-researched studies bear this out.

Take a look at how the human brain works when your advertising pulls each of these levers.

1. Break Away From the Crowd

Ads that stand out, tell our brains to listen up and pay attention.

We’re hardwired to pick up on what’s distinguishable from what surrounds it right away.

Behavioral scientists refer to this as the Von Restorff Effect—our tendency to notice and recall what stands apart from its surroundings.

Von Restorff Effect in science based ads

When our ancestors scanned the horizon and detected anything peculiar, this instinct signaled them to act quickly.

Today, it might tip us off to a car headed the wrong way or an open space in a crowded parking lot—anything that breaks the usual pattern.

We pay attention to and remember what’s different.

2. Throw Your Audience a Curve

Ads that take us by surprise or somewhere unexpected have more impact.

We’re hardwired to predict what happens next.

Surprise—jolts our brains and piques our curiosity.

When things aren’t what we expect, our brains focus harder, and our emotions heighten. In this psychological state, your message is more likely to be remembered.

This unconscious reflex helped our ancestors anticipate risk purely by intuition, like a sixth sense.

Today, this instinct might kick in if you attend a Paul McCartney concert and Bruce Springsteen makes a surprise appearance or Taylor Swift pops in at a Bon Iver concert.

Or maybe a restaurant sends over your favorite dessert—on the house!

little boy expresses surprise

Even simpler, think of when you’re about to finish a sentence for a friend. You’ve anticipated what they’re about to say. But when it’s altogether different from what you expect, you notice.

In these instances, the impulse to concentrate harder is automatic.

3. Strike a Chord

Ads that hit home are more effective.

We’re hardwired to lead with our emotions.

If our ancestors stopped to consider their options, when a threat approached they’d likely not survive.

Even today, we instinctively act on our emotions. First, we notice what stirs feelings in us. Then, we justify those feelings.

Appeal to emotions early when expressing your idea. Then, follow up with the supporting evidence that satisfies your prospect’s rational side.

Putting These Scientific Methods Into Practice

If you could capture the attention of the people you most care about reaching and get better results, you would, right?

Businesses understand consumers make instinctive buying decisions but are often at a loss about how to use this knowledge.

Science based ads focus on what your prospects and customers feel strongly about that aligns with your product.

Consider luxury items. Most people associate luxury with extravagance and wealth, which targets powerful feelings of status and self-worth.

What transformative feelings does your ideal customer have when they use your product?

The answer most often lies in how they see themselves.

Take the outdoor enthusiast who draws a connection between high-end gear and heritage.

You can move this consumer with an advertising message that appeals to feelings of nostalgia, self-reliance, and pride in belonging to an elite sporting community.

Brands use behavioral influences like these to zero in on feelings that motivate their buyers.

Now, think about who your ad is for:

What is most compelling to this consumer that’s in keeping with what’s unique about your product?

Look for clues in:

  • Customer surveys
  • Emails
  • Interviews
  • Product reviews
  • Social media comments
  • Website submissions

See the value of your product through their eyes—and get to the bottom of any emotions it creates.

This will help to focus your thoughts and uncover more novel approaches to the all-important message that resonates perfectly with your ideal customer.

Now, expand on this idea—making it more interesting, clear, and relevant. Then, present it in the most compelling way possible.

Alfred Bougeart Quote

Key Takeaways

Research into human behavior reveals how survival impulses—formed many thousands of years ago—fuel the decisions we make today.

To transform a powerful idea into a persuasive advertising message, make the most of subconscious triggers like the ones we’ve covered.

Frame your idea in a way that

  • Differentiates your product
  • Makes the right people stop and think
  • Provokes feelings for the right reason.

Consider what element of surprise you can use to make your audience pay attention. Are there levers you can pull to prompt them to take action?

Why Science-Based Advertising?

Whether we remember and respond to an ad has more to do with how our brains work than the number of times we see or hear it.

You can have more impact at less cost when you express your idea in a way your ideal customers won’t forget.

There are many ways behavioral science can help us develop more powerful ads. We’ve only touched on three.

If you’d like to learn more science-based methods to improve your advertising, give us a call—and stay tuned. Our next post will cover techniques producers use to make your ads more powerful.

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