Thank you for the many many lovely replies this week. You’re all generally brilliant and I’m pleased you’re pleased I’m back in your inbox again. In a world of a thousand newsletters, it’s a privilege to be in your notifications and I appreciate you keeping me in.
The other thing you had to tell me this week was a large amount of vocal agreement re the mEtAvErSaL elements of last week’s FTOF. It’s a hot topic at the moment, so forgive me indulging on it again later on in the edition - deep sigh - Rule 1 on any and all of this stuff is simple: BE. PRAGMATIC. OK? OK.
What else can I tell you?
Oh! I put a couple of new drawers in under my desk recently and filled one of them as above. No more will the family hear me yelling ‘WHERE ARE MY SODDING POST-ITS?’, no more.
Post-its and chewed-up Sharpies.
For the thinking.
For the figuring stuff out.
For the throwing thoughts up on the wall to stare at until they make sense.
There’s no magic. It just… happens. Against the backdrop of the same recurring questions:
What are we trying to do?
Who are we trying to do it for?
What’s the problem we’re trying to solve?
What’s real here and what isn’t?
What do we have at our disposal to make that happen?
The goal is always: clarity.
This is linked to the first THING of the week but I’ll tell you more when we get there. Which I guess is quite soon. So… shall we crack on with this thing?
In the past ten years of working in big network agency land, I’ve been told:
‘Ahh, you’re a planner!’
‘Thing is, James, you’re not a planner’
‘He only knows social, he doesn’t know digital - he’s wrong for this’
‘We don’t really know what to do with you’
‘You’re a planner that can’ (favourite compliment ever, btw)
And that’s just me. I’ve heard worse - far worse (and better) from others.
It’s no wonder planners and strats (whatever you want to call it) all go through anxiety crisis after existential crisis after imposter syndrome. When you’re expected to be the smartest person in the room (I mean seriously, wtf) then you are going to PANIC. Sometimes.
Other times you hit flow and find yourself swimming in brand books and audience segmentation and it’s 230am, you’re staring at powerpoint and suddenly it all crystallises and comes to you. Like the stars aligning and you see the way through. But to get there we sometimes need anchors. Constants. Secure footholds in the cliff where we can attach our carabenas and take a breath to realign.
I’m not saying this is what Richard Huntingdon’s recent series on planning has done for me but it’s pretty darn close. I occasionally get to work with this man and he is as generous with his thought and inclusiveness as he is with his writing.
Go and read these posts.
More will follow so keep an eye on it and soak it up; they are great footholds.
2. YOU, ME, AND WEB3
This might be a regular thing, it might not. We’ll see. The long and short of it is I’m doing a lot of reading in this space at the moment and it’s worth getting to grips with it all, understanding it, because at some point someone might ask you:
‘What’s our NFT strategy?’
‘Why aren’t we doing anything in the m*t*v*r*e?’
And maybe even ‘What is Web3?’
First. One of the things that people talk about when they talk about the future of NFTs is that they’ll be amazing in the world of GAMING.
Second. This website, simply called ‘Web3 is going great …and is definitely not an enormous grift that's pouring lighter fluid on our already-smoldering planet’ (catchy) is worth your time.
If there’s one thing to take from Web 3 is going great it’s that I don’t think any brand can meaningfully be working to save the climate or any kind of sustainability brief at all if they’re currently exploring this space. Worth keeping in mind.
Turns out Bored ape yacht club might be racist?
3. THIS WEEK IN GAMING
First off, this is a great piece from the FT (you may need to sign in to view - but that’s free).
Featuring this chart:
And while the rest of the article a good read - with specific focus on Microsoft’s move for Activision - the above chart should be appearing in ‘Gaming cannot be ignored’ slides for months to come. Maybe even yours.
FANTASTIC game making game DREAMS on PlayStation has been chosen as the platform to deliver a new animated feature film. This is a massive deal.
Dreams is a PS4 game! That you can play games on but the main draw is that a) you can make your own games and b) you can play the games that other people have made. The engine is mad. The fact that Hollywood has come calling speaks volumes. Read, and be stunned.
A couple of you asked what games I'm excited for next: on my list so far this year. I kind of covered this off last time we spoke but:
Right now, I’m playing through Guardians of the Galaxy with a bit of Forza 5 and It Takes Two on the side. However my main focus is getting Guardians finished so I can go all in on Horizon Forbidden West (the trailer for this is fantastic and I’ll be honest, when it first came out I leapt on my sofa and cheered).
The tricksy thing is that around the same time we’ve got a new and pretty chunky content drop coming in for Destiny 2 called THE WITCH QUEEN. I know Destiny may not mean much to most of you but I really do love it and I can’t wait to play this new version with my friends.
Outside of that? Other possibilities are: Elden Ring, God of War: Ragnarok, Gotham Knights, maybe Sifu, Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, and I think that’s it…? I probably won’t be buying the new Lego game.
