Tag Archives: sxsw

SXSW 2015 – What Will Advertising Look Like in the Year 2020

Written by: Tom Edwards
Bookmark and Share
Bookmark and Share

Now through September 5th, 2014 is the time to vote on panels & presentations for SXSW Interactive 2015. I have submitted a presentation for consideration and would greatly appreciate your support.

Screenshot 2014-08-11 11.06.41

My proposed topic is What Will Advertising Look Like in the Year 2020. This is an in-depth extension of my previously published iMedia article of the same name. Here is a brief outline of the proposed presentation. I will also roll out the new consumer engagement platform called #DatabaseOfYou during this presentation.

Screenshot 2014-08-07 10.30.58

Presentation Description

Where should marketers and brands place bets over the next five years? What is hype over substance? Taking all of this into consideration, I interviewed my strategy teams in Los Angeles, New York, and Dallas to map the state of digital marketing in the year 2020. We had fun with discussions of drones, crypto currency, the internet of people, and more. While the team agreed fundamentally about certain platforms making an impact, there were pros and cons to impact and feasibility. The following panel is the consolidated and highly visual vision of the future of advertisting in the year 2020. This presentation will take a look back at transformational media moments that give clues to the future state of advertising. We will then look at the role of integrated mobile, converged media, connected life and the digital ecosystem of the future. Presentation Cameos by Drones, Terminators, the Jetson’s, Marty McFly, Grumpy Cat and more!!!

Questions to be Answered


The presentation will focus on the three predicted core pillars of advertising in 2020 (Content, Data, Channels). The pillars will fuel the discussion and points of connection between where technology is going and how to stay relevant with a information overloaded consumer.

1) How can media of the past predict the future state of advertising?

2) What role will mobile + wearables play in 2020?

3) How can media fragmentation and personalization unlock new opportunities for converged media?

4) What role will the internet of things and connected life play in predictive advertising?

5) Who will be left standing as major players digital ecosystem players in the year 2020?

Here is a preview of some of the initial visuals tied to the presentation.


I would greatly appreciate your support with a vote. You can vote here. In order to vote you must create an account at http://panelpicker.sxsw.com

Then you can simply search for Tom Edwards and give it a thumbs up to submit your vote.

SXSW - Tom

Thank you in advance for your support! It is much appreciated.

Follow Tom Edwards @Blackfin360

Digital + Physical = Evernote

Written by: Tom Edwards
Bookmark and Share
Bookmark and Share

One item from SXSW 2014 that has remained relevant for me is a simple package of Post-it notes. These are not just any Post-it’s, they are digitally enabled Post-it’s that integrate seamlessly with Evernote. The simple utility of the integration that allows users to convert physical post-it notes into digital, searchable records inspired me to contact the Evernote team for a briefing to bettter understand how they partner with brands.

Post it

During the course of the briefing we touched on many topics such as their current user base of 100M+ as well as their approach to partnerships and how they are working with various device carriers at the OEM level to ensure Evernote is ever present on the latest devices. We also discussed their focus on physical accessories and partnerships with Moleskin & 3M.

Evernote 100M

Evernote’s approach to creating value is to seamlessly become a part of a users daily routine. An interesting perspective about their user base was tied to the fact that out of 1000 people 999 will use Evernote in a different way. Users leverage Evernote as a way to capture anything important to their life, reuse it or stem off of it. From a brand partnership perspective, the goal is to “engage with customers in the right way”. This means that Evernote does not monetize with an advertising-based model, or data mining.

So if there is not an advertising-based model, or data mining how can a brand partner with Evernote?

The real answer is it depends on the brand. If a brand is looking to buy against the current base with a targeted ad model, that is not feasible. The current partnership focus is tied to the Evernote physical marketplace. This is the core revenue driver for Evernote and fits with their mantra of engaging consumers in the right way and connecting the digital and physical world.

Photo May 22, 2 00 46 PM

I do see opportunities to align Evernote beyond physical goods as their growing stable of native applications such as Evernote Food create opportunities to further connect directly with consumers. One of the most valuable elements to work through as a marketer, especially one focused on shopper marketing and “getting on the list” is the fact that Evernote represents deliberate intent on behalf of a user. The user is taking a specific action to interact and store content.

Photo May 22, 1 58 07 PM

Other core benefits of Evernote, if they ever move towards an advertising-based model, would be to leverage their recent addition of location tagging. Location + Tags open up the possibility to better align relevant targeting of consumers. Similar to Pinterest, a user has to take an action in order to maximize Evernote and there is a deliberate nature to the platform vs. search and retrieval. Having the ability to understand what users are interested in combined with other factors such as time & location could open up opportunities to natively connect with consumers with highly relevant and targeted advertising. But that is an assumption that is built on an advertising model which does not exist to date.

