On Figuring Stuff Out

AKA ‘What does it mean 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).

The exploration of these themes has meant 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 just 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 again earlier this week when I came across this Linkedin post from Sweathead, titled: ‘How to know if you’re a strategist’ (the Seven Ps of Strategy).

A post that I kind of agree with?

The Ps mentioned are: Problems, People, Prying, Patterns, Possibility, Persistence, and Pitching.

It’s a pretty good list. If I could though, I’d probably add (or switch) two Ps in and maybe switch one P out.

Switch 1: 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.

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.

Switch 3: 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.

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.

All of the above was originally published as part of my Five things on Friday newsletter and, in doing so, I think I accidentally managed to complete the three-writing briefs I set myself in my various social media profiles:

On writing.
On gaming.
And now,On figuring stuff out.

Ahh that makes me happy.

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.

‘Metaverse? What Metaverse?’

A video replay of my presentation at the recent BIMA Beyond: The Conference.

On June 29th, 2022 I was invited to speak at the BIMA Beyond Conference at Ministry of Sound, London. The talk itself, titled ‘Metaverse? What Metaverse?’ sparked a fair bit of interest (with one slide in-particular catching a fair amount of attention on LinkedIn – lol) and so, with BIMA’s permission, I’ve re-recorded the talk to camera for those that were unable to make it on the day.

If it’s at all helpful, I’ve also made the slides available on Google Slides (with additional speaker notes) so if you don’t want to watch the video, you can read along at home instead 🙂

The central premise is simple: the metaverse doesn’t exist.

The online virtual spaces that people are calling The Metaverse today are either dead and empty 3D spaces OR they’re simply video games, where hundreds of millions of players are already gaming day in, day out.

Why lean into a meaningless word when you can just do something cool in gaming instead?

Thoughts on ‘Digital’ job titles

Aka: ‘Creating noise where there was no signal in the first place’

Back in January, associate professor of marketing, brand expert, and Marketing Week columnist, Mark Ritson, published a piece on the ‘death of digital’ job titles.

It went a little something like this:

Screen Shot 2016-02-15 at 21.26.31

If you’re familiar with Ritson’s column, you can pretty much imagine the rest. I’m not one to bite when bait is so blatantly waggled in one’s direction but this is something that I’ve been niggling on for a while and, the other day, said niggle floated to the surface…

Via what some of you might refer to as ‘a mini Tweetstorm’:

Oh wait, a bit of background first. In case you missed it, Ritson’s piece came in response to another huge piece of industry news (January’s a slow news month) and that was [ad agency] Adam & Eve DDB’s move to ‘axe’ said D word from all job titles.

Ritson said:

The news that adam&eveDDB has dropped the digital designation from all its job titles came as no surprise last week. Despite the prevalence of the D word and the omnipresence of digital planners, digital strategists and digital marketers under every lamp post, nobody in the know ever doubted that the prefix would eventually become an anachronism.

And, unsurprisingly, the article (and the ‘news’ it referenced) became the talk of the town (which, when you think about it, is a&eDDB’s raison d’être).

And now everybody’s talking about it.

What I actually meant was #PredictionsBreakfast (hey, I was grumpy – I got it wrong). You know the event I’m talking about, right? It’s the one where I said this:

Someone in the audience (I think – it might’ve been Andy Oakes challenging us) asked the question ‘Are digital job titles dead?’ – I think my response was something along the lines of a big sigh, laughter, and then ‘no’.

Which is kinda how I got to the next bit –  

And I’d say that’s a fair enough comment. The term ‘digital’ means so many different things to so many different brands, agencies, publishers, partners, vendors – the list goes on – to simply ‘do away with it’ because it seems on trend is quite possibly the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.

That said, I mean what I say: it could become redundant one day, maybe a generation from now – when the entire marketing job suite fully understands and gets what it means (and to whom). But that’s not going to happen this year and I very much doubt it’ll happen in the next.


Which means that for the brands, campaigns, and projects that we work on, digital is a core component to nearly all of them. Do our partners need a experts? Undoubtedly. Do they feel more comfortable knowing they have a specialist on the case? Definitely. Would they give two hoots if we dropped it completely? Probably not.

