Five things on Friday #349
Things of note for the week ending Friday June 30th, 2023
First thing first: THANK YOU to everyone for your gorgeous messages of congrats after last week’s super rogue edition of
Five Things Seven Wins on Friday.
It means so much to me (more than you could know) that so many of you recognise the journey its been - and whether you’ve been with me since the beginning or only got onboard at the last stop, your love and support is appreciated, and taken direct to my heart.
Thank you x.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can read that one-off special edition 🦁 right here 🦁.
Bonus? I’m headed to Gamescom in Germany this August (Going? Hit reply or comment to LMK and we’ll grab a coffee) and my old Saatchis Dusseldorf team are going to drive down to Köln to celebrate. Can’t wait.
WE ARE LESS THAN EIGHT WEEKS UNTIL I RUN 15K + 30 OBSTACLES AT TOUGH MUDDER SOUTH WEST. WE ARE RAISING MONEY FOR WAR CHILD. IF YOU HAVEN’T SPONSORED YET, PLEASE DO SO HERE.
Come on, its pay day for a bunch of you. HMU with your dollar x
What else can I tell you?
Oh yeah: HELLO AND WELCOME to the several hundred new people that signed up this week (you’ve nearly tipped me over the 4k subs number!). I think you found your way here via a mixture of an amazing recco from the CEO of CP+B over on Marketing Brew (hi Maggie) and Moshe’s viral (and shamelessly copied) Twitter thread all about Barbie’s epic marketing campaign (more on that in a bit).
If I’m wrong - and you found Five things on Friday another way - let me know. Whatever the weather, it’s nice to have you. I hope you like it here, and fingers crossed you stick around.
PS. If you missed the intro when you signed up: my name’s James Whatley and Five things on Friday is a collection of noteworthy stuff that I’ve seen on my travels around the internet. It doesn’t always come on Friday but there’s always more than five.
And finally… (for the intro section at least):
This past week marked a year since I stood on stage at Ministry of Sound at BIMA Beyond and presented this slide.
Never seen this before? Watch the video.
A slide that if you’ve been reading this newsletter for any length of time would come as no surprise to you at all and frankly, a full 365 days later? I only have one thing to say about it:
It’s been A YEAR, y’all.
Shall we get to the things?
1. LET’S CHAT ABOUT #AIRPHORIA
A Fortnite thing. A Nike thing. A whole UEFN thing.
Truth be told, I was meant to write about this last week but the whole Cannes Lions thing (seven of them, did I mention?) got in the way.
A few weeks ago, Nike announced a new Fortnite world called Airphoria. The Unreal logo next to the .Swoosh logo got the web3 bros in a right old froth.
But as it turned out, it was a small step for Nike and a baby-step for the OMG NFT GAMING IZ HERE web3 jizzards.
Me being me, I booted up Airphoria island the day it launched aaaaaaand completed it before breakfast. Natch.
Let’s talk about what #Airphoria IS.
As a great example of Unreal Editor for Fortnite (UEFN) can do, Airphoria IS superb. A good case of showing other brands and developers what’s possible.
On top of the, the store (aka Item Shop) integration integration Airphoria IS superb (but I doubt this is open to all).
(aka Item Shop) all in all, about 20-30mins of gameplay all in (nice).
The world of Airphoria IS stunning to look at and short enough to retain interes.
OK, so what about all the Web3, NFT, .Swoosh stuff? Well, let’s talk about what Airphoria ISN’T.
Airphoria ISN’T ‘the metaverse’ - no matter what (the overly-committed-to-the-bit and-can-find-no-way-back-from-how-deep-its-gone) Vogue Business says. Please.
Airphoria ISN’T perfect. The gameplay isn’t quite there (everyone I’ve spoken to who played it didn’t really know where to go or what to do at certain phases) and the island crashed a couple of times while playing too. So while it’s a great branded experience, as a pure-play GAME, it still has as a way to go.
Airphoria ISN'T the Web3 gaming revolution (I’ve seen a few of those on Linkedin already - absolute chancers).
And finally, Airphoria ISN'T great for .Swoosh users outside the US.
On that Web3 point, there was a whole bunch of crowing from the Web3/NFT crowd about what Epic x Nike were about to do with this partnership when it was originally announced and as it turned out it's… account linking and a .Swoosh-side unlockable achievement.
So nothing in game then?
Ok fine. Looking forward to all those updated LinkedIn posts!
Baby steps though right?
The Nike small print talks about the account linking enabling ‘interoperable’ assets. And while that’s not quite there yet (you can’t trade .Swoosh-side unlocks, you can’t bring .Swoosh-side stuff into Fortnite, and you have to spend money in Fortnite to unlock stuff in .Swoosh - not vice-versa) it is a good promise for the future.
All in all, congratulations to Nike and Epic. As a showcase for what mega-brands can do in #UEFN, Airphoria is top tier. The item shop integration especially - in fact, I would bet a decent lunch on more Fortnite users buying the outfits in the Item Shop than there are users that linked their .Swoosh accounts… I wonder if/when that level of integration will become open for UEFN builders. If ever.
