The new age of advertising: Persuasion & craftsmanship rise in the wake of the death of the cookie

On a bleak, chilly and rain-soaked morning in late 2024, a funeral service is being held in a cemetery somewhere on the outskirts of Silicon Valley.

Big tech execs, performance brands, and marketers huddle under black umbrellas to pay their respects to a promising life cut short.

The 3rd party cookie has died.

But there’s someone noticeably absent. The creative industry. As a betting man, I’d guess they were celebrating.

It’s been 15 years since Facebook launched its ad products and heralded the dawn of a new age of advertising effectiveness.

What has followed has been a decade and a half where we’ve been so focused on performance and promotion we’ve forgotten the necessity of persuasion.

This obsession with the delivery of advertising to consumers has meant we’ve neglected the intuitive breakthroughs of yesteryear that made advertising work with consumers.

Maybe that’s because advertising, for the most part, is the dark arts of probables and likelihoods. Saying the same thing enough in an entertaining and memorable way so that maybe, just maybe, someone will buy it one day (when they’re actually ready to buy it).

Which is pretty much a direct conflict with the promise of exactness and efficiency of digital and performance.

With both sides of marketing tending to gravitate towards what’s shiny and new, perhaps, now is the time to pause and get back to some of the basics and regain the attention and, indeed, affection of the buying public. After all, we’ve now got access to marketing science literature to help shape and defend persuasive thinking.

I believe the way forward is a bit of both. Of the timeless proven practices of effectively growing brands balanced with new-school media thinking to increase effectiveness and efficiency.

Especially for those brands who’ve hacked growth and have maxed out on performance advertising. Without the resources of the large sized companies who will be able to effectively access and leverage first party data, these others will now need to reorientate and consider the longer term, slower play of brand marketing as well.

But for many this will come with a huge challenge. Growth marketers lack the experience of building a brand and managing that journey with stakeholders who have become accustomed to immediate results.

Take eco-cleaning brand, Koh, who launched their first ever TV campaign since launching in 2016. The result is a kind of confused brand/retail spot which doesn’t create any memorable distinction for consumers. It’s focused on the problem (people don’t like to be reminded of their problems) instead of the solution and lacks the craft of getting the message across in as simple and efficient a way as possible.

Now compare it to this Mr Clean ad which probably has a similar insight. It’s steamy and attention grabbing, funny, has a story, a great use of their distinctive brand asset, no time wasted.

Whatever the case, we should applaud Koh for taking the step forward and realising that longer growth as an area for investment. What their example does is shine a light on the timeless principles of marketing science that can’t be neglected when investing in a brand and that shit delivered at the speed of light is still shit.

For those of us working in the creative industry, let’s not mourn the passing of third party cookies too greatly. Yes, it’s time to reignite the flames of persuasion and craftsmanship in advertising for longevity rather than the quick fix. But we must remind ourselves, that it was perhaps our too slow adoption of digital that opened the door to the influx of short term thinking in the first place. So let’s raise our umbrellas not in sorrow, but in celebration, where quality triumphs over quantity, where there’s a healthy mix of old and new, long and short and where impactful messaging resonates long after the rain has cleared.

Whatever the case, we should applaud Koh for taking the step forward and realising that longer growth as an area for investment. What their example does is shine a light on the timeless principles of marketing science that can’t be neglected when investing in a brand and that shit delivered at the speed of light is still shit.

For those of us working in the creative industry, let’s not mourn the passing of third party cookies too greatly. Yes, it’s time to reignite the flames of persuasion and craftsmanship in advertising for longevity rather than the quick fix. But we must remind ourselves, that it was perhaps our too slow adoption of digital that opened the door to the influx of short term thinking in the first place. So let’s raise our umbrellas not in sorrow, but in celebration, where quality triumphs over quantity, where there’s a healthy mix of old and new, long and short and where impactful messaging resonates long after the rain has cleared.

Read the article on B&T →


Investing in unbranded ads? It might be time to look for another job.

We were recently given the most baffling piece of advice from one platform exec. that left me deeply worried for the future of our craft.

Our team is pretty adept at squeezing the most out of the different platforms – it’s one of the reasons clients come to us. And we love to have regular updates with platform reps to understand what the current best practices are – it’s a great way to gain an unfair advantage for clients.