But in the same way that products are designed to meet a consumer need, so are jobs created to meet client demand.

A small correction on this point. If you only read the headlines, you’d be forgiven* for thinking that a&eDDB had killed ‘digital’ only to replace it with the word ‘interactive’. The truth, as always, is slightly different. What a&eDDB have actually done is recategorised media into three areas: film, display, and interactive (more on that later).

So yes, replacing digital with interactive is a mistake – but let’s be clear: that is not what has happened here.

What has happened is that someone’s kick-started an intelligent debate about how we move the industry forward – and that a great thing (and should be commended).

Mark Ritson loves a rant (and I love him – sincerely, if you ever get a chance to see him lecture, GO), but on this there is a simple response: the industry just isn’t there yet.

…which means we’ll continue to have digital strategists, creatives, directors, etc… whatever’s required to get the job done.

Because ultimately, isn’t that the most important thing?

Thanks for reading.




– aka, related Tweets that I could find commentary for but are still worth your time.


And my personal favourite…


*By ‘forgiven’, I mean ‘not forgiven at all’ – you should work harder at knowing more.

Five things on Friday #140

Things of note for Friday September 4th, 2015.

Bumper #IFA15 edition!

Things of note for Friday September 4th, 2015.


Bumper IFA edition! Live (ish) from Berlin!

1. IFA 2015
This item gets quite geeky quite quickly. If it’s not your thing, feel free to skip to the next item, I won’t be offended.


The Internationale Funkausstellung Berlin is an annual tech conference that tends to carry a good couple of announcements and is potentially on its way towards perhaps over-shadowing Mobile World Congress as the big mobile-tech conference of the yearly calendar. Maybe.

And as this edition of FToF goes to press, and with a huge thanks to Lenovo UK, I will be on a flight back in a car on my way home from aforementioned gathering after having spent a healthy couple of days in the presence of predominantly brand new and super-exciting technology.

Hurrah and hurrah again.

The majority of the news from this trip will be covered in episode 139 of mobile tech podcast, The Voicemail (recording this Sunday – subscribe via iTunes), however there’s no reason why I can’t give you lovely lot a very quick run down of what was cool / awesome about my three day jaunt to IFA Berlin.

Shall we?

Cool / awesome IFA thing ONE:
From Lenovo, the new Yoga Tab 3 Pro and the new Moto 360 smartwatch were the highlights for me.


The former because, in the main, it feels like the Yoga Tab Pro models have finally come of age. This new one sporting a less-cumbersome 70″ projector (yeah, I know), a sleek new colour, and a fancy leather back. Launching imminently for around $499 US. I’ve got a silver Yoga Tab Pro 2 at home and it gets used regularly. While the much neglected tablet-version of Android can be frustrating at times, the hardware is par excellence. Good to see that aspect following through in this new version.

For the latter, the 2nd gen Moto 360, the thinking is fairly similar as in, never being really one to jump onto 1st gen products, the next gen of this smartwatch is much nicer.

With a thinner/smaller edition ‘for women’ as well a new selection of rose gold straps also aimed at said market; a wider selection and a maturity in its approach to its audiences has resulted in what can only be a step forward for this still quite nascent tech category.

Other awesome things from my hosts at IFA also included a Moto 360 concept smartwatch with a 3D Google street view hologram built into the watch strap (unbelievable) and this Lenovo smartphone with a built-in pico projector.

Very swish.

Very fancy.

Side note: If you’re reading this in the newsletter, do the embedded tweets work or are you seeing crap bits of code/images? Answers to the usual address (hint: just hit reply), thank you.

Cool / awesome IFA thing TWO:
From Sony, the new Xperia Z5 Premium is VERY fancy high-end device (with a high-end price to match). I’m rocking a Sony Xperia Z3 at the moment and, aside from a current hardware fault where an awful amount of dust has got underneath the lens (A common problem – GRR! – but Vodafone are replacing it under warranty, which is nice) it is a fantastic phone – see this example of the best photo I’ve ever snapped with a phone ever – from SXSW earlier this year. I digress.

