Five things on Friday #361

Things of note for the week ending Sunday February 18th, 2024

INTRO

Well howdy. It’s been a rollercoaster week. A lot of getting to the bottom of things while also trying to stay on top of things.

And wrapped up in all of that, figuring out what it means to be kind.

The Mrs has been quite unwell for sometime now, and it’s been amazing to see who shows up in those moments. You know?

The kindness of small gestures. The kindness of unexpected empathy. The kindness of friends just being there. Never underestimate the value of asking someone ‘Hey, how are you holding up over there?’ because you never know where or how it’s going to land and frankly, coming from someone who is going to be saying goodbye to an old friend this week (one I didn’t actually get to say goodbye to), hitting send on that message is better than regretting not sending it later.

So with that, how are you holding up?

I hope your February has been better than your January and that Chinese / Luna New Year is holding true to its promise and bringing you opportunities of evolution and improvement.

We remain hopeful.

At the end of last week’s edition I asked:

“Good leaders are defined by the leaders they leave behind them. Good leaders know the way, go the way, and show the way. Good leaders are what you make them. Good leaders are… you tell me?”

Ten points to my good friend (and purveyor of phenomenal lunch recommendationsMarshall Manson who was first past the post with this excellent response:

“Good leaders listen. Good leaders create an environment / atmosphere where people can do their best work. Good leaders motivate.

Great leaders coach, encourage, develop, and motivate so that their people perform and achieve above their own potential.”

It got me thinking about a framework (I think) for leadership.

Like, reflecting on some of the great leaders I’ve had in my career, thinking about what they did for me (and for the people around me) and how they made me feel – and then thinking back on what we achieved together I started sketching out a few components of HOW they did that.

Like so:

Draft 1.

In my head, each of these headers has a page behind it discussing what each one means, along with supporting examples.

The one I come back to the most is Psychological Safety but reflecting on Marshall’s input, I think I’m missing stuff around coaching and development.

Hmm. Still noodling.

What else is missing? (Hit reply and tell me).

What else can I tell you?

Oh yes! Thank you for all the brilliant replies about the Disney x Epic analysis I put into the last FToF (and also some TOP SECRET NODS as well – you know who you are!)

This newsletter is and always has been a way for me to think out loud so getting ANY response to that thinking is absolutely welcome – even better when it’s positive 😁

I’m still thinking about it all and I’m still not done on Fortnite either but we’ll revisit it another day.

Right then, that was quite the lengthy intro wasn’t it? Shall we crack on with the actual things now?

Let’s.

TO THE THINGS!


1. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE A PLANNER?

aka ‘On Figuring Stuff Out’

Kind of a tangential / follow on point from the data-led opener to this week’s edition – I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be a planner.

I’ve been in research mode a fair bit of late. Whether that’s reviewing cross-category creative work to generate provocations for clients or doing a deep dive on the data surrounding the games industry’s ongoing round of redundancies (here’s Amir Satvat doing God’s work).

I’ve been spending a lot of time in effectiveness papers, case studies and spreadsheets, looking at data, and talking to people IRL.

This kind of work, combined with a renewed dedication to getting out there and spending time with other planners (hello APG friends!), it’s been nice to be reminded of what it is I love about what I do:

love figuring stuff out.

I was reminded of this earlier this week when I came across this post about ‘How to know if you’re a strategist’ (the Seven Ps of Strategy) from Sweathead.

You’re a P-word

A post that I kind of agree with? I think? Maybe?

The Ps mentioned are: Problems, People, Prying, Patterns, Possibility, Persistence, and Pitching. It’s a pretty good list.

If I could, I’d probably add (or switch) some Ps in – and maybe switch one out.

Puzzles.
I like solving puzzles – with data, with creativity, with strategic leaps. Problems are a good thing to uncover but getting to solutions figuring out the puzzle – that’s the main draw for me.

As a completely random aside: I once visited the International Intellectual and Puzzle Museum in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. To this day, one of the best days of my life.

Provocations.
I like asking questions, yes. And those questions are always in service of getting to better work. But often-times you find yourselves in rooms (or on calls) where there are questions left unasked. The provocative question. The ‘Hang on, why are we actually doing this?’, or the ‘Yes but does the product actually deliver that?’ or the ‘Have we addressed why consumers don’t like you?’ questions. The hard questions you have to ask. And frankly, sometimes the only questions planners can ask.

Pitching.
This is the one I’d probably switch out. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE pitching. We pitched recently and a peer said to me as we were leaving the room ‘James, you were born to pitch’. So lovely. And we won the pitch too. Woop.

The point is, it reminded me that I am lucky to have had the training whereby I now enjoy those situations. So many planners and strategists I meet while, yes, they will at some point have to be able to convince a client of a certain strategic course of action, they might not always enjoy the process of PITCHING. Introversion is a common personality trope among planning folk. Solving that? Well it’s a puzzle.

What I am trying to say is this: if you are a planner and you don’t enjoy pitching, then that’s OK. You don’t have to. You can learn, yes. You can also fake it ’til you make it. But if you hate it, that’s OK too and it doesn’t make you any less of a planner.

I think in writing this thing this week I’ve managed to complete the three-writing briefs I set myself in my various social media profiles:

On writing.
On gaming.
And now, with ^ this thing ^ –
On figuring stuff out.

Guess I should write it up into a separate post for the ol’ blog then really. I’ll get right on that.

PS. ‘So you want to be a strategist‘ is still the best collection of learning materials I think I am yet to find for entry level strats and above.


2. GODZILLA MINUS ONE

I saw this movie right before Christmas and it was incredible.

If you’ve not seen it yet, SEE IT.

If you HAVE seen it, then you might enjoy this BTS look at The Visual effects of Godzilla Minus One.

Absolute [behind the] scenes

I love this kind of stuff.

You might too.


3. THIS WEEK IN… GAMING

We’ve had quite the chunky newsletter so far this week. Unexpectedly. So we’ll keep this brief(ish)?

The ‘biggest’ news in games this week (which ended I think more of a minor tremor vs anything earth-shattering – in this humble observer’s opinion at least), is that – in what seems like an experiment for the future – a handful of Xbox exclusives are coming to Nintendo and PlayStation platforms.

Those exclusives are all but confirmed as: Sea of Thieves, Hi-Fi Rush, Pentiment, and Grounded.

All solid games.
All well worth playing.

For those paying attention, the writing on the wall for this has probably been on the wall since the Activision deal was announced. One might even draw a dotted line back to Todd Howard’s email challenging the status quo for Bethesda.

That said, given Starfield and Indiana Jones (both Bethesda) are not included in this announcement (yet), I don’t know if that holds much water.

Timed exclusives maybe?

Let’s see how it plays out.

Overall I think it’s a smart move. If your biggest competitors have more lemonade stands, why wouldn’t you start selling them lemons?

Quick News Bites.

Finally for this section, Five things on Friday still thoroughly recommends the excellent Video Games Industry Memo, by George Osborn.

I ‘cover’ games a bit with this newsletter (and a few other agencies try and fail miserably with some terrible attempts on Linkedin). George’s however is consistently as insightful as it is enjoyable to read.

Well-researched, well-written, and well worth your time. Go get.


4. KINDNESS

My incredible other half reminded me of this poem yesterday. Given to me by my therapist when things were pretty tough a few years back I hadn’t read it for a while and re-reading it again this weekend, it felt like a revelation.

One to read out loud:

KINDNESS, Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.


5. RELATIONSHIPS

via Strat Scraps.

Related: the diagrams book is an essential tool in any planner’s toolbox.


WELCOME TO THE BONUS SECTION. BONUS LINKS THAT MAY KILL YOUR TABS AND I APOLOGISE IN ADVANCE.

Let’s see what we’ve got in the #5things tag bank this week.


YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. MIND THE GAP.

Next week is half-term here. The kids are off and it’s going to be… hectic? We’ve got my mum coming to stay, then a funeral, then a hospital trip, then I’ve got my mother-in-law coming to stay, then another hospital trip, an operation, then a trip to the midlands and overall I think probably a lot of driving.

When it’s all done I guess then maybe we’ll play some video games?

The short version is:

I don’t know if there’ll be a newsletter next week. But we’ll see.