Evernote Atlas

When I think of brand categories that may ultimately benefit from an Evernote partnership CPG brands are an obvious choice. From a shopper marketing perspective “getting on the list” is of paramount importance. With Evernotes efforts to seamlessly convert physical notes into digital lists that push reminders to consumers in addition to their focus on specialized app experiences such as Evernote Food there is a great opportunity to maximize a partnership with Evernote.

Photo Mar 28, 8 03 39 AM

The key to a partnership with Evernote is ensuring that your brand aligns with the vision of the Evernote team and is not a traditional advertising play. They are looking for partners that can add value to their users lives on a daily basis so careful consideration will need to be made when developing a strategic partnership.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

SXSW Interactive 2014: A Recap

Written by: Larry Weintraub
Bookmark and Share
Bookmark and Share

sxswI am sitting in the Austin airport, slightly hungover, and I figured it’s as good a time as any to jog my brain and try to remember everything I just experienced at the 2014 Interactive portion of the South by Southwest conference (SXSW).  This is my 6th year attending SXSW Interactive and about my 16th year attending SXSW if you include my days as a music nerd.  And I have to say, this year was as good, if not better, than any to date.

Yes it was crowded and yes it rained for a solid day.  But amidst all that I managed to see what I wanted to see and stay invigorated the whole time.  My personal focus this year was to learn about wearable technology and self-improvement, and gain insight from successful entrepreneurs and groundbreaking innovators.  I attended about 10 sessions which only scratched the surface of what SXSW had to offer.  I took copious notes and as you read this, know that I could have easily shared two or three times as much as what you see here. I’m hoping that by browsing my musings, you’ll be able to sense a little bit of the kinetic energy that I felt this past weekend.

Day 1 – Friday, March 7

I caught a handful of sessions including a conversation with Google’s Eric Schmidt, a few moments with Harvard professor Amy Cuddy, and an inspiring discussion between IDEO CEO Tim Brown and MIT Media Lab Director, Joi Ito.

sxsw-schmidtEric Schmidt and Jared Cohen, co-authors of “The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business”  set the tone for what would be recurring topics throughout the conference such as privacy, the future of the Internet, Bitcoin, WhatsApp, and the impact of technology in a globally connected world. The first part of the discussion concentrated on the political unrest around the globe and how the Internet plays a key role in fueling change and turmoil. The privacy discussion was fascinating and the duo claimed that soon we will need to teach our kids about data permanence before we teach them about the birds and the bees.  Schmidt discussed robots and how physical jobs are being replaced by automation, and that we need not be afraid, but rather embrace this and understand that the next workforce generation needs to consider careers in this area. Cohen added a poignant statement that knowing another language is incredibly important,  “During the cold war many people began to learn Russian. After 9/11 we learned Arabic. The next language is Computer.”

Harvard professor Amy Cuddy led a session about how posture and nonverbal behavior can shape confidence and attitude.  She explained that her research has proven that doing power poses for 2 minutes a day, as well as before you walk into a meeting, can greatly empower you and release chemicals in your body that improve performance. If you haven’t seen Cuddy’s popular Ted talk, I’ve posted it below.

IDEO’s Tim Brown and MIT’s Joi Ito discussed The Future of Making and the connection between design and biology. In this absolutely fascinating session, the two showcased how design goes beyond graphics and user-interfaces, and takes the wearable technology concept further than watches and wristbands.  Ito stressed that biology will have a huge impact on computing and that the amount of data that can be stored on a chromosome far exceeds that which can be stored on a chip or hard drive.  Examples showcased through short video clips included fabric that touches your skin that can translate emotions and how human initiated design can be completed by nature. Supporting that last point, they showed a video involving silkworms that explores the relationship between digital and biological fabrication in design, which I was able to find online and post below.

Day 2 – Saturday, March 8

This was a day where I poured myself into sessions while it poured rain outside. I was truly privileged to experience these discussions and my highlights below barely begin to express the knowledge that I gained on this day.Jullian

I started my day by attending a virtual interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange broadcast via Skype from the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (pictured above).  There were, of course, technical difficulties, but Assange didn’t seem to need much prompting. Each question was met with long in-depth diatribes about conspiracy and irrational governments.  When asked what his life is like, he explained that he’s been a prisoner for 650 days but that he continues to proceed with his mission of exposing injustices and government secrets. He let us know about his team’s involvement in assisting Edward Snowden (who was also doing a SXSW virtual interview on Monday) and that while many of his WikiLeaks reporters are in exile in countries such as Germany, they continue to work for the cause.  He alluded that they were preparing to expose something major very soon.

