Another 10 days of SXSW madness have come and gone in Austin, Texas, but what’s going to stick around? I talked to GSD&Mers who went head-first into panels, activations and more to learn about what stood out in all the noise this year.
Overall, we saw three themes of success:
Keep reading for more SXSW smarts straight from the experiences of our people.
The Comcast/NBC Universal house had fun and simple shareable moments that people were happy to wait in line for. From Michael Scott’s desk straight from The Office, to a professional modeling photo experience by Project Runway, people got to interact with shows they know and love.
“Method doesn’t matter. It’s the effect.” Technology is developing and becoming cooler every day, but we can still create immersive experiences in scrappy ways.
In a discussion with venture capitalist, Roger McNamee, on the topic of big corporations and data, he discussed how their business models are a misuse of our trust and will ultimately affect future laws and elections. His most important takeaway was to focus this power on the good that we can do (e.g. birthday donations on Facebook) as a society before it’s too late.
Good Heavens—they’re an upbeat, beachy, indie-rock band who put on a lively and super fun show.
My favorite panel was a discussion between musician Brandi Carlile and actor Elisabeth Moss where they compared and contrasted their creative processes in their respective industries. It made me realize we all have rituals and tools that spark our creativity and allow us to be better storytellers.
SXSW taught me that 1) I know nothing, and 2) women run the world.
The Good Omens activation for the new Amazon Prime original show was well thought out and conceptual without feeling complicated. Details like “Heaven” or “Hell” bracelets, puppies labeled as “Hell Hounds in Training” and the Tree of Eden bar gave a sense for the show without making me feel like I was being sold something.
Yola. Tyler Ramsey. Cautious Clay. Novo Amor.
“Immersive Marketing: Beyond the Instagram Palace” discussed the importance of creating authentic experiences, like the trend of “fantasy worlds,” because consumers are more prone to feel an emotional connection. In turn, we see social posts happen organically and consumers will capture unique parts of their individual experiences.
Whatever it is, keep it authentic.
During “Milk Bar: Innovation in Pursuit of the Unexpected,” chef and founder of Milk Bar, Christina Tosi, spoke about remaining relevant without losing authenticity. It’s about trying and failing, trying and iterating and ultimately creating a unique experience that stays true to the brand.
It’s not about “experiential” per se, it’s about doing something different and distinct.
Well, you heard it here first straight from our experts. Be genuine and get genuine responses in return, don’t be afraid to stand out and at the end of the day, simplicity wins. We’re beyond lucky to live in the heart of Austin where we can walk outside of our doors, soak up this knowledge and bring it right back in. From how we’re telling stories in First & Only ways to finding room to do good using our strengths in advertising, our people are already activating what SXSW 2019 taught us.
Until next year, SXSW!
It’s the aroma of fried food and warm beer, getting the perfect picture in the perfect #ootd and getting the ultimate snap of the wild crowd dancing to this year’s biggest radio hit. It’s the era of music festivals and it’s not slowing down. According to a study conducted by GMR, a whopping 14.7 million millennials attended at least one music festival in 2014. With over 800 music festivals in the U.S. alone today (and a new one was probably just announced as you’re reading this), one can only imagine how the number of festival attendees continues to grow.
Millennials demand authentic, shareable experiences. To garner as much exposure with America’s largest consumer group, brands are infiltrating the music festival industry. As the commercialization of festivals rises, sponsorship spending is on the verge of hitting $1.5 billion—the equivalent of buying 3,000 trips to Mars.
Today, festivals rely on brand sponsorship and brands rely on festivals for unparalleled fan engagement. With all this partnership, it’s critical to ask, “What does a successful brand-festival relationship look like from the eyes of music fans?” As a 21-year-old self-proclaimed festival expert who has attended over 15 music festivals in the last year alone, to me, these are some of the brands that understand their market.
Shares, hashtags, selfies and tweets are the currency of the digital age, and these are the brands that get it. Their integrations are thoughtful and meaningful, not plug-and-plays. They combine elevated experiences, pop culture and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to capitalize on millennials’ need to keep sharing moments.
Today’s festival junkies expect impressive brand integrations just as much as they expect good music, because experiences are what make spending hundreds of dollars on a single weekend worth it.
How often in this industry can we say we’re truly changing lives? How often are we given an opportunity to sell hope instead of product? Those briefs are few and far between. So when Walgreens asked us to create a campaign for their HIV-specialized pharmacies that could help build a better future for those affected by the disease, I was both humbled and elated.
Going into this project, I didn’t know much about HIV. I knew there had been advances in treatment and that people were living longer. But I didn’t know that doctors now consider HIV a chronic disease, not unlike diabetes or high blood pressure. If you’re diagnosed early and adhere to your treatment regimen, you can live a long, healthy life. That was news to me. And as we learned during our briefing, it was still news to the rest of world.
A few days after the briefing, I was sitting in my partner’s office kicking around ideas when he threw out, “Let’s Grow Old Together.” We saw the genius in it immediately. What better way to tell people that their diagnosis is not a death sentence than with the promise of old age. While the line was great, saying you were going to live a long time wasn’t enough. We needed to show people that they could actually grow old with HIV. And that’s when the idea of a virtual timeline came into existence—starting with diagnosis and going through every milestone of the HIV journey, all the way to retirement.
And what if we had people living with HIV be our guides along that timeline, sharing their stories, advice and inspiration at each milestone?
It was a big, ambitious idea—much bigger than the print ads, banners and trade show booths the client was expecting. It was also a digital-first idea, requiring a highly emotive and immersive site experience to truly do it justice. One of the first challenges we faced was integrating that experience into Walgreens.com, a primarily e-commerce destination. Finding the appropriate solution wasn’t easy. We worked tirelessly with Walgreens web team and our dev partner MediaMonks, ultimately landing on an elegant solution (plus I learned what canonical tags are).
With the technical part mostly ironed out, it was time to produce the content for the site. Two rounds of casting led us to seven amazing people leading full, happy lives in spite of their diagnosis.
Like a man who’d been diagnosed in the ’80s, an HIV-positive and HIV-negative married couple and a woman who’d only had two T cells at the time of her diagnosis. Walgreens also introduced us to an HIV pharmacist who has an incredible relationship with his patients—a you-couldn’t-script-something-this-sincere-and-heartwarming relationship.
On the last day, one of the women we were interviewing revealed she’d never really believed she had a bright future until this shoot. Hearing the stories of others just like her had given her a new perspective. If creating the site was this meaningful for the HIV patients we were filming, imagine how transformative it could be for the rest of the HIV community.
Nearly a year from concept to creation, the site is now live, and we’re beginning to hear positive responses from the HIV community. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t go into advertising to change lives. But now I can say it’s the reason I’ll stay in it.
Visit and experience “Let’s Grow Old Together” here.
Yahoo launched a new browserish thing today. As an app, it runs on iPad, iTouch and iPhones. From what I can tell it allows you to carry your search and web experience seamlessly across devices. As a browser plugin, it’s supposed to be a better search experience. I have no idea what it’s like to use Axis in real life so let’s crowd source this thing. I’m installing it on all my iDevices and Firefox. You do the same with your browsers (Chrome, Safari, Explorer). Put your thoughts and reviews in the comments. Let’s have some fun.