Five things on Friday #316

Things of note for the week ending Friday, October 16th, 2020


Hello, and welcome to issue 316 of Five things on Friday.

We’re coming at you from the newsletter’s new home: Substack. Here’s to a long and healthy future together.

It’s kinda wild that what started off back in 2011 as a year-long project in discipline, note-taking, and writing for my blog (remember those?) is now its own newsletter publication with nigh-on 2500 subscribers…

But here we are.

And here you are.

For the other newsletter writers among you, you should know that the transition from MailChimp to Substack was relatively painless and aside from a teeny tiny bit of gap-admin to fill in (Substack’s import history goes back to #292, my website editions end at FtoF #265 – so I need to do some copypasta somehow – but that’s for another day) we all arrived here completely unscathed. Hurrah.

And thanks to the lovely Robbie Dale for updating my FTOF header as well.

If you’re new here, thanks for joining.

If you’re a regular, welcome welcome – let me know what you think of the new digs.

If you unsubscribed between last week’s and this week’s and somehow still got this then that’s my fault, sorry – I did the contact pull pretty quickly after I hit send so, yeah, er… sorry about that.

Please don’t sue me x


Two things real quick:

First, the over-working in advertising thing in last week’s edition really touched a nerve. So much so it’s coming back again this week. Your input would be lovely (hit that reply button).

Second, thank you for all the lovely things that you said about the gaming section last week. For those that care, I went ahead and unpacked it further as a LinkedIn article that should be easier for reading, referring, sharing etc.

So please do all those things – thanks.


Shall we crack on with them?



In last week’s edition, Thing Two was named after ‘The Normalisation of Overworking in Advertising’.

So many of you got in touch – via email, DM, WhatsApp – and it’s alarming how much the overworking has continued and got worse under lockdown conditions.

Here are some examples that came my way:

An Account Director calling a team member at 10pm with the excuse ‘Well, we are sort of in lockdown so it’s not like you’d be out.’

In another, a job offer came for a creative with a lowballed salary and a condition that said role would demand them to work night and every weekend without fail.

In another, their office is their bedroom. They literally go to bed and wake up with their work. Work is omnipresent.


With the Covid-19 pandemic creating global economic slowdown, the fear of not having a job or losing the job you do have is exacerbated. Working harder, later – pouring more and more of yourself in in the hope that it will all be OK.

And it won’t be.

There’s no getting away from it: the Covid-19 pandemic has made the agency overworking situation considerably worse.

The combination of:

  • The loss of any kind of work/life balance – how can you delineate between the two your office is your home/bedroom/kitchen?

  • How can you expect to unplug when your daily 45-70mins commute has disappeared?

  • Combine that with people working in an already toxic over-working environment and you have a recipe for disaster.

One person sent me an example of their average calendar, it looked like this:

Every single one of these meetings was a video call.


Everything I heard back over the past week said the same thing:

“While the Overworking thing in your newsletter is good, it mostly alludes to the culture of working late in the office – late nights, getting in takeaways etc. But for so many in the industry, WFH is no different. It’s just the same, but at home, which is actually worse for many as there is no escape from work.”

If you’re reading this and this is reflective of your situation please hear this from someone who has seen the output of burnout up close: this is not sustainable.

Your agency leadership has a responsibility to ensure they are not driving their talent into the ground.

You have a responsibility to yourself to not allow the work rule your life.

We are in the middle of a global pandemic. We are ALL dealing with a situation that we are simply not mentally trained to deal with. Yes, there might be comfort to be found in getting lost in the work but write rules for yourself.

Draw your red lines.

And then stick to them.

The normalisation of overworking in advertising is hateful. The fact that it is now ten times worse because a global crisis is awful.

If you’re a junior, then circulate this email among your peers.

If you’re a senior, then do something to fix it.
You are burning talent and making enemies.

Collectively we all have a responsibility to fix it and to be the change we want to see.

At the absolutely least, take a break: close the laptop. And heaven knows that is so much easier to type and to say than to actually DO but please try it.

Please x

PS. The fact that The Normalisation of Overworking in Advertising was awarded POST OF THE MONTH over on Only Dead Fish should’ve set alarm bells ringing. At least a headline or two in the trades.

And did it?

Did it balls.

Not good enough.

(I’ve had this rant already).


Here’s a thing.

How the New York Times went from a failing newspaper to a thriving digital subscription business.

Good/fascinating reading.