Simmons.BetterOn a much lighter note, I attended a fireside chat between ESPN’s Bill Simmons and Nate Silver that felt like I was witnessing two friends having a conversation over dinner.  Both guys are funny and incredibly engaging and I found myself wishing the discussion would go on for so much longer than the hour they were allocated.  If you are not familiar with them, Simmons leads one of ESPN’s top content outlets, Grantland and recently scored a major coup by bringing to ESPN one of the nation’s leading data scientists, Nate Silver – predictor of 49 of 50 Senate races and much much more and formerly of the New York Times.  Silver’s blog, www.fivethirtyeight.com will now fly under the ESPN banner.  Simmons and Silver explained that while they are sports fanatics and create sports-related content, they are not exclusive to sports. Simmons’s Grantland is about 50/50 sports and entertainment and Silver claimed his blog will be only 20% sports with Politics, Economics, Science, and Lifestyle being core components and launches on March 17.  I took pages and pages of notes, but the key point that stood out was how ESPN is investing in guys like Simmons and Silver and quietly pulling in some of the most respected editorial forces from top traditional news outlets – NOT NECESSARILY IN SPORTS.  All I could think of the whole time was how brilliant this organization is and that once the cable/satellite breakup comes and we start buying unbundled content on a per channel basis, ESPN will be one of, if not THE biggest winner.

caseAOL founder, Steve Case, was interviewed by Bloomerberg’s Emily Chang. I saw Steve last year and was looking forward to seeing him this year, and he didn’t disappoint. He covered topics ranging from the regionalization of entrepreneurship to immigration reform. On the topic of whether startups all needed to be in Silicon Valley, he professed his love for the bay area but said that huge innovations were coming out of other cities. He said that places like Silicon Valley have huge populations of talent, but competition for that talent is fierce. He said if other cities embrace startups, then talent will follow. Asked about the state of technological innovation, he theorized that the Internet is in its third wave. The first was when AOL started and only 3% of the US was online and only for 1 hour a week. The second wave was the explosion of social media and the corresponding apps and services that were built on top of the Internet.  And where previously companies like AOL, Facebook, and Google needed to be huge companies to foster innovation and growth, this third wave is made up of companies like WhatsApp and Instagram which have/had small teams (50 people and 12 people respectively) and are being bought for billions of dollars.  He went on to talk about his work in DC and helping to pass laws related to small businesses, investment (i.e. legalization of crowdfunding), and now immigration reform that enables businesses to recruit talent from around the world to help the US maintain it’s competitive edge.

gtdI ended the day by attending an interview with David Allen, author of “Getting Things Done” which helps leaders organize their work and personal lives to improve their productivity and their happiness.  I’m a guy who is constantly trying to improve my own efficiency and I found Allen’s confidence and matter-of-fact attitude riveting.  After watching him explain his GTD methodology, I was just dying to re-open my copy of his book which has been sitting on a shelf for years. When an audience member asked him what to do when a meeting is going long and meandering away from any sense of accomplishment he said, “just stand up and tell the room that nothing is being accomplished and leave.” To which the person said, “really?” Yes, really!

Day 3 – Sunday, March 9

By the third day the exhaustion had set in, but I powered through and spent much of the day exploring brand activations all over downtown Austin. oreoOreo was using 3D printers to custom print the filling in their cookies, Cottonelle offered massages and hair styling, AT&T had a massive structure dedicated to art and music, and Samsung basically owned Austin. The Samsung house was filled with the opportunitySamsunghouse to touch and interact with watches and phones and eat, drink, and be seen. I also wandered Rainey street which felt like a row of fraternity houses owned by the likes of Funny or Die, Dropbox, Time Warner, DirectTV, and contingents from Brazil, Germany, and the Netherlands.

I watched one session which was a discussion between Venture Capital superstar Ben Horowitz and the rapper, Nas.  Horowitz is half of the power duo Andreessen Horowitz, investors in nearly every successful new company including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Airbnb, Fab, and more. Ben is a fascinating guy and he was incredibly honest. I personally wish he had been interviewed by someone from the news media rather than Nas, but I appreciate that they were trying to do something a little different. When asked about his partnership with Marc Andreesen, he said, “we hate each other.” He explained that they really don’t like each other and that they don’t like spending time together, yet somehow it works and has made them extremely successful. Ben gave incredible advice and provided a whole host of sound-bites including:ben

  • You need someone in your life that you can count on. The person who will tell you when you are wrong and help you get to the root of your problem and solve it. (He was referencing A-H partner, John O’Farrell)
  • Don’t worry about your mistakes, think instead about your next move.
  • Nobody is a good CEO. It’s not like there is a place where you can learn to be a great CEO. My job is to help CEOs and none of them are that good (he referenced how he’s worked with Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page). It’s something you have to learn on the job.
  • The hardest people to hire or manage are the ones that are really rich. When things get hard, these employees just say, ‘Why am I doing this? I’m rich.  And one day, they just call in rich.’
  • Bitcoin is the Internet of money. There is no regulation, just like when the Internet started. And because of that, we feel a responsibility of being a part of something that groundbreaking.
  • Don’t give up. Stick with it. If you do, you will continue to learn and you’ll have the advantage when everyone else comes around.

