Things of note for the week ending Friday August 11th, 2023
What is UP Five things on Friday-ers?
Let’s try again.
Hello friends, how have you been? 🙂
I’m sorry to be the one to break it to you but contrary to recent weather reports, yes indeed it is August (edit: this is no longer funny- the Sun literally came out TODAY).
We find ourselves in that time of year when FTOF gets a thousand bounce-backs from the US saying ‘I’m on leave for three days, I’ll reply to by the end of the day’ and from Europe ‘The office is closed for eight weeks, perhaps we’ll speak in September’.
For me, well, we took a holiday in May for us (Italy – was lovely) and then travel wise I’m catching the train to Germany in a couple of weeks for Gamescom – and after that? I think a few BBQs in the garden (see above) with friends and family.
Yes. A summer well spent.
It’s been a while since we last spoke and to quite honest I thought I might take a bit more time off from the newsletter this summer but it’s 21:13 on a Wednesday evening starting this draft to you and, well, as I often say – if the words are there, let them flow.
So let’s get into it; I’m going to open up the inbox of THINGS and see what falls out.
Two small pieces of admin before we proceed:
Saturday August 12th (this weekend) is TOUGH MUDDER day. Me and 14 other Divas (pictured) are taking on 15k of 30 obstacles and so far we’ve raised over £3500 for War Child.
Thank you so much to all of you who have already donated. If you haven’t and still would like to, you can sponsor me £10, $10, €10 directly right here or you can sponsor (or choose someone from) the entire team via our group page here.
All donations are welcome and if you’re reading this on a Saturday around 1pm UK time, think about how much pain I’ll be in and SPONSOR – thanks x
Tuesday August 22nd – Friday August 25th me and four other Divas will be attending GAMESCOM in Cologne/Köln, Germany (here’s what we’re doing differently this year). We have a packed schedule but strangely, no one seems to be biting on the breakfast meetings. I can’t think why.
If you’re attending and you fancy a coffee and a croissant on or near to the Ukie stand, do get in touch (you can hit reply to this email or send me a note to james dot whatley at diva dot agency) and we’ll get something sorted 🙂
Right then, that’s that sorted.
Shall we move onto the THINGS?
1. WHY WOULD YOU FAKE A CASE STUDY FILM?
Let’s talk about Pringles.
Specifically, let’s talk about Grey’s award-winning Pringles NPC campaign.
‘Win a job as an NPC in Train Sim World 3’. Great stuff.
Here’s the case film. Please watch it.
EDIT: a few days after this post went live, GREY seemingly pulled every record of the ad from the internet (the YouTube link is now private and the Vimeo page, the same). I wonder if the two things are related? PS. You can still see the ad here.
A few weeks ago, after the madness of Cannes subsided, my lot at Diva – along with many others I’m sure – gathered in our cinema room over some pizza and beer to have a collective look at this year’s winners. The best of the best. The cream of the crop.
Our ambition? To watch, examine, and discuss those winning cases and see what we could learn from the ones that managed to bring home some coloured metal (here’s the full list of cases we got through that night).
The evening was great. Lots of chatter about purpose and percentages (one is a trend the other is obfuscation). But then we got to Pringles.
About 45s in to the film, the voiceover tells you ‘there was a recruitment campaign in games’ –
– and it shows you, along with some actual ads that did appear in Train Sim World 3, the above in-game billboard ad in a racing game.
There you are, racing along a dusty highway, with a HUGE Pringles QR code for people to pause and scan so they can apply for the job.
But this is completely fake.
The first clue was the fact that no one in the room recognised the racing game in question. And the thing is, at Diva, we pride ourselves on being ‘gaming native’ – which means we are in games and we are of games.
Everyone in the office has played, seen, or heard of an unbelievable breadth and depth of releases and we thought one of us would recognise it. Especially as it seemed like a AAA racer that offered this level of brand integration.
So when we dug deeper (and fair play to our motion lead, Ben – hi Ben! – for spotting this), the same ‘game’ turned up in a Panasonic ad.