In the meantime, thanks for reading, sharing, and subscribing.

If you’re looking to find me in more places outside of this newsletter, these days the lion’s share of my diminishing time on social is spent across Threads and Linkedin.

Maybe see you there?

Until next time,

Whatley out x

Five things on Friday #360

Things of note for the week ending Friday February 9th, 2024.

INTRO

It’s 545am on Friday February 9th when I’m writing this intro. I wonder what time it’ll be when I hit send?

It’s Chinese New Year tomorrow. I don’t know about you but the start of 2024 has not been fantastic. I won’t go into the detail but just put it this way: there was a point about two weeks ago when I think I just sat down and cried. And in among the tears I said: ‘Hi, hello? Yes, I’ve had enough now thanks. No more please? Please? Thanks’ – I think that helped.

Holding onto resilience – against the relentlessness of it all (squares vs triangles) – has not been easy. But I am doing it.

One day at a time.

The benefit of good therapy in my past combined with an incredible partner (and just honest-to-god the most amazing friends) has meant the days, as hard as they are sometimes, always end with a hug and the reality that love is the answer.

Love is always the answer.

So this weekend I’m starting again.

Chinese New Year celebrations tonight and then let’s see what the year of the dragon brings starting tomorrow (Saturday).

See you there yeah?

🐉 🐲 🐉 🐲 🐉

What else can I tell you?

Ah yes! Thank you to the handful of you that have signed up to be paid subscribers. The first few months of Buttondown’s fees have been covered and to think that you lot actually want to contribute to the running costs of this thing was genuinely moving.

More on the details of all that at the end of the newsletter.

Speaking of the newsletter, shall we actually get on with this thing now?

Let’s.

TO THE THINGS!


1. COME ON THEN, LET’S TALK ABOUT DISNEY x EPIC

A HUGE announcement – and I want to talk about a few things that seem to have been missed…

The news that launched a thousand Linkedin comments

If you haven’t already, go ahead and read the press release (it’s OK, I’ll wait).

Back?

All done?

Great.

Let’s get into it.

First thing first: the key word in the release is DEEPENING.

Disney-owned properties have been licensed out to Fortnite (among many, many others) for years. And, per the release, Disney has also been using Unreal Engine to power the content and SFX behind many of its tentpole properties again FOR YEARS.

So this is a DEEPENING (a not exactly insignificant $1.5Bn deepening – we’ll come back to this) of an existing relationship.

The interesting thing – for me at least – is about the ‘new persistent universe’ that will be created as part of this announcement.

To quote Disney (emphasis mine):

“In addition to being a world-class games experience and interoperating with Fortnite, the new persistent universe will offer a multitude of opportunities for consumers to play, watch, shop and engage with content, characters and stories from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, Avatar and more. Players, gamers and fans will be able to create their own stories and experiences, express their fandom in a distinctly Disney way, and share content with each other in ways that they love.”

So what does this tell us?

1. Disney SSO. Coming to an EPIC page near you.

I think it’s a pretty safe bet to say we’ll soon see a ‘Link your Disney account’ button on Epic’s sign in page.

Like this –

The Epic sign in page but with an added Disney+ logo
Remember when the Lego one appeared and everyone went mental? Same same.

Disney has been tidying up its single sign on (SSO) across its properties for a while – between Marvel, Disney, parks, store, and now Plus – having the Disney SSO linked to your Epic account just makes sense.

And of course, once linked, I’m fairly sure that’ll unlock something for the loyal subscribed user (like, I dunno – an exclusive Goofy skin with some Mickey Mouse back bling or whatever).

Because of course it will.

But where will you do this?

2. Let’s talk about that persistent universe.

Going by the image shared by Disney in the release (embedded above) you can see a LOT. At first glance I count Wreck-it Ralph, Lilo and Stitch, Stark Industries, Halloween Town, Pandora, Hoth, The Death Star, ESPN, Lucasfilm Pixar… hell, even Disney Cruise Lines gets its own harbour area. All across different areas/zones/islands and each one with its own purpose.

So if it’s Disney, it’ll be there.

What else can we guess?

In the same way that Lego has arrived on the Fortnite Platform, we can bet that the Disney Universe (The DU) will be similar if not the same.

(So it’ll be free to play, right?)

But bigger.

Fly ar?ound Hoth with your friends. Maybe launch into Star Wars Outlaws from within the platform (maybe?). Once you’ve done that, you can head over to Disney Studio Island (left on the image above) and watch the latest series of The Mandalorian in a watch party with your friends.

If you’ve ever spent any time at a Disney Parks (world/land/Euro), then you’ll spot that the layout in those places are a huge inspiration for these – and it shows.

3. Interoperability, aaaaaay?

When Disney talks about ‘interoperating with Fortnite‘, again we refer to our friends at Lego.

Ahsoka Tano!

Got a specific skin in your locker on Fortnite? You’ve got that skin in Lego.

You could place a fairly solid bet that when this thing launches (let’s have a guess at before or at least during D23 this coming Auguston day one you’ll be able click once to the right from Lego Fortnite, hit the Disney logo, and then walk right into the The DU on Fortnite with that exact same skin.

I would also fully expect to be able to buy items within the Disney experience and then have those items to wear while playing Battle Royale. Did you buy a Tie Fighter to fly around in The DU? Expect to unlock that as a glider in Fortnite etc.

Link that to games played, movies watched, series’ binged, items purchased, parks visited… well, you can quickly see how all that works together.

IMAGINE you watch the second season of Ahsoka in its opening weekend and, as a result, you get exclusive skins for The DU.

Now imagine a much more complex version of this slide knocking around over in Burbank.

(To be clear: I made this slide. Today)

Disney x Epic. Including but not limited to:

PLAY
Your own stories in The DU.
With DU characters in Fortnite.
Anywhere and everywhere all powered by UE5/UEFN.

WATCH
Your friends play DU content.
Disney Premier content.
Disney content on and off platform – powered by Disney+.

SHOP
Disney digital items.
Disney licensed products in the Fortnite Item Shop.
Disney-themed items linked to Disney Experiences (parks and more).

A Fortnite/Digital version of this one I guess?.

MONEY MONEY MONEY

What about the ONE POINT FIVE BILLION DOLLARS then? Well, Reuters is reporting that Disney got its 9% stake at a STEAL of a price, given how much post-pandemic the value of Epic has dropped since (about $10bn by the looks of things).

This should come as no surprise (Epic is in its 4.0 phase now, do keep up 007). However, these deals do not happen overnight and given the value fluctuation, the number crunchers at Disney should be very happy.

4. What are people not talking about?

People are NOT talking about the Apple-sized elephant in the room.

Disney and Apple are VERY close bedfellows. Epic and Apple are… not. I wonder if board positions and friendly CEO gatherings will eventually/perhaps thaw that out.

I highly doubt it but still.

It’s a thought.

And one to keep an eye on.

5. And I guess we need to address this newsletter’s own elephant in the room.

Someone had to say it

It is perhaps telling that the Disney press release manages to get through the whole thing without saying the M word.

I am reminded of Tim Sweeney, back in March 2023, talking about his definition.

“We can set aside the crazy hype cycle around NFTs and VR goggles… …and the core of it is something that every gamer understands: it’s you, and your friends, getting together online and going around as a group – on voice chat, having a fun time in social entertainment experiences. Some of these experiences are serious games like battle royale, some of them are going to a concert and dancing or chatting with friends and just having a good time”

Scene.

PS. I meant to say earlier but forgot: ‘Players, gamers, and fans’ is an interesting segmentation reveal, no?


2.TRACEY CHAPMAN ❤️

No words. Just vibes.

Go watch.

Subscribe


3.THIS WEEK IN… GAMING

Back by popular demand (OK, I had ONE message – you know who you are) here we are talking about gaming.

Given the monster deep dive we’ve just done on the Disney thing, I’ll TRY and keep this brief.

What am I playing? Well, I haven’t down Lego Fortnite since it dropped if I’m honest – and I’ve probably left Baldur’s Gate 3 alone for so long now that I might need to restart it Bah.