The festival is still going on.  There are more sessions and parties, but Monday morning is always my planned time to get back to reality. Those of you who get to see Edward Snowden, Jimmy Kimmel, and the iTunes Festival, I hope you have as amazing an experience as I did. And for some of those who were with me and possibly smitten with a certain grumpy feline, these are for you…


Headlines & Stuff

Written by: Christy Wise
Bookmark and Share
Bookmark and Share

Here are some cool things we read about this past week:

Facebook Unveils News Feed Redesign
Facebook announced a redesign for its News Feed this week. The social network will begin slowly rolling out the new design to users in the “coming weeks.” The new look includes font changes and more prominent photos that span the entire feed. The new look will not impact the ways stories or ads are surfaced. Images for both ads and organic stories will be the same size.

Facebook & Drones?
Facebook is in talks to buy Titan Aerospace, which makes drones. Facebook wants to build a fleet of solar-powered, high-altitude drones, capable of staying aloft for years without having to land or be serviced, in order to bring wireless internet to under-serviced regions around the world.

Twitter Bans Sexy Vines
Vine has been overrun with bite-sized chunks of amateur and professional porn since it first came on the scene, which has prompted Twitter to update their policy to ban sexually explicit content. According to a blog post Twitter stated “for more than 99% of our users, this doesn’t really change anything. For the rest: we don’t have a problem with explicit sexual content on the Internet — we just prefer not to be the source of it.” Vine’s new policy forbids videos depicting sex acts, provocative nudity, and any art or animation that is sexually graphic.

Instagram Inks Ad Deal With Omnicom
Instagram has inked its first major ad deal with a big agency. The photo and video sharing site is rolling out a paid advertising program with a year-long commitment from Omnicom to spend up to $100 million. The arrangement means that users will start seeing ads in their streams from brands that work with Omnicom’s media and creative agencies.

Global Social Media

LinkedIn Launches Beta Version of Chinese Website
LinkedIn is pushing into China, launching a beta version of its new Simplified-Chinese website, branded to offer a more localized experience. The social network has also established a join venture with Sequoia China and China Broadband Capital to explore expanding its Chinese activities.

Noteworthy Campaigns

Oscar Mayer Creates Wake-Up App With Bacon Smell
Oscar Mayer’s latest innovation for building brand buzz is an iPhone plug-in that emits the smell of bacon, serving as an olfactory alarm clock.  The scent-emitting plug-in will only be available to 4,700 winners of a contest which users can enter at WakeUpandSmelltheBacon.com. For those that don’t win, a free Wake UP & Smell The Bacon app, which wakes users with the sound of sizzling bacon, can be downloaded from iTunes.

Twitter-Powered Vending Machine Creates 3D Oreos
Two custom-made vending machines at SXSW will enable attendees to create and eat 3D-printed custom Oreos based on trending Twitter conversations. To use the machines, users browse a selection of trending flavors displayed on a large touchscreen panel on the front of the machine. They choose from among whichever of the flavors and color of the crème are trending, then watch as their cookies are built, in under two minutes.

SXSW Panels

Written by: Larry Weintraub
Bookmark and Share
Bookmark and Share

We could use your help. A few of us are trying to get some panels chosen at this year’s SXSW festival. Please read below and if you like what you see, click through and let SXSW know you’d like to see one or all of these topics covered.  Thanks!

hashtagEvolution of the Hashtag

Organizer: Tom Edwards – Fanscape Vice-President Digital Strategy & Innovation

The evolution of the hashtag session will take the audience on a highly visual journey that answers the question that is on everyone’s mind… Why the hashtag? Looking beyond the # key on your phone, we will explore where the hashtag came from and why it has become a staple of today’s social web. We will also explore how the hashtag connects traditional media with digital and beyond and the potential to create converged media opportunities and how this can create value for brands. Then we will move on to explore how brands are capitalizing on hashtags to create earned media opportunities. Finally we will look into the future and review how the hashtag will impact the future of the newly forming contextual web.

Questions Answered

  1. Where did the Hashtag come from?
  2. Why has the hashtag become a staple in today’s social web?
  3. How is the Hashtag extending TV viewership and creating new converged media opportunities?
  4. How are brands capitalizing on Hashtags to create earned media?
  5. How will the Hashtag impact the future and the new contextual web?

Please click HERE to vote.


Integrated Marketing: Marrying Digital + Real Life

Featuring: Larry Weintraub – Fanscape CEO
Organizer: Scott Perry  – Sperry Media


Online marketing has allowed brands to hit target audiences with reach & efficiency like no other medium before it. And yet brand spending on traditional advertising and street / experiential marketing has stabilized even as smart phones take over the planet. Is integrated marketing, the combination of online marketing & real-world connection, the future of advertising? How do you marry the art of genuine real-world endorsements with the science of digital word of mouth? We bring together a group of experts in the marketing world to discuss to current & future state of marketing.