Same car. Same road. Same game? Well, as it turns out – yes. It is the same game. You know how I know? Because this week I learned you can actually buy fake video game footage on Shutterstock.
As a reminder, here’s the image from Grey’s case film:
Aaaaaand here’s the video clip on Shutterstock.
Fake video game mate? Overlaid with your client brand assets? For a case film to hoodwink judges you say? Easy. To you mate, £59. Lovely jubbly.
Let’s get one thing super clear:
I DO NOT KNOW WHY YOU WOULD DO THIS.
Some of you might be sitting back and thinking ‘Oh whoop-di-do, ad agency fakes case film – tell me another one’ – well, I’m not that much of a cynic I’m afraid (quiet at the back).
I’ve judged awards and I’ve chaired judging for awards. This year I’ve judged the 2023 WPI Impact awards, and last month I finished up my judging for the Lovies as well.
My point is: Judges really take this stuff bloody seriously.
We all work hard enough as it is and putting in the effort to ensure the best work gets awarded on merit is fundamental to improving the overall output of the industry.
Faking stuff like this is proper bottom tier. It makes a mockery of the people that worked on it, it makes a mockery of the (excellent!) campaign, and it makes a mockery of the judges that awarded this work on the basis of this case study film.
Grey might have a perfectly good reason for doing this. But what I don’t understand is this: the case study is good enough. The activation itself wasn’t just good enough, it was actually super fun – and got a ton of coverage.
Why put a fake asset into a case film and risk getting disqualified for falsifying an award entry?
I just don’t get it.
Disclosure: I used to work on Pringles, years ago – and they are super hot on their gaming knowledge and genuinely have an interest in the category. I doubt very much this got signed off client-side. Eesh.
2. THE TRUTH ABOUT GOING BACK
One of my favourite writers, Justin Myers – aka The Guyliner – writes a Substack called .
A week or so ago, this beauty dropped into my inbox:
“It’s the curse of the bored and the unfulfilled to imagine that their lost loves hold the key to happiness. Exes perhaps hold an allure they lacked entirely when the relationship was current. It’s a similar feeling when you visit again a city you once loved and called home. Like exes, we sometimes expect the places we’ve loved to remain frozen in time during our absence. But they have moved on without you, the timbre of their laughter has changed, they glow from the inside. Being a tourist in a city you could once navigate blindfolded is somehow worse than being lost somewhere completely new.”
It’s a gorgeous read. Do find the time.
And for what it’s worth, it reminded me of my home town, Canvey Island.
So different now to how it was then.
I remember going home one Christmas and seeing Nigel Farage’s face on the side of a bus – I knew then there was no going back. I never felt like I truly belonged there if I’m completely honest.
But I did grow up there – and that much, no matter how ugly or changed it might be since – I’ll always be nostalgic for.
3. THIS WEEK IN GAMING
Sup Gamers! (this actually works here). We’ve already had quite a gamer-y opener this week so I’ll try and keep this brief? Maybe?
This week in game news.
1. Roblox’s numbers hit I guess it is an unstoppable machine now?
The numbers [PDF] in question:
Revenue: Up 15% to $681 million
Bookings: Up 22% to $781 million
Net losses: $285 million, compared to $179 million in the same quarter last year
And if you think that’s nuts, check out this quote in the shareholder letter:
“Given the geographic and age diversity of our user base, along with investments in our product, we are confident that we are building a platform that could, over time, grow to support one billion DAUs,”
One billion DAUs – 50% of Facebook – on Roblox. There’s a power shift coming y’all (it’s already here) and with these kinds of numbers? Legislation will soon follow.
I guarantee it.
2. Roblox x Meta Quest
While we’re on Roblox, I mentioned a couple of editions ago that Roblox was coming to Meta Quest headsets in beta. Well, it arrived – and downloads shot over a million pretty quickly. Whether those downloads convert to regular users is another thing (my money is yes but we’ll see).
3. Ralph Lauren did a thing in Fortnite.
I liked this because it takes a different approach. As in, instead of just building another branded world to explore, RL actually made a game – a racing game at that – that people can play.
Of course you can buy the boots on show (limited IRL, unlimited in the Item Shop – with about a $235 difference between them).