But this one piece of advice left us completely bewildered. On the surface it sounds reasonable, but the second you start to unpack it as a business idea, it becomes, quite frankly, ludicrous.

We were told that if we want to drive the most engagement when using creators, we should leave all branding and brand codes out altogether.

On the surface there’s logic there. You’re paying a creator to make something for their audience, so don’t go slapping your logo all over the place as it’ll scare people off and make it look hideously commercial.

But it’s missing the fundamental point of advertising.

Everything is about creating a brand or business impact. Or in layman’s terms “building brands and selling shit”.

If we break down what is actually being asked for here by the platform it’s this:

“Dear brand, please pay this person to make some content, but whatever you do don’t ask them to include brand codes in it because that would scare away the audience they’ve spent all this time building. And you want this piece of content you’re paying for to reach as many people as possible, don’t you?”

The logical response as a brand is “okay, what the f**k is in this for me?”

Seriously, we’ve jumped the shark.

If you’re a marketer investing money in any channel you of course want to know what the return is going to be. Marketing is the definition of the phrase ‘spend money to make money’.

But if your brand is dialled right back to insignificance (and don’t tell me a channel icon or a #tag is a distinctive brand asset) in a piece of creator content, then that really is a waste of money. It doesn’t matter if thousands or millions more people see it because it won’t have any impact on your brand or business.

I’m not advocating a heavy-handed approach where we demand creators tattoo the logo on their body and mention the brand repeatedly. Working with creators should be about collaboration. And simply making the brand DBA’s fit for the channel and the purpose is the best way to do this. Make them feel like a natural fit.

Without becoming another ‘best practice with influencers piece’, quite clearly there needs to be an understanding of how advertising works before we look to natural alignment and genuine fit in any partnership. Influencers in advertising aren’t a new concept by any means (The Marlboro Man, Clooney and Nespresso) and so combining their influencers with the principles of effective advertising needs to be addressed or we’re going to undermine their use completely.

Here are two examples from Who Gives a Crap of working with creators to demonstrate my point.

@whogivesacraptp

Stop rolling with plastic, replace the roll with something better.

♬ Promoted Music - whogivesacraptp

The first example is essentially a product review, but uses the DBAs of the brand extensively. Their packaging. Creatively it’s pretty bog standard for what we’ve come to expect on TikTok, but it got engagement. Importantly it drove click throughs at the time of posting, but it’s also exposed the brand so much it’ll be able to have a long-term impact.

The second example is definitely more engaging as a story is unfolding. But it’s long and we we only get two glimpses of the packaging in the minute-long setup before the hero shot at the end – hardly the stuff brand building dreams are made of and does nothing to build the brand in the mind of the consumer.

I’m the creative guy here and I’m the one saying ‘make the logo bigger’. That is a surefire sign that something is seriously wrong.

Read the article on Mumbrella →


Droga was wrong, we’re not making ‘shit’ ads. It’s worse than that.

What were the last five ads you saw? I’ll wait while you try to remember.

Chances are you’ve seen a couple of dozen ads in the last 30 minutes, there’s probably a couple to the right of this paragraph, but if you click off this page I bet you’d struggle to recall what they were.

Recently US-based ad executive David Droga told the Australian Financial Review: “The world sees marketing as just the attention side of things, shouting and disruption. And what doesn’t help is the majority of marketing is shit. I mean, it really is, let’s be honest. The death of our industry was the lazy and formulaic nature of what we did.”

I think he’s wrong. Not because most marketing is good, but because the majority of what we’re now turning out isn’t even good enough to be referred to as shit. Let me explain.

The thing with shit ads is that you remember them – they have impact. I defy anyone not to remember seeing these ads for Lube Mobile and Coles for a long time. They’ve certainly stuck with me.

 

Snobbishly, we as an industry call these shit. Why? Because we’ve allowed subjectivity to rule and not the fundamentals of what works.

You only need to go on Campaign Brief and look at the comments on one of the most successful campaigns of the year – Tourism Australia – and you’ll see the problem laid bare.

Or look at the recent Amazon Christmas ad which Campaign Mag UK have awarded the Turkey of The Week award. This ad tested off the charts with System One.