But what have I missed? You tell me.
A coupled of bonus links in this section: while I was away, Shamid Kamal Ahmad wrote the most amazing thread about games development I’ve ever seen. Make a cup of tea and treat yourself to it.
And finally, I think I've spoken to you about No Mam’s Sky before. This thread, about Reddit buying a billboard of thanks for the developers says it all. Well, three years on, the developers, Hello Games, are being legends again. You may need tissues.
4. THE TIKTOK CMO THING
From December 2021? No?
But the hype tho!
“On Dec. 17, the video-sharing platform announced a partnership with Virtual Dining Concepts to launch delivery-only TikTok Kitchen locations across the country, starting in March. Food and recipe videos have become a key part of the site’s programming, with clips racking up millions of views. The company recently reported that more than 1 billion people worldwide use the platform monthly…!”
It must be a success?! SURELY!
Turns out it was a mad rogue unapproved plan from the then CMO.
New York Post says:
“TikTok’s marketing chief has been ousted after blindsiding top management with a series of increasingly bizarre campaigns, The Post has learned.
The former Hulu executive who had been at TikTok for less than two years, got bounced after “going rogue” with multiple stunts that had sought to rope the wildly popular video-sharing app into new business lines including NFTs and restaurants, these people add.
Most recently, they had revealed a plan — apparently without getting buy-in from senior leadership — to launch “TikTok kitchen” featuring foods made popular on TikTok, according to sources who were on a company call following Tran’s ouster.”
No real commentary to add. Just that this is MAD. And it’s nuts to me that stuff like this happens. NUTS.
5. STUFF I’VE SEEN OF LATE
A cheeky little film and TV section because why not.
NOMADLAND, Amazon Prime
Beautiful. Stunning to look at and just amazing to experience. More so because 90% of the cast are just playing themselves. Which is weird because…
ETERNALS (same director), Disney+
A pile of guff. Poor script. No MCU-ness. Just general whiffery. Watch the post credits' sequence on YouTube. There's more in those than there is in the whole movie.
DUNE, rented on Google Play
What an incredible film! I needed some PHENOMENAL VILLENEUVE after that Eternals gash-a-thon. Loved every second. Tempted to watch it again. Turn it up LOUD.
THE FATHER, Amazon Prime
I’ll be honest with you. I watched this last night and it utterly, utterly wrecked me. I was left a sobbing wreck on the sofa. It’s such an amazing hard watch. It’s on Amazon Prime.
THE EXPANSE, Amazon Prime
Finished this earlier this week. All six seasons are on Prime. It’s proper great this. If you miss a decent mysterious sci-fi show, like the Babylon 5s of the world, then you need to get some Expanse in your life.
I actually loved this. Don’t get me wrong, I was a big fan of the book that it draws a lot from (if you’ve not read it - YOU REALLY SHOULD) and I think Yelena is the best thing in it.
Oh, and last thing: if you loved THE MANDALORIAN thinking about watching BOOK OF BOBA FETT and haven’t started yet then I’d strongly suggest you start with EPISODE FIVE first (hit the ‘skip recap option’ when you do), then watch E1-4 after.
YOU NUS, WE MUS, BO NUS.
If, like me, you occasionally borrow your Mrs’ super swanky new iPad to do some sketching, then you might love some inspiration from the (free and online versions of) artbooks of the great MITCHELLS VS THE MACHINES and the gorgeous LUCA. Lovely.
In conversation with a friend recently I was reminded of the fire trucking wonderful concept of Premium Mediocre. I thought I’d remind you too.
Jay Blades ‘Learning to read at 51’ is a great watch (BBC iPlayer).
Mollie Goodfellow on loneliness in lockdown is moving and yet somehow strangely hopeful.
Lizard Issues (god damn art, I tell you).
Speaking of art: Tom Cardy ‘Because I’m anxious’
and… I am… spent
IT IS THE END. PLEASE HOLD ON TIGHT. PEACE IS IMMINENT.
At Digitas, every month or so, and as part of our ongoing DEI work, we’ve been running ‘brave space’ sessions. A place for someone to come and tell their story, and for other people to ask questions - sometimes challenging, often difficult, but a place that is safe and open for people to address uncomfortable topics.
I was asked if I could do one about men’s mental health, which I did. It was hard but it was worth it. To help me keep the story clean and to ensure I had something to refer to in case I got emotional, I used a version of my original Twitter thread on the topic. I’m sharing this with you now because in the days after the talk I had several messages from people telling me that they’d checked in with friends, boyfriends, brothers… just men generally to see if they were OK. I’m sharing it again because this stuff could save a life. So keep it. Tell someone about it. Let them feel psychologically safe to talk openly with you.
And then see where you go.
We’re in a silent emergency. Love is an action. So act.
Thank you for reading, as ever. I think I owe about two more replies before I hit send so maybe I’ll knock those out shortly.
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Until next time.