How’s your week been?
I have two things to tell you.
For my friends in the US, it’s Black History Month. In the UK, this falls in October. Irrespective of geographical differences, this stuff bubbles up in my feeds.
So here’s a thing: if you work in advertising or communications I can almost guarantee you that your presentations include too many white people. Your presentations almost certainly do not represent the people you hope to be selling to.
Next time you’re searching google for the right image to go with your consumer insight or brand statement or human truth or whatever - do yourself a favour and put the word ‘black’ in front of your search term. For Black History Month, every person in my presentations to clients has been (and will be) a person of colour.
(this is not to take away the huge amount of work going on behind the scenes at multiple agencies and brands about their respective DE&I agendas - this is just one small thing that you can change right now)
This is also a good source for diverse stock photography (save to your bookmarks).
Fun fact: emoji are inherently racist. The default is yellow (in The Simpsons the default is yellow - yellow = white, but people of colour are black or brown). If you regularly use an emoji that has the option to change the skin tone, then do that - I guarantee your black friends already do.
On a tangential note: this, ‘Hidden Black Stories’ from Snap, is also very good.
Last intro thing before we get started, I believe I have a couple of you left to reply to and I’ll get that sorted today (sorry - been busy/drinking/busy drinking, blame Amy).
TO THE THINGS!
1. EMMA THOMPSON BEING BEAUTIFUL
“My daughter thrums with life, my mother is frail – and I’m balanced between”
Not much else to add but to say please go read this; it’s a gorgeous snapshot in time.
I am in the position where my mother (and mother-in-law for that matter) and my daughter are often in the same house. There’s still some time yet before they can converse or silently nod at each other as Thompson implies but - it’s still there.
In the middle.
2. AN EXTREMELY RARE FIVE THINGS ON FRIDAY CORRECTION
Well, as further proof that this newsletter is only read by smart people, long time friend and pal (and v smart person) who also happens to be a bit of a wine expert, Marshall Manson, wrote back to put me straight.
Reader: I am a deep fan of this level of nerdery.
I asked him if I could reproduce his argument for the newsletter and he said yes.
Marshall, over to you:
“Love the piece on Giamatti and the U.S. industry, and definitely looking forward to more wine coverage in FTOF.
However, IM(very)HO, this is an instance of correlation without causation. (Though I appreciate the effort to dig up the data.)
The move towards Pinot Noir and Cabernet was driven, I think, more by the choices of winemakers who were planting a lot more Pinot in places where wine grapes weren't as much grown before — Sonoma Coast, Santa Rita Hills, etc. — and these plantings were starting long before Sideways came out. Part of the success of CA Pinot is down to the emergence of better Pinot Noir grape clones that are better suited to the local conditions. The work on these clones also started at UC Davis long before Sideways. And a big part is due to guys like Jim Clendenen at Au Bon Climat and Jason Tyler at Tyler wines who demonstrated that you could grow high quality Pinot Noir on a standard to equal the best Burgundies in CA growing conditions.
The one concession I will make to this argument relates to location. SIDEWAYS WAS NOT SHOT NOR SET IN NAPA OR SONOMA. It was shot in Santa Barbara, far down the coast, nearer to LA than SF. So it may have put a spotlight on some of the great CA Pinot Noir being produced in the region (this area includes Santa Rita Hills, BTW) and therefore the idea that there is some great wine from CA beyond Napa and Sonoma. But given that literally everyone I talk to thinks Sideways was set in Napa, I'm not sure this actually had any impact.
My view, although I am obviously not a winemaker, is that Merlot just isn't a very good stand-alone grape. You'll only find single varietal Merlot from places like Chile and one or two other places, including some awful mass-produced stuff. Merlot is much better as a blending wine. It's used to make some of the best wines in the world in Bordeaux, but ALWAYS in a blend with Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet Franc. The problem is that Merlot is really unusual. Most 'black' grapes have defined flavour characteristics that vary a little, like most wines, by local climate, terroir, and weather during the growing season. So a Cabernet Sauvignon's first nose / flavour will nearly always be a black fruit like black currant or blackberry with variations depending on grape ripeness (driven by warmth and sunshine during the season), winemaking methods like how time they spend in oak, and age.
