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Asking the experts: SXSW 2019 recap

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:

  1. Brands should prioritize authenticity over flashiness.
  2. Brands should be different and distinct in a world of experiential sameness.
  3. Usually, the simplest ideas are the best.

Keep reading for more SXSW smarts straight from the experiences of our people.

 

Jay Esteves, experience strategist

What brand activation worked?

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.

#1 Takeaway

“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.

 

Tori Ciniglio, jr. writer

What was your favorite panel and why?

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.

Best musical discovery

Good Heavensthey’re an upbeat, beachy, indie-rock band who put on a lively and super fun show.

 

Harper Biewen, jr. art director

What was your favorite panel and why?

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.

#1 Takeaway

SXSW taught me that 1) I know nothing, and 2) women run the world.

 

Elizabeth Thompson, VP, group strategy director

What activation worked?

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.

Best musical discovery:

Yola. Tyler Ramsey. Cautious Clay. Novo Amor.

 

Evan Walker, associate media director

What was your favorite panel and why?

“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.

#1 Takeaway

Whatever it is, keep it authentic.

 

Valerie Furgerson, JR. strategist

What was your favorite panel and why?

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.

#1 Takeaway

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!

Mason

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