The Z5 comes in three models, the Z5 Premium, the Z5, and the Z5 Compact. In reverse order, the Z5 compact will probably be quite popular as the Z-range compact models have often been in the past as Sony refuse to tow the line of creating ‘Mini’ models (reducing features and spec with size) and instead keeping the high-end elements and merely reducing the phone’s body. Very impressive.

The Z5 is very nice and – for Sony fans at least -will probably be many folk’s next phone when it launches this November. It’s smart, pretty, and feels fantastic in the hand. I liked this a lot.

Then we get to the Z5 Premium. Slightly larger and the absolute top top top spec, it comes with a 4K screen (which many are calling out as utterly superfluous; who needs that many pixels on a 5.5 screen) and a stunning build that, on the chrome edition at least, is reflective on the back.


— Hilariously, Sony’s global PR just RT’d this and now it’s going nuts —

It may look cheap in the image but when you see it in the flesh, it really does POP and it definitely makes you go ‘Wow!’. Worth a look when it launches, definitely.

Sony (and Motorola for that matter) could be about to go through somewhat of a renaissance. With Samsung/Apple fatigue setting in combined with a compelling range of devices marketed to different hands and handbags, 2015/16 could be when mass-market consumers finally catch on to what they’ve been missing out on.

Side note: almost every Android phone I saw in attendance was a Sony Z3. It was everywhere. Alright I own one but I really do think that, if you know your tech and you prefer Android, Sony really is the best in show right now. And from my anecdotal data points of ‘I counted quite a few’, IFA attendees clearly agree with me.

Cool / awesome IFA thing THREE:
Last one, promise.

Finally, also from Sony, yours truly managed to have a sneaky go on the upcoming PlayStation 4 VR peripheral, ‘Project Morpheus‘.

About which I am very excited.


JW on Project Morpheus at IFA



And, depending on how abhorrent the pricing is (or isn’t), I may well be first in line when this bad boy launches in Europe at some point next year.

Here’s a video outlining the experience that I had (from a different event, but the demo is the same).

And here’s another video of me this time actually playing said demo – yes, I look like a wally but I was having so much fun (thanks for the footage, Nick x).

Google Cardboard withstanding, this was my first go on any real kind of consumer-facing modern take at VR so I didn’t really know what to expect. There’s still some work to be done (collision detection etc) but the best description I can give you is that I came out of it with the kind of exhilarated grin that is only really reserved for when I get to the end of a rollercoaster – such was my enjoyment.

And you can’t get a better seal of approval than that.

So yeah, that was a cool trip. Once more, thanks to Lenovo for flying me over, putting me up, and generally keeping me fed and watered throughout. I had a great time.

Again, as mentioned, expect more in-depth coverage in the next episode of The Voicemail.

Right then, that’s IFA done. Shall we continue with FToF?


Christ, are we only at item 2?!



There’s a website that I read from time to time that specifically covers redesigns and re-imaginations of comic book heroes and villains called Project Rooftop. If you fancy seeing some wicked art, I can suggest heading over right away and taking a look.

This next bit is not from that but it reminded me of it.

Live for Films recently published this concept of an anime Batman a couple of weeks back that I liked so much I didn’t want to just shove into last week’s bonus section so, here it is in all its glory.


There’s much more at the link (including a brief explanation of the approach as well as a fairly awesome mecha-Superman), so go check it out.

This popped up on my feeds this morning and I think it’s my favourite item this week. A five minute short film called, you guessed it…

Screen Shot 2015-09-04 at 15.23.09

And it is wonderful.

It’s slightly NSFW in its use of language at one point but it really is laugh out loud funny and if, like me, you love a good sci-fi ish yarn, you’ll enjoy this quirky little number.