What this does for the business I have no idea. But hey, Vogue Business got to put the vomit-inducing portmanteau ‘phygital’ in a headline, so y’know, there’s that.
Like Nike/Airphoria before it, I’ve taken a bunch of screenshots and dumped them in a free to use folder, feel free to cut and paste into your decks – credit ‘@whatleydude’ x
Quick links / news bites:
Animal Crossing Lego you say? GOODNESS.
Someone found this amazing Tron arcade machine ON THE SIDE OF THE ROAD.
Feminist Frequency is shutting down. This was/still is important work. We’re losing a powerful voice with its demise. Rubbish.
We lose one amazing female voice in gaming but we gain another, AOC being interviewed for the Washington Post about Twitch and the politics of gaming is great (also, Yay Gene).
In laugh out loud hilarious news, Decentraland is now so dead that it is looking into using ‘AI’ to help make the worthless wonderland ‘feel more alive’ – truly, unwritable satire.
Armored Core VI is out soon. Of course we did a bus wrap.
A wonderful read from Adrian Hon about why the end of the Star Wars hotel doesn’t mean its the end of immersive gaming experiences.
Most publishers announce their delays with text-heavy images in social media posts. But Devolver is not most publishers. Check this out. It’s outrageous.
After losing Lance Reddick earlier this year, the future of Commander Zavala in Destiny 2 was left hanging in the balance. Yesterday, Bungie announced that the character would carry on – and the new voice actor is a perfect choice.
What is James playing this week?
I finally got around to booting up JEDI: SURVIVOR and I am really really loving it. Look at it!
Action packed, great in-canon story and most brilliantly of all – it doesn’t do that thing that most sequel games do which is ‘welcome to the sequel, we’re taking away all your weapons so you start over’ – which is a huge breath of fresh air. If you enjoyed Jedi: Fallen Order you will enjoy Jedi: Survivor. Give it a shot.
While I’m at it, may I also recommend to you the utterly perfect train game, TREN (gym bunnies will find this funny, I have discovered).
It’s SO gorgeous and SO PERFECT I really can’t recommend it enough.
Tren is available in DREAMS, and DREAMS is available for free on PlayStation Plus this month.
You can read an interview with the game’s creative director right here.
What are you playing?
4. THING 4
via Gary Whitta, on Threads.
5. IS THE OPPOSITE OF YOUR CHOICE STUPID ON ITS FACE?
I love this question.
So I found this article a few weeks ago while researching a Strategy is Sacrifice talk I was giving for a client.
And I just keep coming back to it.
As Roger Martin so eloquently states:
“We have all seen countless strategic plans asserting that the organization’s strategy is to be ‘customer-centric’ or to be ‘operationally effective’ or to ‘invest in its talent.’ But these don’t meet my test for strategic choices — even though they may actually be the most frequently proffered choices in the world of strategic plans. My test for whether a stated choice is actually a strategic choice is whether or not the opposite of the choice is stupid on its face.”
We’ve been doing a fair bit of brand work of late at Diva towers (more on this another time) and really digging into the specifics of what strategic choices are and what actual real words mean when you get into them is fundamental to getting things right.
‘We want to be authentic.’ – oh, so the opposite would be to inauthentic right? Roger would call that ‘stupid on its face’ – it’s not a choice if there’s only one choice.
Distinctive choices matter.
Read it. Learn from it. Apply it.
WELCOME TO THE BONUS SECTION
THIS IS THE BONUS SECTION. BONUS LINKS THAT BUMP US OVER FIVE THINGS BUT DUE TO TIMING AND SELF-IMPOSED WRITING RESTRICTIONS ARE LIMITED TO PITHY COMMENTARY ONLY.
‘The five meetings every CEO should lead’ – I liked this. I like rhythms in the workplace generally. Planning for deep work becomes easier when you know the rhythm of the week – and the work. But the linked meeting cadence feels good, CEO or otherwise.
Swiftogeddon sounds wholesome af (and reminds me of Hot Dub Time Machine – ever been to that?) – related: I miss Planet Angel.
