Five things on Friday #337
Things of note for the week ending Saturday October 1st, 2022
Sometimes I start this thing with a hello.
A ‘How have you beeeeen?’
But before that, there’s always a cheeky little check in the inbox just to see how much stuff I’ve tagged with ‘#5things’ for this week’s edition of FToF.
Fair warning: this week there is a lot.
So much so that I don’t know if I’m going to fit it all in. There might have to be some extra filtering. Or maybe an over-expanded bonus section. I’ve no idea. Maybe we’ll figure it out when we get there…
One thing I can tell you though is that even though it is 13:15 on Friday 30th September as I write this section to you, I highly doubt I’ll be hitting the Publish and Send button before midnight. So… I hope you’re having a nice weekend?
What else can I tell you?
I’ve been around the circuit a bit of late (and there’s more in the can, coming soon), and so if you really can’t get enough of me/my face etc, here’s a quick hit of that for you (or just skip straight to Thing 1 if you like, I don’t mind).
STUFF I’VE DONE:
Appearing on the same speaker list as the wonderful Cindy Gallop at the Worldwide Partners Global Summit in Amsterdam. The speech I gave was updated version of the ‘Metaverse? What Metaverse?’ talk that has - thanks to Cindy - once again gone a bit nuts on Linkedin.
My pal Eric Fulwiler invited me to join his Rival gang on their podcast, ‘PUNCHY’. The show discusses the latest marketing stories and gets its guests to throw out a whole bunch of strong opinions lightly held (ok, maybe not that lightly). This was so much fun! - and I hope you enjoy it. Watch on YouTube or Listen on your podcast platform of choice.
Amazing If asked me to participate in Lead : Learn : Connect earlier this week, a different presentation this time - instead an ‘introduction to gaming’ (maybe couched a little bit in metaverse nonsense). Different format this time, 20mins of slides then 40mins conversation and Q&A. Loved it. Best bit? THEY DREW MY TALK!
And finally, Rosie and Faris Yakob, of Genius Steals fame, asked me to guest edit their amazing newsletter ‘strands of genius’ - and you can read my edition right here :) - R&F have an incredible system for making this work and I can’t believe how easy they made it for me to participate. Thank you, Yakobs :)
STUFF STILL TO DO:
Tickets are still available to this and aside from hearing me droning on about the size of the opportunity / trend growth with all things video games, you’ll also hear from SO MANY OTHER SMART PEOPLE it’s worth making the case to your head of department for some training budget right now.
OK, that’s all the plugs out the way.
Shall we FINALLY get to the things?
1. THIS WEEK IN METAVERSE BS
If you’ve been living under a marketing-repellent rock this week, then you’d be forgiven for missing the latest piece of BS: ‘Walmart has entered the metaverse’
Now look, it’s GREAT that brands are experimenting in arguably one of the world’s largest video game platforms. You have to applaud it.
What’s disappointing however is instead of saying ‘We believe video games are a fantastic way for children and adults to enjoy fun branded experiences together’ - and normalising gaming for all and sundry, Walmart has been hypnotised by the purveyors of snakeoil-dressed-up-as-metaverse-hype and couldn’t help itself in splurging the M word everywhere it could. Ugh.
A TON has been written about this already (honestly Google it) so I’m only going to look at a few things that immediately jumped out for me.
First thing first:
What got lost in a lot of the comms and headlines is that Walmart launched not one but TWO playable Roblox worlds: Walmart Universe of Play and Walmart Land.
As a strategist who has spent the last 15 years working on global brands across all kinds of digital and social channels, I can unequivocally tell you: THIS IS A TERRIBLE IDEA.
Like building two websites, two Facebook pages, two Facebook apps, two Instagram channels or two of literally just about anything you’re trying to get consumers to do for the first time - this is a great way of diluting your audience and your message and ensuring one or both completely fail.
It feels like someone oversold the concept and wanted to try and do everything before they’d done anything.
IF you’re looking to do something in Roblox, learn from Walmart and just try to do ONE thing really well. Not two things with mediocrity.
The user numbers are interesting here.
For those of you that just comment on Roblox without actually participating (you know who you are), then did you know you can check the current world stats on the Roblox app/website?