Both these examples are campaigns designed for the consumer, not for the industry.

The fact is, if an ad has grabbed your attention and made you feel anything then you’ll most likely remember it. It will work. See it enough and you’ll never forget it.

Which, frankly, is a lot more than the majority of ads being put out into the world are currently doing.

It’s a sea of sameness, beige mediocrity (recently coined the term ‘blandemic’). Most things don’t stand out, or even register on a subliminal level in the constant scroll. And if we’re not making even a momentary subconscious impact, are we even advertising?

Of course when we’re exposed to hundreds, if not thousands of ads every day we’re not going to remember them all. That would be fucking awful.

But when I talk about good advertising I don’t mean the kind of stunts that get talked about for a few minutes and generate a little social buzz. There’s a lot more to it than that. We’re talking about long term brand building. Burning memories into peoples minds so on the off chance, maybe, just maybe, one day, they buy you. It’s all probables and likelihoods.

Think back to your youth. You remember all the ads. And those ads interrupted your viewing pleasure, just in different channels from today. But it was ok. Because they were entertaining. They gave something to the audience outside of just selling. They gave us a feeling. Or a moment of entertainment. They used music and jingles and characters that stuck in our minds.

And although channels have evolved, people haven’t. We don’t evolve at the speed of digital. It takes the odd millenia. So there are lessons we still need to heed from the Madmen of old.

We’ve recently been advised by one social platform that “native and unbranded content performs better” on their platform so we should remove branding from work we do with creators.

Which is fine, if all you’re looking for is a large media number of hits. And completely shithouse if you’re actually looking to create any kind of brand effect.

If the audience enjoys what they’re watching but can’t commit it to memory and connect it to the brand that engaged them then it’s a complete waste of money.

More alarmingly, it’s undermining the effect advertising has on growth and the power of creativity to transform businesses. If every ad isn’t doing something to reinforce the brand codes (yes, even your most performance-based efforts) then you’ve missed out.

If you’re trying to hide the fact that your ad is an ad, then you may even be missing out anyway.

Some recent research we did with System1 for Menulog showed a correlation between people knowing it was an ad and increased happiness, telling us people don’t like being deceived.

We don’t make people laugh because it makes us feel good. We don’t shock people because it’s a thrill for us. We do it to make people feel something so we can connect a brand to that moment and be remembered.

There’s a simple truth to what we do. The role of advertising is to sell stuff. Sell stuff by building brands, persuading people to take one action over another.

The pipes are increasingly commoditised now. The smallest advertiser can now login to an ad manager account and buy the same audiences as the biggest corporate. So creativity becomes the differentiating factor in the attention arms race.

Which should be great news – because as humans creativity is now our one advantage over the machines.

But next time you’re designing a campaign or signing off on creative, ask yourself one simple question – who will care about this? If the answer’s ‘no one’, then why bother?

Read the article on Mumbrella →


Mumbrella Dynamic Duos: ‘the Aussie bogan to my blue-blooded Brit’

Dave

Back in 2008 I worked for an agency called TCO, one of the original content businesses in the country. It was run by a chaotic visionary which made it an incredibly challenging but also incredibly rewarding and formative period in my career.

When Tom joined the company from the UK, he was your typical, polite Englishman – he couldn’t believe how archaic Australian creative and media was and still wore jeans from the 90s. We got on immediately. We were both passionate about our work and used each other as therapists for the daily rollercoaster of life at TCO.

What we really connected over was bringing his comms planning background and my creative and production thinking together. Although we never worked on the same clients, we’d always solve briefs over lunch or after work and it genuinely felt like we were doing something different to the industry norm.

I left TCO in late 2009 to start my own business, Infinity Squared. For the next 4 years I ran and grew Infinity’s reputation for being the go-to content and branded entertainment business in Australia. We brought in a roster of world class film directors, as well as a creative partner Nick Boshier who was the brains behind some of the country’s most famous YouTube creations including Beached Az, Bondi Hipsters and Trent from Punchy.

During those years Tom and I stayed mates, having beers, exercising together and always chewing the fat about work.

In 2014 I EP’d a TV show deal with ABC to make the world’s first crowdsourced multiplatform TV show. It was ambitious and needed someone to coordinate the participation of the audience who would, in essence, dictate what each week’s episode would be. The timing for Tom was perfect.

