This week I’m thrilled to have the wonderful James Whatley, under the spotlight.

A well-admired voice in the marketing world and a man of multiple talents and many interests.

He rose through the ranks at Ogilvy UK - working closely with the likes of IBM, Land Rover, Converse and International Airlines Group - and gained a reputation for helping brands make an impact in the tech and social space. He recently made the move to Digitas to continue his good work.

I know him from 'Five Things On Friday’ - his weekly newsletter, filled with interesting tidbits that have caught his eye during the week...and very much an inspiration for OFF TOPIC. Others may know him as a founding member of The Dice Charter which champions Diversity and Inclusion at Conferences at Events (see bottom of email for more on both).

A family figure, an avid gamer, a cook and a man worth listening to. It’s an honour to have him as this week's guest.

What’s your dream client brief?

I have worked on almost every dream brief I could’ve asked for. Honestly. Working on The Dark Knight Rises was a high point (a cowl from the movie in a perspex case is the best thank you gift I’ve ever had from a client) but so was launching the Chuck II with Converse, pitching winning the PlayStation account, smashing Oreo at Digitas. There’ll be more but my passions and my work often collide and it’s sheer magic.

What one tip would you give someone looking to create their best work?

Go the extra click.

What’s the one consistent quality you look for in a new hire/colleague/team mate?

They must build. Onwards, upwards. Always.

If you were guaranteed the correct answer to one question, what would you ask?

Tell me, in as much detail as you can, how can we save this place?

When you are gone, what would you like people to write for your obituary?

One of the best pieces of advice my therapist ever gave me was this: “spend your life helping your children write the obituary you will never hear. Make it easy for them.” It doesn’t matter what I think, feel – it matters what I do. I hope that what I do is enough.

What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?

I think I was off school with flu or something the week they gave out work experience. So, when I came back I had a week working in HMRC tax offices in Southend on Sea. That sucked.

What is your most used/couldn’t live without – phone app?

My Chrome Browser.

What do you spend way too much money on?

Video games.

Where is your happy place?

My family.

Last thing you searched for on your phone?

“LG improved Nvidia GeForce”

What is something useful that I could learn right now, that will be useful for the rest of my life?

Nothing is as important as you think it is while you are thinking about it.

Most played song on iTunes/Spotify?

The children have ruined my Spotify algorithms so this is the Moana soundtrack, then Frozen, then DON’T STOP BELIEVIN, by Journey (track one on my Getting Things Done playlist)

There are 5 empty seats at your table, who are your dream dinner party guests - from any time or place?

Bodger, Jim, Tony, Robbie, Ashru.

How do you define success?

What a question. There’s the obvious: my family, my children. They are everything. Actually, there is something that I think about sometimes. My Mrs made do me really look at it once. I grew up on Canvey Island in Essex. Single parent family, on benefits, free school dinners - the lot. 20yrs later, I was in Sydney. Having given a half day workshop as part of Marketing Academy Australia. As a surprise for the Mrs I’d arranged for us to spend our last couple of nights there at the Shangri-La. There’s a room you can book where you can see the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House from one window. It was an incredible experience. ‘S’alright that’ I said. Sat in the window, my other half took my hand and said: ‘Please, look at this, take it in – you did this, on your own. You brought us here. You. No help from anyone. You did it on your own.’ – I think about that moment a lot. I love that woman so much. She is my success – and everything that comes with.

Quick fire….

Early bird or night owl? Both

Book or boxset? Boxset

Call or text? Love a call, me.

Netflix or YouTube? Netflix

Library or museum? Museum

Finally, who would you most like to see answer these questions 'Under the spotlight'?

Dena Walker, Sarah Parsonage, and Folarin Akinmade.

Talk us through your workspace.

What helps you get through the day and do what you need to do?

Wrigley’s Extra (Spearmint)

I get through so much of this stuff. Between calls. During PowerPoint marathons. It just helps. Three of those pots are empty. One is full to the brim of fresh gum. One is full to the brim of… used gum?


The YETI mic

Bought that when for when I used to have my podcast (the crane is new though). That has come in VERY handy during lockdown. Great for crispy video call vocals – like when you really wanna land that brand manifesto.


There are two packs of Oreo behind the laptop. We launched a campaign for them last month and those specially designed personalised boxes can be claimed from www.theplayfulnetwork.com/ (possibly run out now – sorry).

Lamy fountain pen + Moleskine combo

Leo Ryan (@leotwit) and Dena Walker (@curlydena) got me into Lamys. Lots of conversation about weight and girth and ink distribution. My kind of nerd.

My MacBook + my work MacBook

I had to replace a key on the keyboard about three weeks into lockdown. That worked just fine but then I left the old key on the keyboard when I tried to close the lid and the screen cracked. That black strip on the right-hand side has been there ever since. I should get that looked at.

A wide variety of pain killers

I currently have a fractured ankle from a disc golf accident (Bang on brand, that) and it hurts. A lot.

Two things:

1. Give my newsletter a go. 2500 people subscribe and about 1000 of those people open it regularly. Ha! But it’s a collection of random things I like.

2. The DICE Charter. DICE stands for Diversity and Inclusion at Conferences at Events. If you speak, appear at, organise, or even attend any conference – online or IRL – please please please consider finding a way to get that even DICE certified.