I’ve been enjoying ‘Poolside Chillin’ on Spotify. You might too.
Japanese euphemisms for periods are completely fine and normal and… oh wait.
‘Brand imitation is flattery’ smart cookie Ella Munn talking up the trend of brands playing into and making a virtue of their myriad copycats. Well researched, well written, and well worth a read.
‘I burned out at McKinsey’. Ugh.
Secret Invasion director ‘won’t read bad reviews’ – I mean, good? It might take a while. Did you watch it?
Won a Clio. Can’t remember if I mentioned.
If you missed Mark Ritson on ‘Defending Differentiation’, you can catch it here.
‘I’m pretty sure I broke Linkedin’ is a fun read.
Meta is just outright refusing to use the ‘m’ word now, it’s amazing. 12mths ago, they would’ve spaffed ‘metaverse’ all over this BMW/AR/VR announcement – but a cmd+f tells you its nowhere to be seen. Can’t think why.
Disney’s metaverse head has left the house of mouse.
Another proper hands on with Vision Pro.
Carousel videos on Threads are a yet to be fully realised creative canvas. Pete Halvorsen shows the way. Again. Again.
I didn’t know Suki Thompson, I think maybe we met a few times in the early years but not recently. This moving tribute makes me wish that was different.
BONUS BONUS SECTION FOR ALL THE TWITTER/X BS I’M TRYING TO IGNORE
Basically a place I can dump all the interesting/better links and articles I’ve read about the whole Twitter/X debacle. You can skip this section if you want, I don’t mind. It won’t be back.
Reminder: I am no longer on Twitter. It is now quite literally no longer what I signed up for. The news about it burning hard to the ground is hard to avoid (seriously, if you’re a journalist reading this – why are you falling for it every time?), so here’s everything related to that.
‘Twitter/X is no longer the place to start news careers’ – this Bloomberg article from a young up and coming Gen Z journalist about how Twitter is for the oldies is frankly wonderful. You should read it.
Yaccarino did an interview. Lol, what?
Related related: an Australian parliamentary hearing dragged the company for reinstating accounts that shared images of child abuse. (Seriously, why the hell are you still using it?)
Esther Crawford (the sleeping bag woman from Twitter) did a video and Twitter thread about her experiences working there. Featuring some of the most quietly savage burns I’ve ever witnessed – it’s actually worth signing in for.
While looking for something else, I found this excellent (I am a Dad) Knock Knock joke.
On Bluesky? Use this Chrome plug in to find your old Twitter pals. It’s a bit on the manual side but it works well enough.
The bird is dead. Here’s how it was born.
Is social media dead? from the brand new to Substack,
hitting us with ‘A better internet for readers’ stirs memories of Google Reader. I wonder…
The Drum asked some people if brands should drop Twitter/X as a customer service channel now that it’s been rebranded. 1. It’s not the rebrand, stupid. 2. Brands stopped using it as a serious CS channel years ago. It’s a redirect, at best.
‘Preparing my X-it’ by John Scalzi captured a lot of how I’m feeling.
Andy Piper with ‘Goodbye to my life on Twitter’ equally so.
As stated – this section will not return. Avoid it while it lasts x
YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. MIND THE GAP.
Last weekend we saw Barbie (Cried. Twice.) and TMNT: Mutant Mayhem (standing on the shoulders of Spider-Verse). Not quite Barbenheimer but still, all family members were happy. Both are excellent and well worth seeing.
On the TV we’re working our way through S3 of both The Witcher and Succession (behind on both), then ideally Foundation S2 and The Bear.
What are you enjoying at the moment?
As I sign this week’s edition off to you, it’s 20:55 on Thursday night. I’m downstairs in the living room. The mrs is at dinner with friends, the kids are in bed sound asleep and the lithest urban fox I ever did see just sauntered past the window.
I’m off to Bristol in the morning. Working from the Diva offices for the day before Tough Mudder (sponsor me, please). So I’m going to schedule this for mid morning UK time tomorrow – 10ish, shall we say?
Yeah, sounds about right.
Wish us luck for Saturday.
Until next time,
Whatley out x