Questions Answered

  1. Even in a mobile / digital / social world, brands still spend a lot of money on traditional and street marketing. What kind of initiatives have brands launched to encourage fans to magnify their ad spend via posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Vine, etc.? Who have you seen strike the proper balance with online/ offline marketing?
  2. Are brands getting better with incentivizing / empowering fans to share brand messages on their social channels? Are consumers’ friends okay with this, or does this turn into noise at some point?
  3. Tweetchats, hashtags, share / like to win, etc. — how do you avoid noise in these situations, and encourage genuine excitement for a brand? In what instances does gamification build brand affinity?
  4. Let’s talk about the power of compelling content — how deeply do brands want that video / image to go viral, and to what lengths do they use “meme teams” to build live-time topical content for their social channels?
  5. Look around SXSW and you see that brands go to great lengths to use street teams / sampling / events in the real world — what steps are brands taking to get prospects to post about their brand? How far is too far — can too many steps detract from the campaign’s effectiveness? What can brands do to get a better uptick in posts & shares?

Please click HERE to vote.


The Real ROI of Social Media

Featuring: Mike Fein – Fanscape – Director, Research & Analytics
Organizer: Josh Sackman –  ViSalus

The majority of U.S. marketers say that they plan to spend more on social media marketing in 2013, reveals a new study from the Association Of National Advertisers. While both budgets and hiring continue to increase as companies recognize value in investing in social media, social media teams still struggle to show tangible results tied to their social media efforts. This panel of social media experts explores common traps social media teams fall into by paying attention to the wrong metrics, raises ideas on how to better demonstrate the real value of social to their executive teams and clients, as well as identifies areas to improve the real ROI of social media.

Questions Answered

  1. Why doesn’t social media return always follow the traditional ROI formula, with revenue returned being the focus?
  2. How do I actually get a return on raised awareness?
  3. How do I quantify social media results to my executive team and justify the amount of money I am currently spending?
  4. What are some of the common traps social media teams fall into when looking at their digital analytics?
  5. What are the metrics that actually matter when tracking ROI?

Please click HERE to vote.

2013 SXSW Recap

Written by: Larry Weintraub
Bookmark and Share
Bookmark and Share

I’ve had a few days to digest my SXSW Interactive journey so here is a recap…

If I had to summarize this year in 3 words it would be, Don’t Fear Failure. That was a mantra I heard from mega venture capitalist, Vinod Khosla and echoed (in his own subtle way) by SpaceX / Tesla founder, Elon Musk. Both were inspirational speakers and when merged with the question asked of Musk, “You will be disappointed if _______ doesn’t happen in your lifetime?” and the chalkboards I saw around an Austin hi-rise construction site that stated, “Before I Die I Want To _______” I came away with an urgency and a confidence to take on the world.

Yes, this year was more crowded than ever. Trying to get into a panel meant missing other panels because it required a 45 minute pre-session sit-in to guarantee a seat. And parties, well, there were plenty, but again, if you wanted to go to the big ones, count on showing up well ahead of the start time. And I heard a lot of negativity. “This is my last year.” or “wow, this place is ridiculous, I can’t get into anything.” But if you’ve been coming to SXSW for a few years, then you learn how to navigate Austin for these few wonderful days. Flexibility is key and you want to give yourself room to end up on an unplanned adventure that might put you on a bus or cab ride to something you will never forget. And the food, believe it or not, Austin’s food gets better every year. It is already my favorite food town in America but each year I discover even more, often from a truck or at a party. Rarely from an actual sit down restaurant. (Not knocking Austin restaurants, I just rarely find myself eating at one during SXSW).

In addition to the great panels, parties, food, and inspirational speeches, I also observed a lot of trends and new technologies. I paid close attention to how brands were vying for attention and gleaned valuable insights into where we’re headed as interactive human beings.  Here are some of my highlights (and thanks to my friends Brad, Tom, Bryon, and Jeff at The Marketing Arm for helping to compile this list):


Bre Pettis, the founder and creator of the 3D Printer opened the conference by explaining all the ways that 3D printing is changing our lives. In addition to telling us how easy it is to replicate missing toy train tracks and create shot glasses, he debuted the new 3D scanner which literally spun a garden gnome on a plate while lasers captured all aspects of the object.  While we all don’t need a 3D Printer today, at a reasonable cost of $2,200 (relative to its magic-like capability), it was easy to see how these could be a home staple in the coming years.

Google Glass, Talking Shoes, and Popcorn

The new futuristic Terminator-style Google Glasses were all the rage at SXSW. There were demonstrations and a handful of friends of Google were spotted donning their glasses about town. Personally, I can’t wait for these. Meanwhile at the Google Playground popcorn, candy, and mini peanut butter and jelly sandwiches kept me satiated as I did the obstacle course wearing talking shoes that told me to keep going when I really wanted to rest and have a root beer float.

3M’s Virtual Concierge

If you were wondering where to go and what to do at SXSW, never fear, Jennie, 3M’s hologram-ish virtual concierge was there to answer your questions and make you uncomfortable with her Disney Haunted Mansion-like eyes that followed you as you strolled the Austin Convention Center. I actually liked this display and saw it again at JFK airport welcoming me to the Big Apple. If you make your living as a greeter, you may want to start expanding your skill set.