That said, we’ve been making some fun things for Helldivers 2 (including this lovely bit of silliness) and so I’ve got that lined up to play at some point this weekend.

What about you?

What have you been playing?


4.’SHE’S THE FASTEST HUNK OF JUNK IN THE GALAXY…’

Gorgeous.

“After 8 months of collecting and building… My daughters “colorful” Lego UCS Millennium Falcon is done!”

Read more over on Reddit.


5.OVER THREE DECADES, TECH OBLITERATED MEDIA…

Kara Swisher on her front tow seat to a slow moving catastrophe is a great insight into someone who saw the sky falling, screamed the sky is falling, and is now sat watching peers and colleagues wondering where the sky has gone.

It’s someone saying ‘I told you so’ for a few hundred words but it’s still a good read.


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.

ENJOY.


YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. MIND THE GAP.

Thanks for reading this week’s edition of Five things on Friday. I hope you’re enjoying its new home on Buttondown.

All feedback on the new set up is VERY WELCOME.

—ADMIN STUFF—

A big thank you to those of you that generously donated to the running costs ($29 USD per month) of the always free Five things on Friday.

If you want to chuck a couple of quid directly to FToF on Buttondown then you can do that at these links

100% of all your dollar will go on Buttondown fees.

—END OF ADMIN STUFF—

I hope things are treating you well. I’m coming up to two years in my job at Diva and have been reflecting a lot on what it means to be a leader.

Good leaders are defined by the leaders they leave behind them.

Good leaders know the way, go the way, and show the way.

Good leaders are what you make them.

Good leaders are… you tell me.

It’s 12:02 on the first day of the Chinese New Year. I’ve just sent a quick note out on Substack re: closing that down for good (sorry for the double up – I’m sure you don’t mind), and I think I’d quite like a sausage sandwich.

Until next time,

Whatley out x

Five things on Friday #359

Things of note for the week ending Sunday February 4th, 2024.

INTRO

Sup fam. It’s been a while.

All being well, this shiny new first-of-2024 edition of Five things on Friday is winging its way to your inboxes by the lovely people at Buttondown.

After everything that happened with MONETISING THE NAZIS over on Substack, I figured it was about time to close down that account, import EVERY SINGLE PAST EDITION over to my original wordpress website (hi whatleydude.com) and then get a decent PAID FOR and NAZI-FREE email provider set up.

After a fair amount of research (it was a quiet Christmas in the Whatley household) Buttondown turned out to be the best paid solution for my needs. My subs are a little over 4k (4194 to be precise – and you’re all gorgeous) and Buttondown is $29 pcm for anything under 5k – so not abhorrent cost-wise – for an ENTIRELY FREE newsletter.

PLUS, and crucially for someone of my occasional newsletter needs, Buttondown has the option to switch off payments if you’re not using it. Given FToF goes 3-6mths sometimes without an edition going out, this is a VERY GOOD FEATURE.

I’m still figuring out a few things (look and feel, branding, etc) but so far the support has been ACE and the setup has been relatively breezy.

What else can you ask for?

If you’re an occasional newsletter writer like me, and you’re looking for a good, nazi-free service, then I can recommend Buttondown. Use THIS REFERRAL LINK to get $9 off your first month (and I get a kick back too) x

Right then, that’s the housekeeping out of the way. With New Year celebrations a distant memory, and dry (damp?) Jan equally so, I think it’s about damn time we got to the things.

Shall we?

TO THE THINGS!


1. LET’S KICK OFF WITH SOME RAT SELFIES

Say cheese!

‘Oh great James, an animal experiment – that’s what I need from you today!’

Well, yes – and no. Per CBC:

“When Augustin Lignier built a photo booth for rats, he was really trying to point the lens at humanity.

The French artist trained two pet store rodents to take selfies in exchange for sweet treats. But over time, he says, they started doing it purely for the pleasure. 

He says it’s not unlike the way people engage with social media — at first for the likes, but eventually just to trigger a flood of feel-good chemicals in our brains.”

Purely for the pleasure.
Purely for the dopamine hit.
Purely for the… sorry, why are you scrolling again?

Read more, here.


2. CONTENT MUKBANG

Related to the above… If you’re reading this and you don’t know what Mukbang is, I’d probably recommend you NOT googling it (although Gia’s hard-hitting piece on FAME a while back landed it hard for me). It’s not nice. Having been involved with a few plagiarism-shaped things over the past few years (one guy I just had to have it with him over a bizarre exchange via Linkedin message – ‘ARE YOU OK?’, ‘PLEASE STOP’, – etc), the idea of folk (especially Linkedin folk), mukbanging themselves out for content has been kicking around in my head for a while now.

And then this article appears from Vox.

Why why why why why

It. Is. Excellent.

You’ve got to actually spend your time doing this stuff on the off chance that the algorithm picks it up and people care about what you have to say.

You’ve got to spend your time doing this even though it’s corny and cringe and your friends from high school or college will probably laugh as you “try to become an influencer.”

You’ve got to do it even when you feel like you have absolutely nothing to say, because the algorithm demands you post anyway.

You’ve got to do it even if you’re from a culture where doing any self-promotion is looked upon as inherently negative, or if you’re a woman for whom bragging carries an even greater social stigma than it already does.

You’ve got to do it even though the coolest thing you can do is not have to.

You’ve got to offer your content to the hellish, overstuffed, harassment-laden, uber-competitive attention economy because otherwise no one will know who you are.

Pitch perfect.
Clarifying.
Embarrassing.

Truth.

Read ‘Everyone’s a sellout now‘ via Vox.


3. THIS WEEK IN… INCREDIBLY SMART WRITING

In a stunning turn of events, the longstanding ‘This week in…’ has moved away from gaming and is instead usurped, inspired, and happily cast aside for what is easily the best thing in this newsletter this week.

Jenny Chang is BACK y’all

Not the first time I’ve shared @Jayemsey’s work here and I doubt it’ll be the last.

This time, Chang gives us THE BIMBO RENAISSANCE: The Weaponized Performance of Hyperfeminity. Writing about the history of Bimboism, its journey from inception through MeToo and arriving at modern-day Barbie era, Chang is ON. FORM.

The part about the Heroine Journey was revelatory for this hetero-cis-white-male.

Honestly, I can only dream of this level of generosity and brilliance of thought.

Read it.


4. A NIGHT IN THE SOCIAL CLUB IN 2009

Growing up on (never in) Canvey Island, I know the scene of a social club well. Labour Club, Cons Club, Corner Club, Social / Boat Club – if there was a club (read: ‘members’ club where the drinks are cheap and the bands are great).

Thinking back to them now I remember: Christmas lights all year round, gold jewellery, red faces – smiling, friendly people, singing and dancing… if you’re lucky there’d be a band or karaoke. There was always snooker table out back (but the lights were dim and it was filled with smoke – you never went in there).

The point is: the memories even now are seared into my mind. Be that as it may, even if I walked out of one of those clubs five minutes ago, I doubt I could do as good a job at describing what it’s like in a social club than Mark Hadfield does when he talks about a night at Owlton Manor Social Club in 2009.

Read this and be transported to another time. Another place. Another world.

A proper planner – doing the work.


5. THE SIMPLE SABOTAGE FIELD MANUAL


Declassified in 2008, the Simple Sabotage Field Book was published in 1944 and distributed by the Office of Strategic Services (now known as the CIA).

Circulated by Allies during World War II, the pamphlet was meant to act as a guide to sympathetic citizens, giving the more rebellious ones instructions on how to weaken their country by reducing productivity in the workplace.

Bear in mind, these specific tasks were asked of workers in enemy countries to purposefully reduce productivity in the workplace.

The handbook contains such humdingers as:

  • Talk as frequently as possible and at great length
  • Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible
  • Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions
  • Refer back to matters decided upon
  • Be worried about the propriety of any decision

I say again, this is from a SABOTAGE HANDBOOK.

Any of it sound familiar? Unnecessary Process. Endless meetings of talking. Miscommunication. Debating long-discussed and decided decisions. All signs of a perfect quiet saboteur.

Do you have one in your business?

Read the whole thing here

(See Section (11): General Interference with Organisations and Production for the good stuff).

And thanks to Robbie for the initial inspo – you all follow Robbie, right?).