Scroll back up and check the image and you’ll see what I mean.
At the time of writing Walmart Universe of Play, the world aimed at Roblox’s main population, children, had two (2) active users, a user approval score of 57%, and a total visits count of 4,290.
Walmart Land - reportedly aimed at adults - on the other hand fares far better. At the time of writing (Saturday afternoon, UK time), it has 842 active users, a user approval score of 50%, and a total visits count of 1.9m. That’s a lot of people and the wall to wall PR coverage has served them well. The approval score alas, does not.
Digging a bit deeper, Walmart Land also awards badges for participating and of course, there’s one for simply showing up. The ‘Welcome to Walmart Land’ badge has a ‘Won Ever’ count of a little under 1.4m. 1.4m uniques from 1.9m total visits… Doesn’t feel that sticky at the moment, does it?
Finally, the call to action is just weird.
‘Grab your headsets and hop in’ is an odd CTA given (at the last report of the data), 72% of Roblox players play via mobile.
I know it’s a tiny thing but if you were feeling particularly harsh you could say ‘this smacks of a ‘metaverse’ company with an interest in making the metaverse a thing using its clients comms to make the metaverse seem bigger than it is’. If you were feeling harsh.
It’s that or it bad comms planning.
Goal: drive users to our Roblox world
Barrier: people are scared of video games.
Comms task: trick people into thinking this is a VR-enabled metaverse by implying that loads of people already have and use VR for this metaverse experience
You’re right, that is harsh.
I can see a world where this cleans up at Cannes next year simply because a) it’s a huge brand, b) the visitor numbers will easily hit 2-3m+, and c) Lions judges won’t know the difference between new and good.
And while it’s easy to knock down work from afar, it is clear a fair amount of work has gone into this activation. However, wasted money is still money wasted and it’s important to point it out and prevent it from happening again where and when you see it.
The obvious retort at this point will no doubt be: ‘Well, James, what have you done to move this space forward?’ or better - ‘If you don’t like it, make way for those that do’.
How about… no?
How about stop wasting client money on personal vanity projects that only serve to eat away at the reputation of the creative industries while delivering next to no long-term value?
How about the value I bring to ‘this space’ is in helping clients navigate it with their eyes open and to avoid black holes of budget spend because someone once told them the metaverse was a thing?
How about ‘make way’ for that.
Other Metaverse news:
Scam Likely (thanks to Holly B for this one).
Imagine drafting something called ‘Sustainability in the Metaverse’ and then spending the whole article writing about NFTs and Blockchain. And then publishing it for people to actually read? COME. ON. It’s not that hard. You’re talking about Web3 technology - and that’s OK. Just because it’s an NFT, that doesn’t make it the sodding metaverse for crying out loud.
If you can swap 'metaverse' for 'online' in your sentence then maybe just do that? (Evergreen Tweet).
Facebook’s latest definition of the metaverse is ridiculous.
2. CHOP CHOP
A couple of weeks ago now, at around 3pm on September 8th (if you know you know), I was laying on a table in North London saying goodbye to my own personal crown jewels in a process some of you may know as ‘a vasectomy’.
There’s a lot I could tell you.
The jokes the [female] nurse made about my TikTok socks (thanks, Wayne).
The sudden awareness of the consequences of my own decisions (resulting in an extreme compulsion to just get up and RUN! - the moment I laid on the table).
The moment when, as I was putting my shoes back on, I asked ‘So, is there stitches down there now?’, ‘No,’ said the surgeon, ‘We cauterised it’ - and as I reached down to tie my laces, I could smell he was telling the truth.
Point is, I’m 42 years old and we have two children. The pill messes with the mrs and I’m not really down with that. So this is the option to make it GREAT.
So I have.
16 weeks and 24 er… expulsions? from now and we're home free. Woooo! I know it’s quite odd to talk about this in my newsletter about STUFF I LIKE but I LIKE normalising awkward man stuff.
And normalising men getting the snip is a great place to start.
During the summer of lockdown 2020, Rob Delaney put out this amazing article talking about the ‘pain and pleasure of his vasectomy’ - it’s a fantastic read. And if I’m honest, it’s what prompted the conversation here in the Whatley household as well.
