“How do you get people to stick to their New Year’s resolutions?”


The Department of Health asked OgilvyOne for a solution to engage over 80% of people who don’t stick to their New Year’s Resolutions; resolutions involving eating, smoking, exercising, and drinking. It sounded like the project needed to create some habits. And important they are too – Ralph Keeney, of Duke University, notes that America’s top killer isn’t cancer, or heart disease, or smoking, or obesity. It’s our inability to overcome our own short-term behaviour: Ralph estimates that about half of us will make a life-style decision that will ultimately lead us to an early grave.


Disrupting habitual behaviour is the key to allowing us to make cognitive, rather than instinctive, decisions. And breaking habit is often more effective than piling on more and more new habits. How do we do this?

Philippa Lally’s study from UCL into habit formation was a great place to start.

Firstly it’s the only study of habits that looks into how they’re formed rather than simply they’re diagnosed. And secondly, well, everything else. The study has been written about outside of academia (unfortunately) describing habit formation locked-in on average in 60 days. This is not helpful, as 95% of asymtote is between 18 and 270 days; It’s wide. (The average is 60 days for drinks and food reated habits, and 90 for exercise.) We worked this up into Facebook-delivered groups.