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.

TAB EXPLOSION IMMINENT.


YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. MIND THE GAP.

Because it’s been a few months since the last edition, I’ve been stocking up a bit on the CONTENT.

Coming soon in future editions:

  • Love, life, and loss – a few words on fallen friends.
  • The fallacy of branded experiences in Fortnite – yes, we’re going back.
  • And I’d say it’s a fairly good bet ‘This week in gaming’ will return.

I don’t know how well this new edition will land in your inboxes, if at all, but do please feel free to hit that reply button and let me know.

Until next time,

Whatley out x

Five things on Friday #358

Things of note for the week ending Friday November 17th, 2023.

As I write to you now, it’s Thursday. 18:44.

It has been quite the fortnight.

First, a week or so ago we saw the completion of what I think might be the biggest project Diva has ever delivered (see above), featuring lenticular bus wraps, a 3D Piccadilly deep screen, and a monster full building projection mapped takeover of London County Hall – all in the name of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III.

You can see the full video of everything put together over on Linkedin – and not a single fake out-of-home execution – or ‘FOOH’ – among them.

The London County Hall projection was an incredible showcase centrepiece and with the blessing of London County Hall management, some consulting with military veterans, and an agency delivery record of four weeks from final-brief-to-execution, it went up on the evening of Friday November 3rd, with a showing every 15mins from 5pm. Absolutely nuts.

If you were walking by you definitely would’ve seen it (I could hear it the moment I stepped out of Westminster tube station; see this video I shot from the waterfront – that sound is live).

All credit to the team for delivering the work to such a high standard – with the client (Activision), the great partners (Rapport and Pixel Artworks) and of course, the staff at London County Hall who were brilliant all the way through.

Second, tomorrow (Friday) we deliver the second two parts of a mega three-part pitch for another huge project (due middle of next year). Part one felt good. Cross your fingers for parts two and three, please.

On top of that there’s another huge project moving through the agency (going live VERY SOON) with a lot of moving parts (at least 26) and, in a time when we should be beginning to wind down for Christmas, it feels like we’re revving up. It’s great to have the energy of the team all pulling towards the same goal and it’s really great to see the amazing work slowly come to fruition. But yeah, I’m looking forward to resting this weekend and I’m sure the team are too.

How are you?

Last edition I asked that and got some LOVELY replies. So, y’know, hit that reply button (or comment, or restack or whatever you do to read this) and say hi.

For this week’s edition, because of all the WERK I think we might be a light on content but let’s see how we go.

Shall we head to the things?

Let’s.


1. REFLECTIONS ON BLACK HISTORY MONTH

31 days. 31 reflections. 31 things to love.

And. I. Love. This.

Aisha Singleton writes:

‘I’m not just a black woman during Black History Month, I inhabit this skin all year round, and happily so, but sometimes there can be a disregard around how intersectionalities can affect your professional life.’

They are all gorgeous.

And you can read all of them right here.

So go ahead and do that and then go thank Aisha and let her know how they made you feel.


2. SOME GREAT WORDS ON LEADERSHIP

We’re going to dive right in with another thing I found on Linkedin recently (stay with me, I swear it’s of value).

My dear friend Marshall Manson was asked recently asked to try and capture a few of his key principles for leadership. He did that, of course, but then also shared those principles in the post linked below.

He didn’t number them but I have and there are 18 all told.

I’m not going to repeat them all here however Marshall does open with this belter:

Most important: Do the right thing for the right reasons. If that goes against someone’s rules, be ready to explain or face the consequences. Be as transparent as possible about your decisions and reasoning with anyone who shows interest.

I’ve worked with Marshall. I have seen this in action (if you know him, ask him about when he decided he wanted to hang a bell in the Ogilvy offices at Sea Containers – it’s one of my favourite stories). As principled men go, he’s one of the best.

Go read Marshall Manson’s 18 principles on leadership, they’re so good I think I might turn them into a poster or something.


3. THIS WEEK IN GAMING

My main reading recommendation this week is this week’s edition of the . With a well-researched look at Saudi Arabia’s gaming strategy, George Osborn puts together a compelling deep dive on where the oil money is pouring and why.

Video Games Industry Memo
Saudi Arabia’s Savvy Games Strategy: Video Games Industry Memo, 16/11/2023
We dive deeply into Saudi Arabia’s video games strategy Baldur’s Gate 3 and Alan Wake 2 head The Game Awards nominations Super Mario RPG leads a gradually quietening release slate…
Read more

Good words, George.

This week in Fortnite

Quick news bites / gaming-related interesting stuff

What am I playing?

After finishing Spider-Man 2 I wanted to find a smaller indie game to explore/adore and I have found that in a gorgeous little game called Jusant (pictured, top). It’s only a few hours long and as such, I managed to finish it last night (it’s lovely). So now I’m back bouncing between Assassin’s Creed Mirage, Super Mario Wonder ,and a shiny new edition of Modern Warfare III (thanks for the code, Activision). I think I’ve got enough to get me through to the end of the year (!) but we’ll see how we go.

I definitely want to play Alan Wake: Remastered (and then the new AW2), I’m also hoping I can clear the slate enough by 2024 so I can make a start on Baldur’s Gate 3 in January but again let’s SEE HOW WE GO.

What are you playing?

And finally this week…

Another week in games, another week of devastating lay off news across the category. Once again all I can do is point anyone impacted by these redundancies to the relentless Amir Satvat and his excellent work over on Linkedin (that most recent post featuring links to a wide range of resources and support). Amir has also run the numbers on job vacancies vs people looking – it’s not great but it’s still important knowing.

I hope it’s helpful.


4. GROUNDS FOR DISCUSSION

With Rory Sutherland and James Hoffman.

Anyone who has ever worked at Ogilvy for any decent amount of time will almost certainly have a story about Rory. My own one is when I offered to drive him to the station after a client meeting once (‘Don’t kill the vice chairman’, my AD said to me as he got in the care). Rory spent the entire time asking questions about everything he could see – my phone choice (Android), my smartwatch (Pebble), car integration (non-existent) – and such was the distraction (combined with my relatively recent acquisition of a drivers licence and the many stop/start hills of St Alban’s) that I easily stalled the car a good six or seven times.

Unbelievable.

Anyway, in my mini book of Roryisms, I have a working/running theory. It’s not quite ‘Sutherland’s Law’. It might be a rule. Or simply a theorem. It goes like this: Rory’s public talks are a bit like that whole thing that happened with Eddie Izzard and Watchdog a few years back. Because he is such a consumer of data and information – and he’s processing it all the time – if you see him two weeks running then you might see or hear the same thing. If you see him at the end of one tour and the beginning of a new one, same deal.

Point is, since departing Ogilvy Towers, I try to time my Sutherland consumption to catch as much as new stuff as possible.

It was during one of these moments when I heard Rory talking about how hilarious and dangerous he thought YouTube could be. ‘One minute you’re looking at cat videos, the next you’ve ordered a three thousand pound Japanese coffee machine a man named James Hoffman told me about it’.

It’s a very Rory thing to say.

I like Rory. I like James Hoffman (you know who he is, he’s the YouTube coffee guy). And that comment stuck in my head. So when I saw that someone had managed to get them in both in the same room, to have coffee, and to chat about what drives consumer choices – well, I poured myself a hot black one (Aeropress) – and enjoyed every last word.

I hope you do too.


5. THE GORDIAN KNOT

This week, in light of Meta’s recent introduction of a charge to avoid advertising regular reader, Tim, sent me this article: ‘Meta, subscriptions, and the EU’s Privacy Gordian Knot’ (linked at the bottom of this thing).

Before we get into it, I hadn’t heard of the Gordion Knot until this article was shared with me so, of course, I went away and looked it up.

Alexander Cuts the Gordian Knot painted in the late 18th/early 19th century. (Credit: Art Media/Getty Images)

The Gordion Knot can be traced back to Alexander the Great.

Per History.com

In 333 B.C, the Macedonian conqueror marched his army into the Phrygian capital of Gordium in modern day Turkey. Upon arriving in the city, he encountered an ancient wagon, its yoke tied with what one Roman historian later described as “several knots all so tightly entangled that it was impossible to see how they were fastened.”