First up, here’s a thing that is probably more important than it first seems: in regards to the ongoing discourse around influencers and paid for advertising, Facebook has committed undertakings to the Competition and Markets Authority that it will ‘do more’ to prevent hidden advertising appearing on its platform.

Here’s a link to the nine page undertakings (PDF).
And here’s the press release.

The important take out is that the ‘do more’ actually has actions underlined within it, the key part?

Instagram will:

  • prompt users to confirm if they have been incentivised in any way to promote a product or service and, if so, require them to disclose this fact clearly

  • extend its ‘paid partnership’ tool to all users. This enables people easily to display a clear label at the top of a post

  • use technology and algorithms designed to spot when users might not have disclosed clearly that their post is an advert and report those users to the businesses being promoted

Under the commitments, Instagram is also required to involve businesses in the changes by creating a tool to help them monitor how their products are being promoted. As a result, businesses should do their part to comply with consumer protection law and take action where appropriate, including asking the platform to remove posts if necessary.

Instagram will report its progress against all commitments to the CMA regularly.

This, combined with the undertakings from influencers the year before, tightens the loopholes that allow brands and influencers to get away with messages that do not included any mention of payment or sponsorship, etc.

This is a good thing!

On the topic of Instagram. The platform turned 10 years old recently. And while my opinions on the platform vary wildly from year to year, this a good cross-section of thinking and commentary related to the platform generally:

As for me, I gave up Instagram as part of my New Year’s Resolution for 19/20. I’ve had to go to the web version of the platform a handful of times to check on ad executions etc but outside of that, I’ve kept my resolution and …I’ve not missed it.

I’m still on the platform. You can find me there, tag me in stuff, and even send me DMs (but they will go unanswered, sorry). But I’m not ON the platform.

Speaking to someone this week about the same thing (hi Lou) and I was reminded of this article by Tim Urban, Why Gen Y are so Unhappy.

This image sticks out in my memory (and I’ve used it in decks a ton of times).

There’s some of this involved.

But for me some of it – and again this comes back to bad pandemic habits (!) is the ease in which you’re able to fall into the doom scroll. Scrolling forever. Looking at how bad the world is, how bad your life is (compared to the perfect version of someone else’s*) and generally killing time in the endless and nihilistic skyscraper of content hidden behind the screen of your phone.

Avoid that if you can.

It’s a trap.


*Rule one: never measure yourself with someone else’s yardstick


From Chrissy, to Kat, to Amanda, Binky, and. more.

1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss during pregnancy or birth. There are people reading this right now that have felt that pain. And live with it every day. Baby Loss Awareness Week is about highlighting the isolation that so many experience after pregnancy and baby loss.

You can read more and find support – or people with similar stories right here.

Handing my son over to surgeons for an operation when he was barely weeks old, the hours I spent contemplating not ever seeing him again. I couldn’t bear it. I have seen the strength of those that have dealt with loss.

If you know anyone that needs that guidance or support, send them the above website. It might help.


‘I don’t have the luxury of being mediocre’

I was probably just out of my teens when June Sarpong was the face of T4.

All I remember is that laugh 🙂

And this is a great interview.

Worth your time.




As I write these words it’s 1508 on Saturday 17th October. I was determined to get this week’s edition out purely to test the new platform provider.

I’m very interested in your feedback so, if you have any, please hit that reply button and let me know what you think – of the new email and of course, any and all of the content within.

It’s been a hard week and I’m glad we’re at the weekend. A big shout to my mate Paddy for some good words of advice these past few weeks. On the newsletter (expect a reader survey at some point), on some work stuff (alignment!), and for this dish that, ankle pain not being a dick, I’mma gonna cook tonight.

Oh, the ankle – yes.

Still broken. But on the mend. Will find out how well it’s mending in a couple of weeks. Thanks for the words of sympathy you lovely lot. My 3yr old running full pelt into it this morning kinda knocked me for six a bit. You know the kind of pain where someone says ‘Oh, you look pale’ – yeah, that.


On that note, I will sign off.

Be kind to yourself, and to those around you. You never know what pain they hide or what darkness they’re carrying. And we could all do with a bit more love right now.


Whatley out x

Last updated by at .

Author: James Whatley

Chief Strategy Officer in adland. I got ❤️ for writing, gaming, and figuring stuff out. I'm @whatleydude pretty much everywhere that matters. Nice to meet you x