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Cookies with a Side of Climate Change: How Clemenger BBDO Hijacked the News of Many


Clemenger BBDO’s ECD Rich Williams spoke to LBB’s Casey Martin about starting a conversation around the importance of algorithms

Cookies with a Side of Climate Change: How Clemenger BBDO Hijacked the News of Many

Everyone loves a good cookie. 

Whether it’s chocolate chip, gingerbread, shortbread, the famously controversial oatmeal raisin, any cookie from Subway, or even the ‘eat me’ cookies from Alice in Wonderland… okay, maybe not the ‘eat me’ cookies, but you would be lying to yourself if you said you hadn’t thought about what they would taste like. 

Cookies create a sense of warmth and nostalgia for childhood. Their smell has been made into candles and, every Christmas Eve, there are millions of cookies set out for Santa Claus to enjoy on his journey. 

In the digital world, however, cookies aren't something that can be enjoyed fresh out of the oven. They are pieces of data that track our online habits, and are used to create a more personalised digital experience. 

For example, when visiting a clothing store online for the first time, you will be shown everything and anything. The next time you visit the store, you will be shown items that the cookie data deems more appropriate for your interests based on data collected during the first visit. 

Cookies can be accepted, blocked and managed by the user. 

Clemenger BBDO and the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) together came up with NewJacker, a site which looks like any normal recipe for white chocolate and macadamia cookies. However, if accepted by the user, the website's cookies will weed out misinformation surrounding the current climate crisis. 

The program is designed as a way to trick web browsers into showing information about the climate exclusively from reputable sources. Thus ensuring that the information spread around the web is correct. 

Rich Williams from Clemenger BBDO spoke on the response this campaign has had thus far, and shared the recipe for success with LBB…

LBB> Where did the inspiration come from for this ingenious idea? Were there any other versions that didn’t make the cut or was the plan always the ‘Cookie Recipe’?

Rich> Our starting point for the campaign was to try and address the information gap between scientists and sceptics. Once we narrowed down misinformation, media and algorithms as the problem we wanted to tackle we decided a cookie recipe was a fitting and delicious creative solution. We naturally also explored cat videos.

LBB> What did you learn throughout this process? What were the challenges?

Rich> The campaign can be perceived as either cheeky or as dishonest. We discussed both along the way. In the end we were fortunate that in the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) we had a partner who understood the intent, importance, and tone of the campaign.

LBB> What has the response been like so far, and how do you envision this initiative growing as time goes on?

Rich> Our website has been viewed in over 60 countries and counting. We’ve received fan letters from Australia and abroad. We’ve been asked to weigh in on other causes, to translate our site into other languages, to share our approach, and even to create a vegan cookie recipe.

LBB> What impact are you hoping this has on the media more broadly?

Rich> More than anything we want to start a conversation about the influence of media and algorithms, with people being more aware that the information they receive may not be the same as their neighbour. I would hope that the media also consider their responsibility to share accurate information and not to reinforce the opinions of their audience for ratings.

LBB> Talk us through the creative process, what went into creating the NewsJacker? 

Rich> The starting point was no different to any other brief.

However, once we knew what we wanted to do it was a case of all departments in the agency working together and not just creative and technology. The idea does have technology at its heart, but it is nothing without people engaging with it or talking about it.

The process was more of landing the correct tone, the cheekiness and simplicity of the idea is important because it’s the mechanic which makes the idea interesting.

LBB> And finally, what’s your personal favourite type of cookie?

Rich> White chocolate macadamia, of course.

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Clemenger BBDO Sydney, Wed, 13 Sep 2023 00:37:39 GMT