Connecting Plots’ Phillips and Jansen on repositioning, creative efficiency and giving ‘as many fucks’ about social as TV

Mumbrella's Kalila Welch sat down with Connecting Plots' co-founders Tom Phillips and Dave Jansen to find out exactly what the agency's new positioning, 'Imagination in every impression' means, and why the pair feel the traditional agency model is failing to efficiently tackle creative effectiveness in digital channels.

As the ways in which we consume media have evolved, so too has the need for a creative concept to be effectively encapsulated and reiterated across a multitude of formats and audiences.

But for Connecting Plots co-founders Tom Phillips and Dave Jansen, the well-worn process of creating a brilliant TV ad with matching luggage or cut-downs is no longer cutting the mustard.

L-R: Dave Jansen and Tom Phillips

The pair argues the TV-centric approach favoured by traditional agency models is incompatible with a brand’s contemporary needs to connect campaigns across all touch points of their communications ecosystem.

For the relatively young creative agency, here-in lied an opportunity to differentiate Connecting Plots’ “old school meets new” approach with a new positioning that encapsulate’ the agency’s promise to develop creative ideas for clients that are “built to stretch and adapt across screens and platforms”.

‘Imagination in every impression’, speaks to the agency’s creative approach, which sees the “media, creative and production thinking all working together from the start” to deliver work that capitalises on the growth of major social media platforms, gaming and digital communities. They attribute their approach to the creative process to the intertwining of Phillip’s media background and Jansen’s film production experience.

As well as communicating the agency’s philosophy, the new positioning is a dig at a “legacy one size fits all approach to advertising”, commenting on the inefficiency and ineffectiveness of designating new technologies as an afterthought in the process of creative ideation.

“There’s this fucked conundrum where clients are expecting more assets, for more channels, and their budgets aren’t going up necessarily,” says Phillips.

The trend to which he refers is well documented, with 2019 research conducted by advertising effectiveness consultant Peter Field finding a “crisis in creative effectiveness” due to a “shift in short-term activation focused creativity” and the associated “strategic and media trends”. Field’s investigation of the most recent IPA and WARC Rankings data at the time revealed that creatively awarded campaigns were less effective than they had been before, and were no more effective than non-awarded campaigns.

In Jansen’s view, this reported decline of advertising effectiveness aligns “very coincidentally” with the growth of social media platforms over the past 10 or so years, as audience drift into the hyper-concentrated realms of TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and YouTube, and move away from traditional media consumption behaviours.

“We’re certainly not suggesting that the platforms have been solely responsible for that,” he says. “But they’ve started to command more and more eyeballs and are becoming the places where audiences are spending more and more time. So, if they’re not being considered as a priority, and are more of an afterthought, then you’re not going to be making stuff suitable for those channels or suitable for the audiences in those channels, and therefore, you’re going to be inefficient, and ultimately, you’re going to be ineffective as well.”

By contrast, Phillips declares that Connecting Plots designates itself as an agency that wants to be known for ‘creative effectiveness’: “We’ve made our business with the DNA of the thing that got us together in the first place –  that we gave as many fucks about what was actually going into social channels as what was going on TV.”

While he asserts that agency “oil tankers” specialising in big brand TVC creation have an important place in the creative ecosystem, Jansen adds that there is also “a real need for for businesses like Connecting Plots to be able to furnish all those different touch points – the brand ecosystem, the brand experience, to make it consistent to make it more efficient.”

Fantastic Furniture’s ‘When it feels like home’ campaign via Connecting Plots

The agency’s client portfolio, which includes Fantastic Furniture, Tourism Australia, Menulog, Lendlease, Westinghouse, Nestlé, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Brown-Forman, offers reasonable evidence of the impact of effectively leveraging non-traditional channels as the starting point of a campaign.

Connecting Plot’s ‘When it feels like you’ work for Fantastic Furniture took home Bronze at the APAC Effies in the retail category. Jansen explains that the campaign honed in on “the simple creative idea of dropping in on living rooms and bedrooms of different households across the country”.

In order to build personalised content for segmented audiences, channel segmentation was brought in early on in the creative development. As a result, the campaign was able to be produced in a streamlined way that told a number of stories in different ways.

“From a production perspective is quite simple. It’s quite fly on the wall,” says Jansen, “But it lets us do 22 fifteen second ads for TV, for YouTube, optimized into every other social channel, which has obviously proven to be hugely efficient and hugely effective as well.”

Connecting Plots’ 2021 Christmas Party team photo

The agency was also responsible for Tourism Australia’s ‘Australia in 8D’ campaign – a series of immersive videos designed to take viewers to some of Australia’s most breathtaking locations in the midst of the pandemic – keeping Australia top of mind as a destination for post-pandemic travel. The 18-moth long content platform reached over 226 million people and contributed to the government agency’s $300 million in earned media while international borders were closed.

“We played a massive role in kind of protecting the demand for an Australian holiday when all the borders were shut. Content was the right answer for Tourism Australia at that time as advertising in a traditional way couldn’t be done, because no one could travel. So what are we selling? What are we talking about? Instead, we developed an immersive content platform where people can kind of experience Australia through almost like surround sound, and through color coded films which depicted what it felt like to experience Australia.

The timing of Connecting Plots repositioning is of course intentional, as the agency prepares to usher in a new product offering, which Jansen hints is revolved around digital and social channels.

“It feels like a good time to be going out with this repositioning. It’s something we’ve always had in the business and the DNA of it. This is now just a better articulation of it.”

On a final note, Phillips reiterates that “effectiveness and efficiency go hand in hand”, pointing to the increasing focus on efficiency that they are seeing and hearing about.

“That creates massive opportunities,” he adds. “Remember, the first four weeks of lockdown. You know, when you couldn’t shoot anything? That, for us, was a really exciting challenge, and a lot of what we do is sometimes making something from nothing.”

“So, I think for us, looking to the next sort of 12 to 18 months, effectiveness and creativity will be on the top of every marketers lips, and so hopefully we can be there for them,” Phillips said.


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