But, for me, Merlot is a mess. Depending on the conditions, terroir, and climate, it can lead with black fruit (when a little less ripe) or red fruit (when a little more ripe). So it can have flavours that compliment a Cab Sauv or a Cab Franc or a Barbera or a Sangiovese. (Merlot is sometimes blended with Sangiovese and other varietals in the so-called Super Tuscan wines). IOW, Merlot is F**KING FRANKENSTEIN. As a result, I think it's also a nightmare to match with food. Imagine getting a Merlot thinking it's going to have one sort of profile and discovering it's actually something totally different. All of this is one of the reasons that it takes such awe-inspiring skill to make great wine in Bordeaux, especially on the Right Bank where Merlot almost always leads the blend.
Ultimately, I think the force driving that chart is mostly economic. A great bottle of CA Cab Sauv can sell for £100-£200. A great bottle of CA Pinot Noir can sell for £80-150. A *great* bottle of CA Merlot (if you can ever find one) will sell for at best £30-40. So it's no wonder that CA growers are plowing under their Merlot and replacing with Cab Sauv or Pinot or even Chardonnay or Zinfandel.
Needless to say, all of this is just my opinion, and I imagine you've got some real wine experts in your subscriber list who might like to tear my argument to shreds. But that's the best thing about wine — we'll keep arguing, we'll all be right, and we'll all enjoy the wine along the way.
Finally, if you'll allow me, part of the reason I shared this missive is that I was thrilled to see a friend in the UK writing about American wine. Wines from the U.S. are massively underrated over here because they can be hard to find and sometimes seem expensive. But I am happy to stack up American wines against any other wine in the world at any price point from £10 per bottle and up.
If anyone would like to explore U.S. wine more, please do get in touch. Easiest way is via twitter where I'm @marshallmanson. Happy drinking!”
3. THIS WEEK IN… GAMING
I’ll try to keep this short, the next section is LONG.
WE ARE IN THE GAME RELEASE MADNESS OF FEBRUARY.
Me: with Guardians of the Galaxy still to finish still went ahead and [drunk] bought the excellent SIFU. It’s a great little fighter of game with a unique death mechanic that’s really fun (really). Worth a go - and not stupid expensive either.
Next week Horizon Forbidden West comes out (cheapest I’ve seen it is £52 disc on Amazon; this is upgradeable and tradeable (vs the PS5 digital edition which is £70)).
The week after that we’ve Destiny 2: The Witch Queen dropping (why yes, I do happen to have a couple of days booked off) and that’s quite exciting. Just… please. No more games now for a little while? I’m trying not to look at Elden Ring at the moment either… (new to Destiny? This is a good primer of where we’re at).
Of course, with all of this going on, I picked up, played and completed the delightful DONUT COUNTY (on Game Pass). Would wholly recommend giving that a spin; it’s charming, pretty small and well put together - you can finish it in an afternoon (we did).
What else can I tell you?
There was a pretty chunky Nintendo Direct this week. Here’s all the new major game announcements (48 ‘new’ tracks coming for Mario Kart is a biggie). Got a Nintendo Switch? Go check out the Nintendo Direct.
Next week I’ll try to change the ‘This week in…’ - maybe food? Cooking?
We shall see.
4. METAVERSE SCHMETAVERSE
Providing you with everything you need to help prevent clients burning money.
Look, I know it's the 4TH WEEK RUNNING and I am not a fun of things sticking on this newsletter but this will just not budge.
Let’s get into it.
"Strong opinions, lightly held" - as Richard Huntingdon is oft heard saying around Chancery Lane.
Let’s get one thing ABSOLUTELY CLEAR:
ROBLOX is not The Metaverse.
ROBLOX is not Web 3.
There are no NFTs in ROBLOX.
But this did not stop [unnamed agency] putting forward the exact opposite of the above forward earlier this week. Heralded as ‘How brands are getting it RIGHT (?! - wtf? how is anything RIGHT in this sentence?) in The Metaverse’ - it was yet another round of ‘experts’ spewing unqualified BS about how the future is The Metaverse and how BRANDS NEED TO BE READY with next to no commercial or consumer understanding whatsoever. Insanity.
Look, let’s be clear: building a brand experience in ROBLOX could be categorised as a metaversal activity but even then you're pushing it because THE METAVERSE hasn't been defined and, to be perfectly honest, as we established last week, NOBODY KNOWS WHAT IT ACTUALLY IS YET.