Brand Activations

Chevy provided the best utility once again with their Catch A Ride activation enabling people to test drive everything from an electric Volt to a sporty Corvette. Need a lift in the rain, try flagging down a Chevy. No really, try. Needless to say, I got pretty wet on Saturday.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick spoke at the conference and told us all about the trials of bucking up against the old world of taxi driver cartels. Meanwhile Uber sports cars were seen driving people around along with Uber pedicabs which offered free rides to Samsung Galaxy phone owners.

Ford could be spotted showing off their open source programming for their vehicles with a collaboration with Glympse. If you don’t know, Glympse is an app that can show your friends where you are when en route to meet up. It may sound a bit creepy, but think about how many times you’ve wondered what’s taking your buddy so long to get to you.

Getting a drink in Austin is not that hard to do. Local vodka company, Tito’s made it even easier by providing the Tito’s Trolley that circled downtown Austin while whetting your booze whistle in the process. A simple activation that ironically stood out in a crowded field of brand activations.

Award for Standout Brand

Meanwhile, this year’s award for most visible brand was Samsung. There were numerous activations including pop-up stores, rooftop party decks, the aforementioned pedicabs, old-school phone booths, and even a giant building enabled with NFC which offered up cupcakes, drinks, and snacks when your Galaxy Tab phone was tapped against the bricks.

Crowdsourcing in Action

Merging branding with innovation, American Airlines and AT&T combined for a Hack to create the next great travel app. We didn’t get to see the results, but we were told that over 50 developers participated in the event.

Apps and mCommerce Aplenty

In the App world, there were some previous year favorites hanging around such as Highlight and GroupMe both geared to encouraging people to get to know each other a little better amongst the crowds of people. While mobile payments could be felt from Square, Level Up, Intuit, and others. It was actually hard to pay with cash at times and nearly every food truck in Austin was ready to swipe your credit card across their iPhone.

Content Galore

Content was king at SXSW this year. TV networks were prevalent and at any moment you could find yourself posing on the Game of Thrones throne, meeting the stars of Deadliest Catch, checking out with SyFy Network and Warner Brothers had to offer, or learning the secrets of the new Netflix season of Arrested Development.

Also showcasing in the quickly growing field of digital content was the comedy troupe JASH, made up of Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Reggie Watts, and Tim & Eric. Underwritten by Mountain Dew’s new energy drink Kickstart and built on the YouTube Channel platform, JASH made quite the splash. If the teaser they provided at SXSW was a sign of times to come, we should see some great comedy coming our way and some incredible brand integration that feels relatively natural and  not forced.

So much to see, so little time, so much fun, so much inspiration.

SXSWi Recap

Written by: Larry Weintraub
Bookmark and Share
Bookmark and Share

If you ask me how SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) was this year, I’ll tell you it was fantastic and that I was personally inspired on multiple levels.  Yes it was crowded, I’m not sure the exact number but I heard tale of 20,000 plus attendees, and yes it rained for part of the time.  But SXSWi is all about what you make of it; I went with an open mind, a light agenda, and the desire to learn, and I had a blast.

To summarize SXSWi 2012 in just a few words, it was a place to get motivated for what’s next.  The sessions I attended and the people I met were all looking forward and not back. This year wasn’t so much about what the next big technology was, it was more about what the next big concepts are.  Concepts like The Future of Content, The Start Up Revolution, Storytelling, and Distinguishing Your Product.

Here is a (relatively) short recap of my trip to Austin (Sessions link to the audio when I could find them)…

About Austin / SXSWi

Inside ACC Day 1
  • Long Lines – It started a little rough, the line to get my badge stretched through the entire building.  Estimates were 2 – 3 hour wait time.  #humblebrag, I was able to sneak in with some friends who were sponsors, but I felt a little guilty about it.  This signaled that this year would be much more crowded than in year’s past and made me realize that if I wanted to see specific sessions or attend parties, I’d have to plan on getting there early.
  • Beyond ACC – A few years back the only place you would need to be during the day was the Austin Convention Center.  But now sessions are scattered amongst multiple hotels, bars, restaurants, and private homes.  You learn quickly that you just can’t go to everything and you have to plan your day around travel.  The upside is that Chevy provided free rides if you could “Catch a Chevy” or test drive one of their new cars.
  • Rain – For the first two days it rained hard.  It put a damper on the companies that had outdoor installations and it also made it challenging to get from place to place. The upside was that crowds weren’t too bad and Bing was offering up free food and drinks to lure you in to their soaked city.