Phrygian tradition held that the wagon had once belonged to Gordius, the father of the celebrated King Midas. An oracle had declared that any man who could unravel its elaborate knots was destined to become ruler of all of Asia.

According to the ancient chronicler Arrian, the impetuous Alexander was instantly “seized with an ardent desire” to untie the Gordian knot. After wrestling with it for a time and finding no success, he stepped back from the mass of gnarled ropes and proclaimed, “It makes no difference how they are loosed.” He then drew his sword and sliced the knot in half with a single stroke.

So of course, when applying this particular turn of phrase to the route through which Meta is solving the knotty problem it faces with EU legislation around data sharing it has indeed sliced right through it.

Eric Seufert’s here with an excellent take.


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.

ENJOY.

  • Sorry to to be the one to have to tell you but OREO x Xbox campaign I led the strat for went and won some more awards. This time EIGHT SILVER EFFIES. This is getting embarrassing now, lad. Come on.

  • How to swear at co-workers (a good read, this – I tend not to swear at co-workers. I swear at things. The work, the brief. The lack of time. But never people – at least, I like to think I don’t).

  • In what is potentially the most exciting thing I’ve read this week: ‘Brit Marling hopes to revisit ‘The OA’ – not yet but IT’S A SIGN! – in the meantime, watch her new show – A Murder at the End of the World’ #SavetheOA

  • What’s that? You want MORE Brit Marling and Zal Batmanglij? OK fine.


YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. MIND THE GAP.

It’s late now. I’m going to schedule this for 10am tomorrow morning and head to bed.

Before I do that, however, I want to leave you with two wildly different event recommendations.

First up is NJ Carter’s ‘Safe House Party’ looks great and is totally my vibe. It’ll be in Brentford on December 2nd and tickets are a fiver. All profits go to War Child.

Second is this event from BIMA x Good Shout: ‘Why Maternity is an EVERYONE issue’ on Dec 5th. Amy has asked me to specifically encourage MEN to attend. Tickets are £15ish and you are a man, please go. Thanks.

I am travelling when both of these are on so this is my way of saying ‘sorry I can’t be there’ to two people I think are excellent.

How will you be nice to people you think are excellent this weekend?

Until next time,

Whatley out x

PS. It’s my birthday next week so there might be an edition, there might not. Who knows? But if you see me in Soho, buy me a pint and say happy birthday would you? Thanks x

Five things on Friday #357

Things of note for the week ending Sunday November 5th, 2023.

INTRO

As I write this entry to you now, it’s 23:11 on Thursday November 2nd. I’ve had a decent evening. My friend (and co-founder of Today Do This), Robbie has been over (hi mate). A poorly Mrs meant we had to skip a party and instead head home to eat chips, chat politics, and watch Kevin Eldon lose £83k on the celebrity edition of The Chase.

…/time leap/…

It’s now Saturday. It’s 22:00. We go again.

Last night, Friday, I was in Brixton seeing friends (old Oreo pals – and more). My mum had the kids and we partied late, stayed over, and slept in.

It was a great night – made all the better by a brief stop at Westminster on the way to see easily the biggest thing Diva has done since I joined the agency: a full building takeover of London County Hall for the launch of Call of Duty: Modern War III.

Literally painting the town red.

You can expect a full proper edit (with real actual drones, not fake ones) at some point next week. But in case you can’t wait, this is what it would’ve looked like to the several thousand people who were walking past at the time: I shot this video from the Westminster Thames Clipper pier on the north side of the river.

I can’t believe how great it was. That sound was live! And so loud. Mazin.

What else can I tell you?

Thank you to all the lovely replies last week. I’ve got to most of you. I think i’ve got two more left (will do it after I hit send on this – promise). It’s November. It’s my birthday soon. Better make some plans…

In the meantime however, it’s getting late – and I don’t think this will go out until Sunday. I’ve done a bit of prep on the links, so I know what’s going where. I’m hoping not too dilly dally too much with the opinion and just get you the juicy links. But let’s see how we go?

Shall we go then? To the things?

LET’S.


1. DAVID S. PUMPKINS

“Any questions?”

SNL Presents One Hour of David S. Pumpkins - YouTube

It’s been halloween this week and while it is customary to write about these things in the lead up to the event, I’ve spent perhaps more time than I should’ve laughing about and reflecting on DAVID S PUMPKINS again.

(I say ‘again’ because I’m adamant I’ve written about him before but you can bugger right off if you think I’m checking).

OK, so. David S. Pumpkins who?

Some of you will know who he is. Some of you won’t. Some of you will get this. Some of you won’t. The thing is, I am massively here for those of you the latter party.

BECAUSE THATS WHY IT’S FUNNY.

If you have no idea what I’m talking about then of course you MUST watch the original SNL skit, right here (on Five things on Friday). Any questions?

And then, read the oral history (including the do-over).

A genuine highlight of my week.


2. ADS DONT GET TIRED, MARKETERS DO

“Data shows there’s no such thing as advertising ‘wear-out’, so save your new campaign budget and spend it on making your current ads effective for longer.”

Now I know, as someone who has spent most of his professional working life working on the creative side of the advertising business, admitting or sharing this information is a death knell on the retained agency’s need to launch a new and different brand campaign every year.

But the data is inarguable and if it means finding new and creative ways to share the same message, or more creative ways to drive effectiveness through additional channel rollouts, cut-downs, partnerships – etc (the point is, lads, your first idea shouldn’t just be a script, yeah?)

Ritson continues – in a pitch perfect description of how a good marketer works:

“Gaze back at the last decade and the effectiveness concepts line up beautifully. Any newly minted CMO who knows their advertising onions is going to follow the script.

They will appreciate the pre-existing size of their brand has a massive impact on current strategy and future impact.

They will use excess share of voice (ESOV) to assess the right overall level of advertising investment.

They will split it into long and short baskets based on the nature of their category, brand and market.

They will brief the correctly selected agencies on a handful of objectives, with clarity on target audiences and position.

The power of the creative idea will be paramount.

The work will need to be distinctive and studiously apply distinctive brand codes throughout. It will employ emotion, especially for the branding part.

The work will spread across multiple media channels in an integrated fashion. It will prioritise reach over extended frequency.

It will take into account the varied attention metrics of the different channels.

And the marketer will use a blend of econometrics, market testing and brand tracking to optimise the campaign’s effect, assess its ultimate impact and produce learnings ahead of its next iteration.

Whether all of this stuff then gets to be applied is an entirely different, more practical question.”

Aside from the broader point of the piece, which we’ll come to momentarily, that last part is bang on. I have worked with some incredible marketing directors- and you know when you get to the good ones because they’re the ones that have not only done the work but also are equipped with the toolset and ability to ask the right questions. All of which can only be at their disposal IF (big if) IF they’ve done the work outlined above. If.

So yeah, about Ritson’s point. Over 50,000 ads reviewed… and:

“There is no evident impact of how long the ad has been running on that ads’ performance…”

The full data (from multiple, well respected and well-researched agencies), seems to suggest if you’re rolling out a new brand campaign every year, then maybe that’s something you should reconsider.

Or, maybe better yet, perhaps delve back into the archives and see if there’s an old ad that demands a modern twist.

Go read Mark Ritson with your MUST READ Marketing read of the week, you’ll see what I mean.


3. THIS WEEK IN GAMING

We’ve had a fairly big gamery opening so I’ll try and keep this week’s section brief.

In last week’s edition of Five things on Friday, I mentioned how daft it was to make assumptions about EA’s apparent failure with the launch of FC24. Using incomplete data is a sure-fire way to end up with nothing more than ill-informed opinion.

Go the extra click, I said.
Double check the data, I said.
Given that the brand marketers at EA aren’t idiots, I thought FC24 would be OK. But let’s wait and see what happens at the earnings call, I said.

Well, the earnings call came and went and guess what? It turns out Electronic Arts and FC24 did alright after all.

Read more. And then agree with me on Linkedin, thanks x

‘…bUt rEtAiL SaLeS wErE dOwN 3o%?

Please.
Just go the extra click.
It isn’t hard.