The show was a huge success, winning an international Emmy Award but more importantly, it showed Tom and I that there was something in telling stories in a non-linear way.

So Tom joined Infinity Squared and the rest is history.

Like any relationship it takes work. It’s a bit like a marriage. There are ups and downs, there are times when you could (and do) lose your shit. But I think we’ve grown to understand each other and what drives us.

Tom loves channels and media and I love creativity. And I think that’s the secret sauce. Neither of us are as strong as a solo act.

Most Memorable Moment With Tom: Definitely winning an Emmy Award.

Best Word To Describe Him: Optimistic (eternally and unshakably).

Most Annoying Habit: Tom’s overly-considered, which is the antithesis of me. I’m impulsive and impatient as hell.

Connecting Plots Co-Founder & CCO, Dave Jansen

Tom

Dave and I met back in 2009. I’d just moved to Australia from the UK and joined The Conscience Organisation, one of Sydney’s original social and content agencies. We met at training and were asked to introduce ourselves with a fact. Dave’s opening line was less than savoury but it made me laugh. 14 years on and not much has changed. He makes me laugh a lot.

My background was in media and planning while Dave’s was in content and production. From the get-go, we had a healthy balance between planning and creativity. Dave’s approach was so refreshing from traditional ad peeps I’d worked with in the past. He was dead set on creating entertainment not ads and he didn’t care about what channel it was going in as long as it made someone laugh or cry. It was all about the ‘gooseys’. My challenge was helping him channel this in a way that would build brands and sell shit. I think it’s been the key ingredient to our success working together.

Dave’s always been the Aussie bogan to my blue-blooded Brit. He’s dick jokes, I’m dad jokes. He loves Metallica and HipHop, I love musicals and WSFM.

In 2010, Dave left TCO to start Infinity Squared and I stayed on to grow it from a 9 to 30 person agency, getting companies like Coca Cola, Westfield and Nestlé onto social.

When I eventually left in 2013, Dave and I partnered up on an influencer agency called The Creators Network, signing top beauty, food and comedy YouTubers. Dave likes to leave this part out of our story because it was a massive flop – we had some success launching Bondi Harvest but it turned out managing 19 year old YouTubers was a little soul destroying…

It did get us into business together though. The next year, Dave brought me on to help with #7 Days Later – a world first social TV show that made a weekly episode based on suggestions from an online audience. The problem was they had no idea how to find and build that audience. That’s where I came in. The show went on to win an Emmy Award and we realised this approach to connected storytelling was something brands weren’t getting from traditional agencies.

From there I joined Infinity, building it into a full service creative remit, winning businesses like Lion, SEEK and Maccas. In 2018 we divided the full service and production offering and officially launched our creative agency, Connecting Plots.

Our relationship is not without its fair share of tension. There are times where I want to kill him. But there’s also a lot of good times. We’ve created businesses and a whole lot of work we’re incredibly proud of.

Most Memorable Moment With Dave: Being on a conference call with a client and Dave having road rage not realising he wasn’t on mute…

Best Word To Describe Him: Feisty.

Most Annoying Habit: He doesn’t like being told what to do… but then does it anyway. Most of the time (annoyingly) with blistering creativity.

Connecting Plots Co-Founder & CEO, Tom Phillips

Read the article on Mumbrella →

 


FoodCo Appoints Connecting Plots as Creative Agency Following Competitive Pitch

The company, which owns global bakery and café brands Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue, appointed the independent creative agency in June 2023 following a competitive pitch.

As part of the remit, Connecting Plots will build better synergies between brand and retail advertising across campaign and always-on comms for both Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue brands.

“We were extremely impressed with how Connecting Plots’ thinking stretched across brand and retail in paid, owned and earned. They demonstrated they get our business and will make every brand impression in every channel more consistent and impactful.”

FoodCo General Manager of Customer & Marketing, Fatima Syed.

Connecting Plots are currently working on new creative platforms for both the Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue which will be rolling out in market over the coming months.

“FoodCo is an impressive business amassing a strong franchise model across multiple brands. Fatima has assembled a strong marketing and digital team with a clear plan for how they intend to grow their business, so it’s exciting to be able to partner with her and media agency This Is Flow in the year ahead.”