  • Lots of Sessions about “Me” – The first panel I attended was the CEO and founder of Thrillist talking about… well, Thrillist.  I also saw sessions where leaders from Google Plus, SCVNGR, Funny or Die, and Living Social talked about themselves.  There were quite a few of these, and some were better than others.  The best ones were where the speakers spoke about mistakes they made and gave insight into what was coming.
Kawasaki + Gundotra
  • Great session about “Me” – I watched the Fireside Chat between social media celebrity Guy Kawasaki and Google+ Plus mastermind Vic Gundotra.  Kawasaki literally grilled Gundotra about Google+ with questions like, “Why don’t you open your API already like your competition?,” “What are you doing about the SPAM issue?” and “Will we see advertising around everything we do in Google+?” I give Gundotra credit, he answered every question with articulate professionalism and he didn’t shy away from anything.  He took full responsibility for the API issue saying that his mission was to open it up by year’s end but that because of the Google ecosystem that includes search, Gmail, and Android, he needed it to be of the highest quality and he wasn’t willing to allow things to break all the time like they do on a certain other social network.  He claimed that they were hyper focused on the SPAM issue and pointed out that because of Gmail, they were the best at figuring this out.  And he stressed that while you will see advertising, because of the laser targeting capabilities that Google has, you should be seeing incredibly relevant advertising.  He also stressed that not everything will have advertising, he said that you should not expect to see ads when you open content like photos.  The main takeaway, and the most important point for marketers like myself was that Gundotra wanted everyone to stop thinking of Google+ as a social network and instead think of it as Google 2.0.  He said that for the first time, all Google products were working together including search, documents, email, social, and mobile.  This is just the start of a major renovation for Google, he said, and you will see a continuity like you’ve never seen before.
  • Great session about storytelling – I went to the session titled, “Does Your Product Have a Plot?” by R/GA’s David Womack.  A full house watched as Womack described the structure of a good story and how some brands have mastered the art of storytelling and how others have not.  I am a huge fan of storytelling and as Womack was talking I found myself scribbling thoughts on how to improve many of the projects I’m working on right now.
Tim O’Shaughnessy and Steve Case
  • Another great session about “me” (Part 1 – Steve Case) – My favorite session of all was the Fireside Chat between AOL founder Steve Case and LivingSocial CEO Tim O’Shaughnessy in a session called, “Tapping Into America’s Secret Sauce: Entrepreneurs.”  Both were there to promote their own initiatives but the insight that O’Shaughnessy gave about building his business and where it was going was truly enlightening.  Case promoted his political initiatives surrounding the Small Business / Start Up act which is culminating right now in the Senate.  He explained that 40 Million jobs in the US are attributed to small businesses and that we should be promoting growth in this sector vs. large businesses which ultimately don’t net a lot of new jobs, they just rise and fall and essentially stay even.  Case also spoke about the Sharing Economy and some of the investments he’s made in transportation (zipcar) and hospitality (Exclusive Resorts). He also referenced his appearance on the Colbert Report and how Colbert asked him about sharing toasters.  Additionally he discussed the idea of Crowdfunding concepts like Kickstarter and how the Start Up bill would allow this to happen on a grander scale and relieve some of the restrictions that currently prohibit companies from having more than 500 investors.
OgilvyNotes Interpretation
  • Another great session about “me” (Part 2 – Tim O’Shaughnessy) – Case admitted in full transparency that he was an investor in LivingSocial but then proceeded to ask some incredibly challenging questions of O’Shaughnessy like, “When will you go public?” and “Why did you partner with Amazon?”  O’Shaughnessy handled the tough questions well and consistently referred to Groupon without calling out their name.  He explained that the climate was not right to go public (Groupon!) but that it was a necessary step to compensate both investors and employees.  In reference to Amazon, he said that LivingSocial is a local company and Amazon is a massive national/global company and together they were ideal partners.  This is where it got interesting.  He explained that LivingSocial’s mission is to be the local company that powers businesses that have things to sell.  Meaning that LivingSocial was looking beyond just “deals” and finding ways to help small businesses grow through their platforms.  One example he had was that LivingSocial was helping restaurants create new businesses such as cooking schools in their less busy hours.  He said that the “deal” business was just one step in their plans.  When Case asked “What mistake did you make that you could advise others to avoid?” O’Shaughnessy replied, “Move faster.”  He explained that LivingSocial started as a Facebook-based advertising-based business that was earning $1 Million a month and then scrapped that business for the “deal” business.  He said that was a hard thing to do both for his employees and investors but that in hindsight he wished he’d done it faster.  He said that 3 months could have made all the difference (alluding to the fact that Groupon got the jump on them).  The final point that resonated with me was when O’Shaughnessy explained that they realized the impact of Facebook ads before anyone else.  While other web-based companies were using mostly Google search, they realized that their audience was responding tremendously to Facebook ads.  He told the audience to pay attention to new forms of advertising and marketing that others haven’t figured out yet.


Aside from the great sessions I attended, I received tremendous inspiration from the countless conversations I had primarily with people I was meeting for the first time or hadn’t seen in quite a while.  The topics that motivated me the most revolved around:

  • Content – It was clear from all the major media companies and countless start ups that content geared for online and mobile viewing is being produced at a rapid rate.  I have a personal point of view that within the next two years, once the connection between our mobile devices and our televisions becomes seamless, there will be an explosion of content.  We will go from 1,000 channels on our television to hundreds of thousands; that we’ll see far fewer shows that reach 5 million people and more that reach 10,000.  But those shows will be targeted.  We’ll see shows about home improvement, gardening, tax preparation, education… you name it.  There will be seemingly endless niche-based programming that will not have major ratings, but it will be appealing to advertisers and sponsors because of it’s hyper targeting.
  • Innovation – Riffing off of something that Tim O’Shaughnessy said in his panel, true innovation is not about improving another company’s product by 10%, it is about complete reinvention.  There was a lot of bouncing of ideas with people and improving each others’ concepts.