Related: if you’ve ever gone near any version of FIFA, this podcast episode from The Athletic is a great listen.

Quick News Bites

And finally in the news:

Arkham Knight, the 2015 smash hit third and final (?) game in the superb Arkham Trilogy, hit the news this week as a skin from THE BATMAN (R-Patz version) was seemingly added then removed in the space of a few days.

Per the IGN article linked, it makes sense for this to be an early / accidental release to be timed with the slightly delayed arrival of the Arkham Trilogy on Nintendo Switch (originally slated for last month, now due in December). Either way, when (not if) it drops, I look forward to trying it out.

Regular readers will know Batman has a special place in my heart and he has followed me around in my career over the years.

I’ve worked on brand partnership campaigns for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (at 1000heads for Nokia), ARKHAM KNIGHT (at Ogilvy for Pizza Hut), and THE BATMAN (at Publicis EU for Oreo). But this is the first time two of those things have been smashed together in this way. It’s kinda nice.

Incidentally, if you’ve ever got a Batman brief in, I’m your man x

What is James playing?

Well, you’ll be wholly unsurprised to learn that I’ve completely finished Spider-Man 2. Platinum, the lot. This game has been incredible and I think a clear runner for my GotY. Insomniac Games’ dedication to emotional depth and growth, on top of a model that it knows works, is key to its success. So much depth.

I think my favourite missions were side quests (exploring the history of black music; flying with ‘sea birds’ – my heart). Arguably the first game that makes the PS5 a must-purchase machine.

FWIW, the whole thing clocked in at around 35hrs. YMMV. And I wouldn’t let young young children play this. There’s a couple of scenes in there – specifically with Kraven – that I would not want my 9 year old to see. FYI.

Once Spdey was out of the way, I also managed to knock over Cocoon. I’ve talked about this already but it’s on Game Pass and an amazing little puzzler (especially tricky towards the end) but I loved it.

So to answer the question, I’m playing

  • Assassin’s Creed Mirage. I want to finish this before moving to the recently purchase Alan Wake remaster (which I want to play before moving onto AW2)

  • The Finals Open Beta – what fun!

  • Aaaand I’m also one of the SIX MILLION people that have returned to Fortnite for the OG update. Insane.

What are you playing? 🙂


4. GOOD BONES

Austin Kleon — Maggie Smith, “Good Bones” The poem, originally...

Via Kayt Sukel on Threads.


5. SOME GOOD ADS

And not one of them is Christmas-related. I promise. Not yet at least. We’re a good month away until I do any of that stuff.

We’ve not even had bonfire night yet for crying out loud.

So yeah, here are some ads that you have probably heard of or seen already but I felt like shining some light on because good work needs to be celebrated more.

I really like this triplicate of New EE ones that sit behind the New EE work from Saatchi & Saatchi and Digitas UK.

  1. EE Home. Switch off, drift off.

  2. EE Game. Turbocharge your gaming.

  3. EE Learn. Tools for all kids.

Huge credit to the client for signing off three large production TVCs to communicate three different messages in one distinctive creative expression. Outstanding music choices (across all three), and the editing and directing is superb. Honestly, I can’t love them enough – for all the reasons given and more.

Telecoms (in the UK at least) generally is hard. A saturated market with 98% coverage from all networks and hardware exclusives few and far between (what number iPhone are we up to now)?) – the general consensus of any commoditised marketplace, from a planning perspective at least, is that you either compete on price (big no no) OR you differentiate on brand.

This is why people pay £7 for Nurofen vs 99p for own brand of the same product.

And so it follows in Telecoms, right?

Wrong. EE has basically said ‘Yeah, no – we’re not doing that. We’re going to embrace all four of our four Ps of marketing and innovate on product, on customer experience, and on brand.

And all the better for it.

Can’t wait to see the effectiveness paper, gang 😘

PS. I used to work with some of this lot, I briefly touched some EE stuff YONKS ago. But none of this is my work, I just know the bunch behind them are mega talented x

I really like this new Uber One ad… ‘Best friends

CAN YOU IMAGINE being in the room when you’re pitching Asa Butterfield and Robert De Niro in a 3min ad with the line being ‘for people who eat food and go places’ – ?!

The audacity. I love it.

Congrats to all involved.

And finally, I really like this new Doritos Gaming AI tech one.

A gamer holds up a Doritos chip in an ad promoting the brand's crunch-cancellation software

See the ad.

Arguably this could be in the gaming section above but I’m putting it here because it’s actually mega refreshing to find a brand/game activation that not only works in a way to address a real player problem (I used to get so much grief from my mates for joining a Raid night with a packet of Thai Sweet Chili Sensations on the go) BUT ALSO uses technology in a meaningful and helpful way (vs say a ‘hand wavey BS’ way – you know who you are).

I’d be interested to know/see what the take up is and, of course, whether it works for all crisps or if it’s specifically Doritos.

If you’re a PC gamer, you can download this software here).
And you can read more about the whole campaign here.

WELL DONE.

Ten points to everyone.


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.

ENJOY.


YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. MIND THE GAP.

Right. We made it. It’s 11:45am on Sunday November 5th.

I wanted to write quickly about some of the responses I’ve had to this section last week talking mental health.

Jay, for you – for your brother – I watched the Norwich City FC film ‘You are not alone’ – what an incredible piece of work. Thank you. I’m sharing it here, as promised.

Check in on those around you.

https://youtu.be/tX8TgVR33KM

Holly, brilliant and bright-star-shining Holly, I’m sharing this excellent resource on how to find the right therapist or counsellor for you.

If you sometimes feel like your mental health suffers BUT you’re having an OK time of it at the moment, then this is the perfect time to find someone to talk to. Please don’t wait for it to hit crisis.

You men especially. There’s a danger zone and once you’re in it, the speed at which you’ll become a scarf on the back of a stadium seat is frightening.

You are not alone. And it’s OK to not be OK.

There are other ways out – and they don’t have to be final.

I promise.

Until next time,

Whatley out x

Five things on Friday #356

Things of note for the week ending Friday October 27th, 2023

INTRO

It’s been a rough old week. After the Games Aid Gala a week or so ago I came down with a nasty flu (not the ‘rona) and I’m pretty sure that brought about a mild case of sinusitis with it. Not. Fun. Blergh. So I write this to you – well, at least – I start writing this to you at 19:08 on the evening of Friday October 27th.

I’ve no idea if this will go out on time (if at all) so let’s see how we go, shall we?

First thing first, how have you been? If you get this as an email, hit the reply button and tell me. I do like hearing from you and seeing/hearing what you’re up to. Don’t be a stranger etc 🙂

Second thing, our amazing launch work for Diablo IV got shortlisted for two Drum Awards earlier today (one for innovation (we built it in UE5 y’know) and another for just being spectacular, apparently). Which was a lovely to end the week.

So swings and roundabouts and all that.

Given the intermittent headache, I might just see if we can crack through this quickly this week – shall we try?

Let’s.

TO THE THINGS!


1. ‘FOR ME, IT REPRESENTS THE DEATH OF THE FUTURE’

Johny Pitts on Lost in Translation at 20.

This did the rounds earlier this week and I’ve returned to it a couple of times since. I’m not sure why. A poignant reflection of a before time. Out of time. A movie that hasn’t dated well but along side that, and many other relevant points are explored thoroughly by this perfect piece from Johny Pitts.

A worthwhile read.


2. HERE IS A SECTION THAT CONTAINS SOME PLATFORM UPDATES. SORRY.

That may or may not include updates on Threads, the platform formally known as Twitter, and others. I know you probably get this news elsewhere but I would like to think my curation might be worth something…

May be an image of 1 person and text that says 'mosseri Today at Meta's earnings, @zuck mentioned that there are just under 100M monthly actives for Threads A heartfelt thank you for being a part of this growing community. We're working on more updates to improve your experience, looking forward to building together.'

1. Threads nears 100m MAUs.

I mean, that’s some serious scale. It wasn’t that long ago that everyone was wanging on about how Meta had sodded this up and how it was literally haemorrhaging users every single day. I guess they were all wrong and will be publishing retractions immediately? Cool, cool.