Connecting Plots Co-Founder, Tom Phillips.


Australian Eggs appoints Connecting Plots as creative partner following competitive pitch

The pitch process tasked the independent agency with elevating the versatility of eggs in order to encourage Australian families to increase their weekly egg consumption.

Consumer research conducted by the member owned not-for-profit company identified the need to tell an engaging and enduring story that demonstrates how to elevate every meal with an egg.

“We were really impressed with Connecting Plots’ creative approach and their ability to bring an insightful idea to life cohesively across every touchpoint”

Australian Eggs Managing Director, Rowan McMonnies.

Connecting Plots were awarded the business in late May, with a new brand platform and integrated campaign in development for release in the coming months.

Who doesn’t love eggs? It’s a real privilege to work on a product that truly touches the homes of so many families across the country,” says Connecting Plots CEO & Founding Partner, Tom Phillips. “The marketing and R&D work that the team at Australian Eggs do directly supports our Aussie eggs farmers, so it’s an important challenge to ensure our new brand platform drives a direct business impact for that farming community.

Connecting Plots Co-Founder, Tom Phillips.

The new Australian Eggs campaign will launch in August 2023.

Read more on AdNews →, Mediaweek →, Campaign Brief → and B&T →.


AdNews Better Workplaces - Connecting Plots' renovated 'marijuana den'

The office of independent creative agency Connecting Plots, according to neighbours, was once the scene of a major drug bust.

While the Plotters HQ was an unassuming industrial space in Beaconsfield, Sydney, when the agency purchased it in 2019, staff soon found out the building’s twisty history as an ex-pizza factory and ex-marijuana den.

Unlike most agencies, Connecting Plots kept the renovations “in the family” as the space was designed by the company’s three owners, Tom Phillips, Sophia Kang and Dave Jansen, with help from their partners who have a good eye for interior design.

Converted into an office within just two months, the office still shows its warehouse roots with exposed brick and a controlled colour palette of textured blacks and browns such as leather and wood.

We wanted to keep it simple but sophisticated and create a space that invited creativity and diverse thinking.
Connecting Plots Co-Founder, Tom Phillips.

Being fiercely independent Connecting Plots wanted to create a space where like-minded agencies and businesses could share the agency’s space and create a culture of collaboration.

We wanted the office to be somewhere where fellow indie agencies who are starting out or scaling their businesses could come, network, share a drink and swap insights, problems and experiences.
Connecting Plots Co-Founder, Tom Phillips.

Connecting Plots currently shares the space with its sister production company Infinity Squared as well as The Park, a UK-based experiential agency, and We Are Gather, a business that designs large scale consumer events.

Previously, the space was also shared with PR agency We Are Different when it was just three but it grew and has since moved.

The office includes just more than 40 open plan desks and approximately 35 people combined across the four businesses. With the agency currently on the hunt for another small indie agency to fill up those final few extra desks.

We only built our mezzanine last year and it’s been a game changer. We use the space for anything and everything – from escaping our desks to work in a comfy booth, having an impromptu meeting, doing training and company-wide presentations, client workshops or just as a space to hang out for a drink at the end of a long week.
Connecting Plots Co-Founder, Tom Phillips.

Read the full article on AdNews →.


Connecting Plots Acquires Indie Agency Two G’s

Two G’s became part of Connecting Plots on Tuesday 11 April, with their current clients including Amazon Prime Video, Mad Mex and Penguin Books Australia.

John and Matt are both highly awarded integrated Creative Directors with more than 15 years experience who both live and breathe brand, digital and social worlds to create culture-shaping, made-for-channel creative.

Matt and John are a true representation of our old meets new philosophy. They bring a unique mix of brand and creative with channel-centric thinking across social, digital and technology. We’re thrilled to have them join us.
Connecting Plots Co-Founder, Tom Phillips

The pair have extensive experience at both traditional and digital-centric agencies including VML where they were paired together to creatively lead the agency’s major accounts. Between them they have worked with clients from all categories, including McDonalds, Toyota and Coca-Cola, and won all the major awards – with highlights including multiple Cannes Lions and golds at One Show.