ONE. TO. WATCH.
Especially with EA Sports FC around the corner… ay.
To close this section off, this week, a day or so after the event finished, participants who played the island for more than ten minutes were able to log back in and claim themselves some AIR MAX 1 ‘86 backbling. Lovely.
Learn more how they did all of this, and more on UE5 Spotlight.
Finally, I’ve gathered up all my screenshots from the activation into a Google Photos folder so if you’re looking for any to use for presentations or anything, please go ahead and use them.
Just mark them up with ‘Source @whatleydude’.
2. OH MY GOD HOW HAVE WE NOT TALKED ABOUT THE CHANNEL 4 IDENTS YET?!
‘For this is… the island life’
I cannot express to you enough to take three minutes and twenty-eight seconds out of your day watch and enjoy this incredible piece of art and craft.
You’ll almost certainly want to watch it again.
Once you’ve done that, you’ll probably want to know more.
What a truly incredible piece of work. I cried.
3. THIS WEEK IN GAMING
FIRST: Super Mario is an Elephant now in Super Mario Wonder.
I haven’t been this excited for a new Mario since Odyssey came out. I just love this whole VIBE. In in in in in in….
‘Oh that Goomba looks so serene… well then’ - (watch the trailer, you’ll see what I mean).
What other news?
Annapurna Interactive did their 2023 showcase (Annapurna never miss) and this one is no exception. Big news: Stray - aka ‘The Cat Game’ - is coming to Xbox in August. Outside of that, for 30mins of your time, Annapurna will show a bunch of narrative-led games that will change the way you look at gaming.
Roblox CEO, David Baszucki, did a great interview with The Verge. ‘Why Roblox is ready to grow up’. Interesting to hear how they’re pushing into an older target (with appropriate content to match). Between Epic and Roblox - universal 3D worlds of play are coming and these two titans will set how we explore them. Worth watching.
The UK Government’s Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has published a new framework as a best practice supporting tool for research into video games (consumers, cultures, communities and more). Keep this one for reference.
More UEFN stuff, if you are a Fortnite player, I really liked PRELOADED’s ‘Wonders: Pyramids of Giza’ UEFN build. Worth a look (again - a great engine demo).
The Barbie x Forza integration is stunning (yes, that is my character - yes, I did change him into a baby blue tank top for the photoshoot).
What am I playing?
Truth be told, I’ve barely touched a thing of late. Between WORK (and there has been a lot of that - turns out pitching, then going on holiday, then winning a pitch, then catching covid, then trying to catch up on everything else - while also trying to be the CSO of an agency and everything that comes with that takes up a lot of time), training for the Tough Mudder (have you sponsored me?), and the sun finally coming out…
Well, I’ve not the time to spend on it. However, aside from dipping into Forza 5 (see above) and playing a bit of Mincraft with the kids, on the rotation schedule at the moment I’ve got:
Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Truth be told I’ve put this down for a bit. I think I’m a bit worn out. I will go back to it. I hear the ending is excellent.
Diablo IV. Still chipping away at the campaign. Well into Act III now and things are heating up.
Occasional SF6 (although I’ve not been back since getting to Bronze 2 Star).
C-Smash VRS came out this week and I really want to try that this weekend.
I managed to catch up with my Destiny 2: Season of the Deep story beats (although a new one dropped this week - the final one I believe) so I’ve got that to do. Might even do that today.
And then, of course, Final Fantasy XVI has dropped - and Diva has done a fair amount of work on this one so I almost feel obliged, y’know? I mean first off, it’s getting rave reviews and second, I haven’t really played an FF game since Crystal Chronicles on the GameCube (yes, I know). If you didn’t know, the FF series - while numbered - doesn’t actually tell one continuous story. Each game is a brand new story. There are common themes etc but it’s a new character, background, world… using similar mechanics as before. XVI is the new/first proper next gen version of Final Fantasy. And apparently it shows. So I’ll see you there, right?
What are YOU playing?
4. WHY SO WETIKO?
[A few weeks ago,from asked if we wanted to a ‘thing swap’ for our newsletters. You’ll find a thing from me over on the next/latest edition of Salmon Theory. But now, over to Rob…]
Hey friends, my name's Rob and you guessed it – i'm not James.
We're trying something for fun, where we do a mini guest writing thing on each others' newsletters. I am a Planning Director at VCCP in London, and the author of Salmon Theory, a newsletter whose aim is to help you either slow down, or keep going, by tapping into timeless ideas that helps us make sense of whatever the hell today and tomorrow is. I've been writing it for about 6 years, having a ton of fun and meeting heroes along the way, some of which are part of the 2.5k readers who lend their attention to me on a regular basis. I'm grateful to every single one of them.
Anyway, James gave me a brief which is: what's the most interesting thing you've read/seen this week?
And as i was reviewing stuff i saved this week (i'm a bit of a link hoarder), i came across this wonderful concept of wetiko. So what is it?