(fair play to Gruber, mind)

Bonus: EU support is coming. Polls and Gifs are now native to the platform. And more and more people arrive every day. See you there?

2. It’s been a year since that bellend bought Twitter.

It’s going as well as you can imagine.

On both of the above combined, is excellent (as always).

Platformer
Twitter is dead and Threads is thriving
Programming note: Platformer will be off Monday to attend an event at the White House, at which we anticipate President Biden will announce an executive order about artificial intelligence. We’ll be back on Tuesday and may have something else cool for you on Friday…
Read more

3. Reality Labs continues to lose money.

Another $3.7bn for the most recent quarter to be precise (I love earnings call season), Zuck said/warned it would continue to do so – ages ago. But still. It’s gotta sting a bit, moreso when Threads just flies. The very definition of a long bet.


3. THIS WEEK IN GAMING

Forces for change.

British Vogue with this fantastic look at some of the brilliant women (along with some on point stats) carving out the future of what is basically the biggest form of entertainment in the world.

The fact is, there are an estimated 3.2 billion gamers in the world – this writer included – and by the end of last year the industry was worth a staggering £160 billion. You might not consider yourself a gamer, but there’s no getting away from gaming’s influence on our lives and culture. From prestige TV (see multi-Emmy nominated series The Last Of Us, based on the apocalyptic action-adventure game of the same name) to cinema (after Barbie, The Super Mario Bros Movie was this year’s second highest-grossing film) to the apps on your phone (Candy Crush Saga has, to date, been downloaded more than three billion times), it is, as video game executive Siobhan Reddy says, “the medium of our time”.

This is my must read of the week.

So… READ IT.

WHAT ELSE CAN I TELL YOU?

Long-time readers will know that I’ve been following the EAFC/Nu-FIFA launch closely – ever since it was announced in May of last year, in fact.

This week there was some commentary and reflection on the FC/FIFA switch sales being the cause of a ‘YoY sales decrease of 30%’ and, given that this year is the year that EA walked away from the cost-prohibitive FIFA licence and instead launched FC, some Linkedin punters were quick to highlight how ‘30%’ was in fact ‘the cost of brand’.

This is demonstrably untrue.

The problem with a certain section of marketers these days is the ease at which they want the answer to be simple. A one sentence definition to a problem that so swiftly and deftly explains everything away that it a) makes them look smart for spotting it and b) paints a picture of an easy fix.

When it comes to the EAFC ‘-30%’ number, first and foremost this is based solely on retail sales. Digital sales numbers are not often shared by the platform holders and so that data is hard, night impossible to know or pin down.

Making sweeping generalisations on incomplete data is a fool’s errand. Don’t worry, we’ll get to all the potential data points that might impact the -30% number in a moment however – if there’s one piece of advice that I always give to people it’s this: go the extra click.

Find out the data behind the headline and dig into the numbers, the trends, the macro, the micro, and then MAYBE make a strategic leap.

To come back to FC24’s sales, as much as I would LOVE to scream that this is ALL brand brand brand – of course I would! I’m a planner! – you can’t. Because being a good planner means poking holes in data. It means seeing and asking what else is missing; asking better questions and getting to better answers.

For example, what else could impact EAFC’s lower-than-last-year’s RETAIL sales (so discs, boxed, from a shop).

Well,

  1. Physical (vs Digital) sales continues to decline YoY (last count, 9/10 game sales were digital – vs 7/10 in 2022).

  2. 2023 is one of the most crowded AAA release windows in history.

  3. Not only that, but AAA ‘next gen’ games being £70 in an economic downturn (meaning if people are going to buy a game this year, will they buy last year’s rebadged FIFA or will they buy COD or Spidey or Mario or Baldur’s Gate or or or).

  4. Even at 30% down EAFC is still the second biggest boxed sale of the year (second only to Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom).

  5. FIFA 23 is widely regarded as a series high point – and core players have grumbled there’s not enough difference between FIFA23 and FC24 (apart from on Nintendo where the game has been the same since 2019 – and FC24 has actually seen an uptick on last year’s – because the game is actually different – at last).

The point is: FC24 would be ice-skating uphill no matter what name was on the box.

And on top off all the above, it has invested well and wisely on the first step of the LONG while others scream and shout about the SHORT.

EA brand marketer’s aren’t idiots and when you scratch the surface all this, I’m pretty EAFC is going to be OK.

Image

Let’s have a look at EA’s next earnings (due next week) and see what happens – and then let’s regroup again at FC25 to see how well the brand has really settled in.

All this and it’s still saving $150m a year for that FIFA licence in the process…

QUICK NEWS BITES

WHAT AM I PLAYING?

Honestly, if I’m not playing Spider-Man 2 then I’m probably a) talking about Spider-Man 2, b) posting Spider-Man 2 content on Threads OR c) sneaking a quick level on Mario Wonder (see, Mario is getting a look in – honest).

But just LOOK at this RIDICULOUS game.

For the uber-nerds among you, I’m playing on Fidelity mode but on a 120hz TV and thanks to the geniuses at Insomniac, that means its churning out 40fps (feel free to go deep on that via Digital Foundry).

Additionally, Super Mario Wonder is a JOY. If you’ve picked it up, then you may or may not already know about THE COG, aka the CHECKMARK. Don’t know what I mean? Well, this video should educate you (and ruin your life a bit – sorry).

Alan Wake II also came out today. Pals are [already] playing through that and are reporting good things. I will get to it… at some point.

I’ve also been playing [REDACTED] ahead of it being announed next year. And I’m quite enjoying it!

What are you playing?


4. THAI FOOD NEAR ME

You think this might be a joke. But it isn’t.

Thai Food Near Me restaurant seen from the street. A person is walking by, and there are Halloween decorations hanging above the sign.

Thai Food Near Me is a small but powerful symbol of Google’s far-reaching impact on businesses over the past two decades and the lengths their owners will go to try to optimize their operations for the company’s platforms. The name is both notable and obvious — if you’ve spent any amount of time searching for things online, you will understand the reference immediately. The turn is that 25 years after Google Search first arrived, the name says the quiet part out loud.

Wonderful.


5. DUNE X LEGO WHAT SORRY WOW

I WANTZ ITTTTT.

…but I don’t know where I’d put it [sob]


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.

ENJOY.


YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. WHAT’S THE BEST THING YOU HAVE SHARED RECENTLY?

A couple of weeks ago I was chatting to a friend about seeking some help through therapy.

As an aside, I don’t know if you’ve ever done this before but I have and (if you have the healthcare in place) the process is: get a referral (or pretend you have one – they never check), then see a consultant psychologist for an assessment, then you go and get your therapy – usually from a therapist your psychologist recommends. At least, that’s how it has worked for me the two times I have been in therapy.

We looked up the guy who was my original consultant – as I wanted to recommend him – and it turned out he had taken his own life.

To say that it was a shock would be an understatement. I don’t really know why I’m sharing this. It was incredibly saddening.

I don’t know how else to say this but I’ll say it again – and I’ll keep saying it – if you are feeling like there’s no way out, like you’re in urgent despair, then please please please please please speak to someone. Speak to these people. Speak to me.

You’re not alone. You never are.

I promise.

You’re a beautiful person.

It’s 23:36 on Friday and I’m hitting send.

Until next time,

Whatley out x

Five things on Friday #355

Things of note for the week ending Saturday October 21st, 2023

INTRO

Well it’s been maybe five days since the last one, let’s go again shall we?

I promise they’re not usually these common. Honest. One might begin to think this was a regular newsletter!

Happy Friday weekend, fam.

I am starting this week’s edition in the early hours of Thursday morning (My youngest has been up coughing all night and after carrying them back to their own bed twice, I gave up around 530ish and came to the desk to start writing) in the hope that I’ll get it done and out and scheduled for Friday but let’s see how we go.

[EDIT: lol, that did not work at all did it?]

How’s your week?

It’s been hectic here. The agency is in peak pre-Christmas craziness. Back to backs, client checks for this [redacted] thing, drumming up excitement for that other [redacted] thing, lining up stuff for other [more redacted] things – updates to come soon, promise – and a linkedin message box going nuts (thanks?!) and yet looking out the window here… the rain hasn’t stopped.