So cheers Rob.
You made it easier for me and I hope by sharing my story, I’m making it easier for others too.
3. THIS WEEK IN GAMING
This week in gaming news a whole bunch of interesting brand tie-ups, some updates on hardware, and a little bit of platform news.
But let’s kick off with an outrageously good Ed Sheeran x Pokémon music video - Celestial.
Stadia? I hardly know her.
As we were going to press (Ed: press? This is a newsletter, not a magazine) (Ed: Who is Ed? James is this you?) (OK, this is weird now), new news dropped about Google’s beleaguered game streaming platform Stadia.
Things to know:
As reported by Reddit, the Stadia team found out shortly before everyone else. Ouch.
As reported by the devs themselves, Google didn’t tell the makers of incoming games that this was happening. Double ouch.
For people who have been investing in the platform with hardware and software purchases since, they can expect a full refund by the middle of January next year. This is actually good?
I am one of those people. I bought a founder’s edition + a Destiny 2 bundle back in November 2019 (you can read my mega thread Twitter review here) and I am stunned Google is offering full refunds (almost certainly as Google Store credit) because the hit of those refunds vs the cost of running the platform is some serious financial cost analysis (fee to refund vs fee to continue service). Brutal.
There are a few ways to look at it. For Stadia fans (there were a just over a handful), they basically had three years of free games and hardware. Think about it. Some serious long-game playing there - ha.
Another way to look at it is that this is yet another hit to Google’s reputation for creating endless hard/software fodder for the Google Graveyard - aka ‘Killed by Google’.
This latter part is severely damaging. And the long-term impact probably immeasurable. It eats away at trust and I wonder what’ll happen should Google ever revisit cloud gaming ever again… 😐
Overall, the challenge was always: could streaming tech get good at games faster than games could get good at streaming tech. I guess now we know the answer.
But then, didn't we always know?
EDIT/Update: HUGE credit to the devs currently working hard to let Stadia players port their saves over to different versions of the game (Ubisoft and Bungie being the most notable). And I truly hope Google does one final software update to the controller allowing it to be used on other platforms. That would be nice.
I feel sorry for this guy though, Rockstar ain’t coming to save you man.
- - - -
Ted Lasso x FIFA
EA and Apple announced Ted Lasso and AFC Richmond are coming to FIFA 2023.
Two and a half years in the making, apparently. That’s some lead time - and should also give you an idea of just how long these things take.
(Giulio de Bufalo has some decent words/analysis on this. Worth noting how much we align on Walmart too. Good reading - only build would be, Fifa is not reviewing well (7/10 on current gen, 2/10 on Nintendo Switch) - and I hope EA use the dropping of the FIFA licence to go back to the drawing board ahead of EA Sports FC).
Frozen Planet 2 x Minecraft
To tie in with the launch of Frozen Planet 2, BBC Studios and Mojang have created a special educational and completely playable version of the show in Minecraft. Including v/o from the big man himself, Sir David Attenborough. Played a fair bit of this - and then watched the show (available in UHD on iPlayer).
IT’S FREE and I really like it.
Sony released a freshly updated VR2 details page that's worth a look.
Early write ups are INSANELY GOOD.
No PSVR backward compatibility. Which given how different the two machines (peripherals?) are is unsurprising. HOWEVER, it would be good to know if there were any planned upgrades for incoming titles. eg: Hello Games has already announced a PSVR2 update for No Man’s Sky. I wonder if we’ve heard the last of these updates…
So with all that in mind, there is absolutely no doubt the PS VR2 will be my next VR machine. Horizon Call of the Mountain looks incredible and the deep dive I linked to on the first bullet above has completely sold me. See you there?
THE LAST OF US (TLOU) TV series has a Trailer!
10/10. No notes.
Got Twitch? Please tune in to Diva’s channel on Wednesday October 5th to see yours truly get scared out of his wits playing some kind of Halloween/Spooktober-related game. I’ll definitely be there. Game TBC 😁 (I am not looking forward to this).
Agostino Simonetta is the latest interviewee for Playable Futures and it’s a good ‘un.