"Wetiko is an Algonquin [indigenous people of Eastern Canada] word for a cannibalistic spirit that is driven by greed, excess and selfish consumption (in Ojibwa it is windigo, wintiko in Powhatan).
It deludes its host into believing that cannibalising the life-force of others (others in the broad sense, including animals and other forms of Gaian life) is a logical and morally upright way to live.
Wetiko short-circuits the individual’s ability to see itself as an enmeshed and interdependent part of a balanced environment and raises the self-serving ego to supremacy. It is this false separation of self from nature that makes this cannibalism, rather than simple murder."
Grim stuff, right? And yet, i'm a huge believer in being able to clearly label problems before you can start solving them. And looking to the past, or often forgotten or misunderstood cultures, can sometimes yield fantastic pieces of language and modes of thinking to change our perspective. Wetiko feels like that to me. It relates to our relationship with mother nature and the planet, but i would argue can also be applied as a more general way of looking at the world. Of course, in this case what we want to learn and improve by opposition of what wetiko means.
This letting go of a competitive drive doesn't always come easy for a strategist like me who is formatted to think in terms of competitive advantages. And yet, while that skill is useful when you think about an organisational problem, i know that this form of competition can become quite detrimental in our own lives. In other words, it's fine to have your competitive hat on when life and work so require, but equally we have to know when to let that go and adopt a much more holistic view towards ourselves and others. I'm a huge fan of channels like Kurzgesagt because they help me take a much more systemic approach to, quite literally, life, the universe and everything.
And while that does not make me a saint (far from it), i have to believe that being able to approach our environments with respect, with a sense of "us-ness", instead of us vs them, can only be an increasingly mandatory skill to be a decent human being in the 21st century. Or, if we bring it back to the world of strategy, you literally think of yourself as being far more integrated and interconnected to the world around you, in ways that perhaps no one ever taught us to before. And if integration and interconnectedness and complementarity and mutually reinforcing benefits are good enough for this small thing called strategy, then they must be good enough for this huge thing called life.
So next time someone is projecting a type of antagonistic energy where for them to win you must lose, perhaps ask yourself: "Why so wetiko?"
Anyway, thanks James for allowing me a little corner here, and hope you all enjoyed it. I write more stuff like this over at Salmon Theory, so hope i see you there?
5. BEE AY AR BEE EYE EE
You cannot move for Barbie marketing at the moment - and I LOVE IT.
First thing first, all credit to Joe Kozak, creative lead at Diva, for sending me this amazing Barbie billboard just outside of Canary Wharf in London.
I tagged it to the super smart Moshe Isaacian’s attention, who was in the midst of compiling this mega (size and viral) thread all about Barbie’s PAINT THE TOWN PINK approach to its whole launch campaign.
One campain. 50+ executions.
You must’ve seen it by now (and if you haven’t, you’ve probably seen a million rip offs).
Moshe’s thread covers everything from Airbnb to Xbox, from candles to cosmetics, from rollerskates to rolling suitcases. The partnerships job on this is everything.
Also, it should be said: some ADLAND PEOPLE got really grumpy about the Pink OOH. Like, laughably so. Which is amazing really. I think I made some throwaway comment like ‘If you don’t get it, then it’s not for you’ - and honestly, it was like I personally poked them in both eyes with the feet from a Barbie doll.
It’s ok to not get an ad. It’s also ok to assume that Warner Bros might actually know what they’re doing by going all out to ensure that every single Barbie fan (and their friends) goes out and buys a ticket.
Kicking off because it doesn’t suit your interpretation of a brief you haven’t seen is like completely fine and stuff but also, kinda why I ended up writing about gaming instead. As painful as it sounds, not every ad is for middle-aged white man strategy Twitter. Some ads are for people that really like Barbie.
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.
Everyone is talking about the new Fiat ad, ‘No More Grey’. If you’ve not seen it yet, watch it. As ever, Ritson is great on this. Strategy is sacrifice, y’all.
I love a good bio/celeb interview, and this Vulture one on one with Parker Posey does not disappoint.
Same topic, different celebs. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito on Life and Death is one of the best things I’ve read this year.
Obama’s career advice: ‘Just learn how to get stuff done’ - advice FOR LIFE.
Whatsapp notifications are coming to Meta Quest (not the Metaverse) - THERE IS NO ESCAPE.
‘Would an idiot do that?’ - watch this, please x
Engineering our dreams (September 2022)
‘If you want it to be easy, you don’t want it to be great’ - Rob Campbell on essential form.
It was really nice ofto mention me and my old predictions pal, Marshall Manson, in his Substack piece ‘Handle your predictions with care’ - a good read.
The ongoing saga at Reddit is not going to end well at all, is it?
YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. MIND THE GAP.
If you’ve made it his far then you get a free hug. Claim it when you see me next.
It’s my day off today and I’ve spent a lot of it writing this to you. I had a whole thing about glasto lined up but I’ve swapped it out for Rob on Thing 4. So you’ll have to read it next time :)
I hope you have a decent weekend. I’m off to take the kids to see George Ezra.
Happy Friday, fam.
Whatley out x