We’re thrilled to be joining Tom, Dave, Sophia and the team. They’re fantastic people making fantastic work and we believe in their vision for the agency and can’t wait to help bring to life their new ‘Imagination In Every Impression’ positioning.
Connecting Plots Creative Partners, Matt Geersen & John Gault


Connecting Plots Take On Wasted Ad Dollars Launch of New Technology Platform; a.glo

The launch of a.glo supports the agency’s new positioning, ‘Imagination In Every Impression’ which challenges the industry’s old habits and specifically targets the recurring and systematic problem of wasting advertising dollars by using creative that isn’t fit for purpose.

In the current economy, proving a greater ROI has never been more important. This point has been further highlighted by the recent Next&Co Annual Digital Media Wastage Report which showed that approximately 41% of digital ad spend in the last year was “wasted”. Increasingly complex channel requirements means that clients need more tailored creative to ensure they are performing in these channels to achieve stronger results.

If you think about Meta’s ecosystem alone there are upwards of 20 ad formats. And against those formats, there are 6 different strategic objectives you can buy against that each require tailored creative solutions. Anything from different messaging, allowances for sounds, moving image, different calls-to action and more. Multiply that again by Snap, TikTok and YouTube, and this number goes to well above 40. So a ‘matching luggage’ approach of creating a 30” TVC and a 15” and 6” cutdown simply doesn’t cut the mustard.
Connecting Plots Co-Founder, Tom Phillips

Phillips believes the siloed approach of how advertising, media and production agencies are set up is to blame and is leaving money on the table.

Clients are approaching us directly or via our platform partnerships to fix the same problem – their creative for these channels isn’t performing and is often an afterthought.
Connecting Plots Co-Founder, Tom Phillips

The new platform a.glo combines creative, brand, media and production thinking to deliver full-funnel, fit-for-channel and fit-for-purpose creative solutions that are proven to work.

But this specialist service is not new. The team behind a.glo have been doing this in partnership with Meta, Snap and other platforms for over 5 years across a variety of verticals including Financial Services, Consumer Tech, FMCG, Retail and Automotive.

The service utilises best practice marketing diagnostics to help unearth where the wastage is and what the opportunities are in order to devise a strategic roadmap based on the nuances of achieving the business objectives within different channels. Clients’ existing creative and assets can then be re-engineered to create optimised best practice creative that deliver to the varying strategic objectives without the need for extensive production requirements.

And the return far outweighs the investment.

A great example of a.glo in motion is where we worked with Meta across 12 auto brands to test platform optimised content vs. non-optimised content. Meta found that the majority of adverts uploaded to Facebook and Instagram weren’t created social-first, resulting in huge inefficiencies and poor performance. By putting it through the a.glo process, we were able to increase reach by 200% for the same budget, reduce cost per lead by 50%, reduce cost per finance conversion by 45% and reduce cost per model page visit by 54%.
Connecting Plots Co-Founder, Tom Phillips

a.glo can be extended to platform partners, direct clients and agencies to ensure best-practice social and digital can be easily accessible for brands across Asia Pacific.

Read the full interview with Co-Founder Tom Phillips on Mediaweek →.


Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Appoints Connecting Plots as Agency of Record Following Competitive Pitch

The Royal Agricultural Society Of NSW has been an influential force in the establishment and progression of Australian agriculture since its foundation in 1822. The first project, which is currently in development with Connecting Plots, will be the iconic Sydney Royal Easter Show.

We were really impressed with the way Connecting Plots used research and data to inform their creative approach and their design and production thinking to crack our brief. They showed a great deal of care and insight in how to bring their thinking to life perfectly in every channel and every touchpoint.
RAS Head of Marketing, Frances Jewell

Connecting Plots has been tasked with the branding and development of a creative platform that encapsulates the spirit of the Sydney Royal Easter Show and celebrates everything that makes it an event everyone can enjoy.

It’s a real privilege to partner with such an important non-for-profit organisation. Many of us in the agency are from rural communities and some have agricultural backgrounds, so it’s good for the soul to be helping promote the great work of the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW and its pinnacle event, the Sydney Royal Easter Show.
Connecting Plots Co-Founder, Tom Phillips

The Sydney Royal Easter Show will run from Thursday 6 April to Monday 17 April.