Ubisoft announced a whole swathe of new Assassin’s Creed games - here’s my mega-thread of why that’s exciting.
I was at EGX last week and saw Dove had a presence there building a case for female inclusivity in video games. Here’s some words on that.
This piece about rediscovering the Gameboy Advance from Dominik Diamond is a phenomenal hit of nostalgia (God I loved Advance Wars). Great read.
ISFE published its latest data (from last year). Good numbers/stattage for your gaming-related presentations.
Only other thing I wanted to tell you in this section is that I managed a work-related trip to EGX week before last and managed to play Street Fighter 6 AND Sonic Frontiers. Street Fighter 6 was awesome. Graphics were great and the gameplay felt so good. Sonic was alright - felt a bit like the best/fast/rocket-boot levels from the recent PS5 Ratchet & Clank game (which I loved).
Both worth a look if you’re that way inclined.
4. THE ‘BATTLE FOR TALENT’
“French marketing mastermind Jacques Séguéla had his tongue in his cheek when he titled his book “Don’t tell my mother I’m in advertising . . . she thinks I play the piano in a brothel”. More than 40 years on, however, the difficulties that ad companies are encountering in attracting and retaining staff are no laughing matter.”
This, via the FT, touches upon a known reality in the industry but barely (if at all) goes near a common theme I hear from friends, mentees, and ex-colleagues: the post-covid/brexit/talent-crisis is killing staff with burnout.
‘We’re really struggling to backfill that promotion - sorry’
‘We’ve got no resource on this, can you work late?’
‘We’ve got a pitch on - who’s available?’
There’s no way on Earth those three statements square off in any real workplace and yet this is what I hear over and over and over.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard this year ‘Oh don’t go [there'], they’re a sweatshop’ or ‘Oh, I left [that place]. I was doing 50hr weeks and they keep piling on the work until people break’ or ‘I’ve had to take a month off to recover from my toxic a-hole of a boss’
Can you imagine if Campaign Magazine asked its top ten agencies of the year how many people had been signed off with stress in the past 365 days?
‘Hope Labour’ indeed.
Related: this one about ‘Quiet Quitting’ from anonymous adlanders is much closer to the mark.
For me, what started off as an 'awakening to late stage capitalism manipulation', post the great resignation, and compounded by a dearth of new/naive blood across the advertising industry (see above) - the forever being burned out talent in adland has, I think finally, had enough.
What will adland do to keep its talent?
5. AFTER THE STORM
This is ‘After the Storm’ by Jayne Bond. Winner of the Natural World round of the 2022 Amateur Photographer of the Year competition.
And you can [bliss out and] see the rest of the winners right here.
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.
Led by Donkeys put together this excellent interactive website showing just how badly the UK government has sodded things up this week.
Fun thing I learnt this week: chatting to a Hollywood megastar about gaming ruins your Twitter for about 3.5 days.
Stewart Lee on Boris Johnson is mandatory reading.
Instagram stumbles, and Facebook can’t fight TikTok fast enough.
Facebook is expected to announce its newest VR headset in 10 days (keep your ears and eyes open for DAU/MAU numbers on Horizon Worlds - Facebook has yet to mention the former at all and this my best/closest comparison).
Alan Rickman’s diary entries are wonderful.
‘Tricking Time’ - this is really nice.
Twitter is doing fact checking (or at least, is introducing it). Good.
YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. MIND YOUR HEAD.
It’s been a chunky edition this week. That’s what happens when I take a few weeks off. To be honest, my feet haven’t really touched the ground this summer.
We were spoilt rotten with an amazing wedding down in Exeter a couple of weeks ago (thePixel 6 Pro outdid itself yet again) and then went straight from there to Amsterdam for the conference mentioned at the top but with an extra day tacked on to see an old chum (sup Larry) and then to EGX… and now, well, now I’m writing to you. It’s 8pm on Saturday night and I’m about hit publish.
Coming up, I’ve got a trip over to Bristol next week but after that, it’s time to spend some time at home.
Wherever you are in the world as you read this, I hope you are happy, healthy, and well. Life is hard. But do stay if you can.
You are loved more than you know.
Whatley out x