If anyone shows you another ‘Brand did a thing in ROBLOX’ cAsE sTuDy then please refer to the above.
there is no such thing as the metaverse there is no such thing as the metaverse there is no such thing as the metaverse there is no such thing as the metaverse there is no such thing as the metaverse there is no such thing as the metaverse there is no such thing as the metaverse
In spite of myself, I am genuinely signing up to every brand-based web3/NFT/Metaverse talk I can get my hands on and so far I am yet to hear any sense on this. It's all the same unsubstantiated guff. UGH. Oh, and please, if you’re doing the same, please keep asking the same questions about the environmental impact NFTs/Crypto. The hand waving and side-stepping is incredible. ‘Um… something… er… well, soon it’ll be proof of stake and not proof of work meaning… something… and maybe… we just plant more trees?’ - Yes. Let’s plant digital trees! - that’ll definitely help.
Here's a quick guide to some brands doing what, where and what I think is actually going on:
Nike activating in ROBLOX is not the Metaverse (or anything to do with NFTs or Web3). What it IS is building a brand experience in an online gaming space (a centralised siloed one at that) that several million people have been able to attend. It’s telling that even Nike’s own update on this fails to mention the M word. I wonder why that is.
Samsung's Decentraland work is Web3 purely based upon the platform it appears in. Decentraland IS also an online world so it could be described as metaversal. NFTs could be involved as well. This is how well that went.
Can we just start calling things what they are please?
Give me strength.
Tencent SVP, Steven Ma, recently said 'The metaverse's day will come, that day is not today' and I agree with him.
It’s also interesting to me that hearing from people who work in these spaces day in day out are relatively quick to dismiss the metaverse out of hand.
For example, here’s one of the best in the biz, Jason Schreier, with his POV:
“Imagine being able to live in a virtual world. You can go there any time, create a digital persona and hang out with your friends. You can collect gear and develop new skills. You can get married and battle powerful computer-controlled monsters. You can participate in a community and build relationships with people whose real first names you might never know. Best of all, there are no limitations — you can inhabit a land of fantasy, sci-fi or anything in between.
If I took that pitch to a few venture capital firms today and said it was a new blockchain metaverse I’d probably raise a hundred million dollars. I’d just have to avoid telling them that that virtual world is called a Multi-User Dungeon, or MUD, and it’s been around since 1978.”
The whole thing is worth a read.
What’s that? You want more? OK FINE.
Here’s some more GREAT stuff on all of this:
Victoria Buchanan’s POV about ROBLOX wanting their online world to become the metaverse destination is a better way of looking at it.
The delightful Matt Muir sent me this earlier this week: ‘The Future of Online Worlds’ (by someone that has been there) which goes a long way to explaining the governing issues/problems and pitfalls around us almost certainly never having any kind of one perfect online space where we all hang out together. And if we did, that would probably be a bad thing.
Tangentially, if you're old enough to remember Beanie Babies and still can't quite get your head around NFTs. This is the article for you.
If you want some REAL insight on the future of games development (and real industry opinions on NFTs, Metaverse, and Web3) you could have a deep dive on the recent GDC SOTI report. It’s a reassuring read.
Related: GET READY FOR THE CRASH.
Let’s see if it calms down next week…
PS. Hello to everyone from VCCP who signed up this week x
5. UNDERWATER PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR
I’m only sharing one photo from this amazing list.
Goodness me this week’s edition is a bumper one, right? I’ll try and keep this brief. Because if there’s one thing y’all don’t need right now is MOAR TABS amirite?
Peng Shuai is in trouble. Powerful writing.
Managing People - very good
When autocorrect gets political (this is nuts)
Some nice FIFA work from Saatchis for Hope United (and no, this isn’t the metaverse either ffs).
IT IS TIME TO SAY GOODBYE
Thank you, as ever for subscribing, reading, replying, sharing and just generally being lovely. I’ve had the good fortune of seeing some people in person this week and when people say ‘I’ve missed your writing!’ it’s really nice to hear (if hard to believe).
So - thanks.
It’s never taken for granted but it’s always taken to heart.
I hope you have a restful weekend.
Whatley out x