Lots of them.  It is really hard to stand out at SXSW because there is a ton of competitive noise and very little space to properly brand yourself. That said, there were a few standouts:

  • Chevy – You could not miss Chevy at SXSW.  Their cars were everywhere as was their signage.  As previously mentioned, they provided tremendous utility with their “Catch a Chevy” program which helped people get from place to place – a significant help with the bad weather, the spread out sessions/parties, and a huge lack of hotel rooms.
  • Bing – Great setup with food, drinks, and games.  Bummer on the rain and the technology breakdown of trying to register on non-working laptops was comical given the Microsoft sponsorship.
  • Nike – Amazing installation for people that owned the Nike Fuel band.  Block long exercise court lined with massive digital walls.
  • The Sponsored Cafes – CNN and Fast Company took over restaurants and offered free food, drinks, entertainment, and co-sponsored interactions from the likes of 3M, Samsung, and Kind.


Also lots of them.  The best thing I experienced this year was seeing music at some of these parties.  I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to avoid music to just focus on tech, but sometimes  you just can’t get away from your true love.  And this year I ran smack into a couple of amazing bands that ended up being highlights of my SXSWi experience.

Ghostland Observatory
  • Friday night I was introduced to Ghostland Observatory at the Start Up America Partnership (Steve Case’s cause) party and was literally blown away.  I haven’t been this excited after seeing a band since the first time I saw Nine Inch Nails play.  Turns out I’ve been living under a rock and these guys are already huge, but thanks to @Brad Alesi at The Marketing Arm for introducing me to these guys.
  • Speaking of Brad Alesi, he also introduced me to Green River Ordinance at the AT&T w/ Jason Falls party.  Again, I didn’t go expecting to see a band, just to hang with some AT&T folks and to have great hot dogs @Frank, but turns out I got treated to a great band, who like Ghostland has been around for quite a while and has a huge following.  I must be living under a rock.  But glad I climbed out to see these bands.

In conclusion, I had a great trip, saw some amazing sessions, ate like a fool, rocked out, and came back invigorated!

Here are some other reports back from SXSW that will give  you some additional perspectives:

More Thoughts on SXSW

Written by: Larry Weintraub
Bookmark and Share
Bookmark and Share

Scott Biggers

When I was at SXSW, I got to share the experience with some great people. My friend Scott Biggers sent me his recap and I asked him if I could share it here. To which he said, “of course!” So here goes…

My impressions of 2011 SXSW.

  • Overwhelming. The conference feels too big. Too many locations, SRO sessions, and escalator jams. Too many people, hipster hats and iPads, as well. Aside: When I sat next to some iPad toting developer in a session, he glanced at me with my primitive notebook and phone and said, with a mix of reassurance and condescension, “That’s OK. I’ve got an iPhone, too.”
  • The impressive writeups of the sessions rarely matched the sessions themselves.
  • Presentations are more informative than panel discussions. Panel discussions are more entertaining than presentations.
  • Love the serendipitous meetings and networking opportunities. (Especially when you’re hanging with someone like Larry.)
  • Overuse of the mysterious “social graph” term.

Top three quotes

  1. “Geospatial reasoning” – Even though the context was the geo-location game session, my geek buzzword siren went off.
  2. “Ceding control to the peeps” – Bob Garfield, half-jokingly getting hip
  3. “Thinking in real time” – Classic.

My ten favorite observations from the sessions:

  1. Check in is a brick and mortar “like” button
  2. TV used to be the definition of being at home. Only way it could grow was to escape from the home.
  3. Social TV simply mirrors the allure of watching TV together. (Remember the laugh track?)
  4. Number of followers and likes in social media is not a good measurement of engagement.
  5. Nor is giving a thumbs up or making a comment; that’s not engagement
  6. Agencies are afraid of non-fiction for the brands they represent. They’re used to putting Vaseline on the lens.
  7. 40 year old mom is the hardcore gamer for Zynga
  8. Augmented Reality leads us to the Outernet, where the phone becomes your mouse and everything is clickable. (The Internet of Things)
  9. Customers are more interested in talking to your employees than to your brand.
  10. Innovation is driven by desires. It used to be driven by companies – but now is driven by consumers. Mobile TV has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with people

To elaborate on that final point:
Amid the promises, explorations, and celebrations of the latest technology at SXSW, there was a constant reminder of humanity. As in technology and innovation only work when they provide a utility and serve the needs of people. Also, that people love stories – and they love to be part of stories.