It is definitely October.

The snails are out in force and the plants are getting their annual soak.

But hey, the grass is always greener when you water it, right?

Tonight (Thursday night) I’m getting suited and booted and all dolled up for the annual GamesAid Gala. Now in its sophomore year, last year’s inaugural event raised nearly £30,000(!) for GamesAid charities and I cant’ wait to see what the UK games industry can do this time around… (EDIT: hello!)

Speaking of FUNDRAISING. I forgot to update you last week! Two Five things on Fridays ago (FToF #353) I was out with cap in hand to support Team Diva and help us raise money for War Child UK as we prepared to run TOUGH MUDDER.

Well, last week I forgot to mention that – we did it!

And thanks to you generous lot, we raised over £5000 for War Child (£5127 to be exact). Thank you, thank you thank you – to all of you that donated and supported and shared. It was hugely appreciated.

Thank you.

And in a show of my appreciation I will gift thee FIVE THINGS ON FRIDAY.

Shall we get to them?

LET’S.


1. SERPENT D’OCÉAN

Let’s kick off this week with the bones of a giant snake because why not.

The Sea-Serpent

Just off the shore of the Loire estuary outside of Nantes, France, a slithering serpent rises from the water. Completed in 2012, Serpent d’océan is an impressive 425-foot (130 meters) sculpture by French Chinese contemporary artist Huang Yong Ping and is part of the Estuaire permanent public art collection along the estuary’s 37 miles.

A classic dip into My Modern Met this week yielded this absolute belter. I’ve not been to see this but imagine a) you didn’t know it was there and b) just happening upon it one night on a walk along the beach. Terrifying. But also: kind of gorgeous?

Read/see more.


2. DECONSTRUCTING LICHTENSTEIN

So here’s something I learnt this week:

Masterpiece, 1962 by Roy Lichtenstein

Lichtenstein was a thief.

In a back and forth between some Neil Gaiman comic books fans on Threads earlier this week, I found out that a) Lichtenstein a pilferer of art from multiple comic books and the artists that did the original work and b) Neil Gaiman actually had the Museum of Modern Art update its description of ‘Drowning Girl’ to include the original artist.

I went deep on this one.

I’m never going to look at a Lichtenstein the same way ever again.


3. THIS WEEK IN GAMING

Friday October 20th is basically Barbenheimer for gamers.

If you’ve been under a rock for the past few weeks then you’d be forgiven for not knowing that the BOTH INCREDIBLY WELL REVIEWED MEGA HIT GAMES ‘Super Mario Wonder’ and ‘Marvel’s Spider-Man 2’ were coming out today.

If you’ve got a Nintendo Switch, you should get Mario.
If you’ve got a PlayStation 5, you should get get Spidey 2.
(And if you’ve got an Xbox, you’ve already got Forza Motorsport and Starfield).

Basically, y’all spoilt. Which one are you going for? I’m already playing Mario and there’s no way my kids will let get through the weekend without picking up Spider-Man… dammit (as a useful aside, ShopTo or Instant Gaming are where I buy my console store credit from, you can regularly get 15% off the usual price from these websites).

What else can I tell you?

QUICK NEWS BITES

  • The second edition of the Women in Games ‘Building a Fair Playing Field’ report is available now. This is a chunky report – with clear guidance, examples, and recommendations on how to not only improve the games industry for women but also attract more women into games. Leadership Leadership Leadership. Even if you’re not interested in gaming or games, I would recommend this to you anyway as a great example of what good looks like.

  • Related – and to address some of the areas highlighted in the report above – Mastercard has launch the Mastercard Gamer Academy – with a specific focus on inclusion and inclusive gaming. I really like this. I’ve been noodling* for a while now on what OTHER WAYS brands can get involved more meaningfully in gaming and this effort from Mastercard is a great example of doing something DIFFERENT and with MEANING (not everything has to be a Fortnite island, you guys). Well done to all involved. *More on the noodling another time…

  • Sony Pictures Core (previously known as Bravia Core) is now available on PlayStation 5. And it must be said: the quality on this thing is INCREDIBLE. The Verge reports on just how much of a big deal this is – basically due to the high bitrate stream, it’s significantly better than anything Netflix or Amazon can deliver in terms of performance. PlayStation users get some perks on this as well. First off, Plus Premium subscribers get access to a bunch of older films (I tried this out and booted up the original Hellboy movie – again, incredible quality). Second, Gran Turismo is available on Core first and if you buy the $20 edition you get in-game credits to spend too. Not bad. More of this cross-entertainment synchronisation please Sony, thanks.

  • The Analogue 3D was announced. Basically a new console from Analogue that promises to play EVERY N64 GAME IN FULL 4K. No images yet, just a tease on the website but I can see this coming in at around $149-$199 and is definitely one for the ol’ nostalgia nerds. Speaking as someone who still has his fully working N64 in the cupboard, I don’t know if the 4K attraction is enough but I’ll keep an eye on it and update you as and when.

  • ‘What’s the matter babe? You’ve not touched your… £875 Elden Ring Bomber jacket’ – wtf.

  • I really like this new ad from Xbox – ‘Wake up and Dream

  • Finally, The industry layoffs show no sign of slowing. I properly hope this is an inflection point for the industry. New studios, smaller more agile teams, better financial management… something has got to give so this doesn’t happen again. It’s brutal.

WHAT AM I PLAYING?

Don’t get me wrong, while Spider-Man 2 will be downloading at some point this weekend and Super Mario Wonder literally dropped through the letterbox yesterday (I played it on the train into London last night and if you don’t laugh like a child at the singing piranha plants in level two then you are dead inside), I must confess between this edition and last, I completely crumbled and picked up ASSASSIN’S CREED MIRAGE and sheeeeeeeeee’s a beauty.

It’s going to be hard to put this down for Spider-Mario Weekend but hey this year is NUTS for killer games. How do you choooooose?!


4. FIND YOUR DAYLIST PLAYLIST

Got Spotify?

Open the app, go to search and type ‘Daylist’ – et voila, one instant personalised playlist based upon what you normally listen to on that day.

I love this.

Thanks to Paul W for the tip x


5. THE META GLASSHOLES ARE COMING

This is a long edition already so I won’t go mega long on this however what with Meta Quest 3’s pass-through being seriously fantastic, some people (in guess where: America!) have started wearing them… out.

Completely normal behaviour.

I’m still umming and ahhing about an MQ3 but IF I do end up pulling the trigger on one, I will NEVER wear it outside, let alone to the ACTUAL COFFEE SHOP YOU MENTALISTS.

The Verge has [even] more.


BONUS SECTION

THIS IS THE BONUS SECTION. THAT PART LIKE MOST OTHER NEWSLETTERS WHERE PEOPLE JUST LINK TO THINGS THEY’VE LIKED THIS WEEK BUT INSTEAD OF IT BEING RUBBISH, MY VERSION OF IT IS ACTUALLY QUITE GREAT.

ENJOY.


YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. HOLD TIGHT.

A couple of nice OREO things this week. The Xbox Cheat Cookies campaign picked up an astonishing 19 awards at the LIA London International Awards last week.

This is insane?

Image preview

And the OREO Twists UK campaign (one of the very last things I touched on the UK team) has been shortlisted in the 2023 DMAs. Best of luck gang!

And that’s this week’s edition away. As I write this to you now it’s 4am on Saturday morning (and I’m scheduling this for 9am – I’m not a monster).

I’ve been up since about 2am with a rotten headache and snotty nose (I think getting caught outside in the rain after the GamesAid Gala has given me a horrible cold) and I thought before I give up and just play some video games, I’ll see if I can get FToF finished and scheduled – and here we are.

I hope you’ve got a decent weekend lined up and if you haven’t, then maybe do what I’m going to do and put your duvet on the sofa and play a shed ton of Assassin’s Creed Mirage / Super Mario Wonder / Spider-Man (delete where appropriate).

Until next time,

Whatley out x


PS. Do me a favour this week would you? Share this newsletter with someone you think might enjoy it. Or if you’ve enjoyed something specifically from this week’s edition, please share either on social, or in an email to your team. All shares and recommendations are really appreciated – and it helps this Substack grow. Thank you x