This is your Twitter follower recommendation of the week: @TodayDoThis is my kind of Twitter account. I shall let the ‘founder’ (haha) describe what it’s for:

‘TodayDoThis (@todaydothis) is a daily nudge towards making today slightly better than yesterday. Each morning – 8am UK, NYC and Sydney time – a simple suggestion is posted. Something you can easily do that day should you so wish. Something that might make your day better, or someone else’s (and often both). There’s no specific subject matter, there’s no agenda. Just things to do that might make today a good day. Because if you can do one thing today to make it a bit better than yesterday, then maybe you’ll be open to doing more tomorrow…’

Little moments of inspiring betterment, delivered right into your Twitter stream.

How lovely.

Off you pop then, go give’em a follow.

As a writer of collated content, I tend to dig it when I find other collators who also do the same. Both from a MOAR CONTENT perspective as well as a ‘Ooo, I wonder how they do it’ angle.

One that I’ve recently been growing fond of is that of master collator (and ex-tech editor at The Guardian) Mr Charles Arthur.

His latest ‘Overspill‘ is quite excellent and there is much there I could link to (from great Google car encounters to the very latest Ashley Madison discoveries) but instead I shall just link you to the article in its entirety and you can go digging yourself.

Y’know, just in case you haven’t had enough STUFF this week.



Bonuses this week are as follows.

  • Please vote for my SXSW Panel. Please. Today (Friday) is the last day for voting.
  • I may’ve mentioned this in an earlier edition but Social Media Week London is just around the corner and the collection of COMPLETELY FREE events that Ogilvy is putting on each morning really is quite superb. Each talk/panel/presentation takes place between 9am and 10am which means that, if you can’t get out of the office for the whole week, you could probably come along to ours and then just tell your boss the bus was late. Winner.
  • There are 200-year-old tunnels under the streets of Liverpool and no one knows why.
  • Eight questions you’re afraid to ask Tattoo Artists [video].
  • This past weekend my dear friends Mark & Isolde made their wedding vows and I wanted to announce their nuptials like this is some kind of newspaper announcement. So consider this that. It was wonderful, and I wish them much love and laughter for their future together. 


Testimonial time!

‘The best thing about about FToF is that I usually know one of the five, or sometimes none. Never more. HTF do you do that?!’
– Pedro Stephano

‘I anticipate and appreciate every issue of Five Things on Friday. Getting this in my mailbox makes my Friday even more Fridayer.’
– Jim Gibson

‘Five Things is a dishy selection of culture, tech, social and news organically curated – always something that surprises –  an enjoyable pre-weekend read!’
– Susi O’Neill


And that’s it from me.

See you all next week?


Whatley Out.


PS. If you’ve enjoyed this, please refer it to another; a tweet will do.

PPS. Instagram ads are awful.

Jurassic World of Brands

Jurassic World is a great film but free of product placement it is not. Laugh at it when you see it and you’ll have a fantastic time.

Saw Jurassic World.

It’s pretty good.

Funny in the right places, cheesy when it needs to be (and knows it) and with enough careful nods to the original to make it a very satisfying watch indeed.

In short: JW gets the JW seal of approval.

One thing though.

Like most blockbusters these days, there is a large amount of product placement. Everything from our hero’s drink of choice, to the sponsorship of the ‘innovation exhibit’ at the park itself. Again, the film is aware of this and even makes a joke of it during a pre-action sub-plot.



1. Dino does Sea World
This scene (that’s been in every trailer) of an ancient dinosaur doing the Sea World thing for the park’s guests. It’s great!

Shark dino

2. Cue: big splash and soaked audience.
See? Totally doing the Sea World thing.


3. Our two young leads have an awesome time!


So much of a great time in fact that the elder one turns to the younger one and exclaims:

‘That was so cool!’, replies his little brother.
‘Want to see something really cool?’

And, I KID THEE NOT, the film cuts to:

4. Introducing the Mercedes Benz GLE Coupe!


Straight up.

Not kidding.

Absolutely this is what happens.

Jurassic World is a great film but free of product placement it is not. Laugh at it when you see it and you’ll have a fantastic time.



Ps. This film is not for kids.

Useful links and data re: #Millennials

Someone asked me recently how they might discuss the topic of ‘How to best engage millennials’. I was quite happy with the braindump that I responded with, so I thought I’d [re-]share it here.

Y’know, just some resources / interesting reading and stuff.


EDIT: I’ve decided that I’m going to try and keep this blog post updated with the latest findings on all things to do with millennials. The standard is high, so don’t expect to find Daily Mail headlines here. But yes, save this page and refer back to it later.

Last updated: Feb 25th, 2015.

Someone asked me recently how they might discuss the topic of ‘How to best engage millennials’. I was quite happy with the braindump that I responded with, so I thought I’d [re-]share it here.

Hope it’s useful.


In answer to your question, this is what I throw at people in the office if/when they ask me about Millennials.

  1. This Marketing Magazine article touches upon a METRIC TON of stuff that my esteemed peer and colleague, Marshall Manson, and I have been covering recently across various media in regards to our 2015 Social Trends, have a read of that – it’s totally lifted some stuff from us wholesale but screw it, who actually cares?
  2. Speaking of that trend deck, Trend 3 (slide 36 onwards) of said presentation might also help (no guarantees made, obvs).
  3. I wrote this piece a little while back about how BRAND WITH PURPOSE will be the ones that talk to (and succeed with) the disillusioned millennial audience of today / tomorrow – #medianode
  4. White House report, “15 Economic Facts about Millennials
  5. BRANDS WITH PURPOSE is a trend on its own for 2015 (I’ve seen a book that’s coming in March that addresses the same thing and I’m certain We Are Social dropped a report recently that just reiterates everything in the article above.
  6. Also: ‘What’s current when nothing is certain?
  7. Pew Research on Millennials, including its reports on “Millennials in Adulthood” and “Who Are Europe’s Millennials?”
  8. The Drum have released a new ‘Millennial Hub‘ with Bauer – don’t know how good it is but it might be worth a look?
  9. There’s this Deloitte Millennial Survey 2014 (here’s the PDF exec summary)
  10. This is a great resource for illustrating the disillusionment of millennials (the last image nails it).
  11. Something something AUTHENTICITY.
  12. IBM report on millennials in the workplace
  13. What Millennials Want From Work‘ by HBR covers over 16k respondents in 43 countries and is actually a really good read.
  14. That HBR piece is itself lifted from a larger piece of work from a collaborative six-part effort to ‘understand a misunderstood generation‘ (it looks like it’s free to sign up too). This stuff is gold.
  15. Telefonica conducted its own Global Millennial Survey (also worth a look)
  16. Like infographics? Goldman Sachs have got you covered.
  17. Fusion Massive US Millennial Poll
  18. Knowledge @ Wharton article on “How Millennials Think Differently About Brands
  19. Mindshare did its own research (article coverage)
  20. How Millennials Get News (US-focused, again, but a fairly thorough process so some genuine insight here)
  21. More from Goldman Sachs.

That’s all I’ve got at the minute. Sorry.



PS. I’ve realised all I’ve done is give you loads of additional stuff to sift through. In answer to your broader question: you engage with Millennials by a) being authentic and b) having a purpose. There’s a Kanye West quote nails it. In fact just stick the image attached (posted above) on a slide and have done with it.

Apple’s influence on advertising

When is an iPhone not an iPhone?

This is an iPhone.


The next three things are not iPhones.

Kitkats are not iPhones.

Somersby Cider? Not an iPhone.

IKEA: Book Book (not an iPhone).

You can’t deny Apple’s influence on modern advertising (even it’s other brands mocking or simply imitating its efforts). The IKEA one above is the latest and arguably best effort [to date] and everything from the casting, writing, and set up is completely spot on.

You also can’t deny that Apple makes great products. Better yet, everything about the company is geared towards making you feel great when you own one of then. From the service, to the stores, all the way through to its advertising.

I just love that its so open to mockery.

That is all.

—- UPDATE —-

Since publishing this post quite a few people have pointed out another remarkably similar piece of work, from five years ago, for The Sun Newspaper.

Watch this, then watch the IKEA one again.

A rip-off of a rip-off?