Three learnings from SXSW Interactive 2019

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Taking place March 8-12, in a city with the unofficial motto of ‘Keep Austin Weird,’ SXSW Interactive is not a usual advertising and media event. It’s one of the few events that explores everything from government issues, social activism, technology to entertainment, music and of course marketing.

Details and Implications:

Story-making and immersive experiences: Walking around downtown Austin, it was impossible to miss activations from HBO and Amazon Prime. Both promoted upcoming shows – the much-anticipated final season of Game of Thrones and new series Good Omens – and went to great lengths to tap into ‘fan culture’ because now we live in an ‘audience-first’ world where we want more than simply to be told a new show is ‘coming soon’. This is the concept of ‘story-making’ rather than storytelling. Amazon took over a 19,000-square-foot space to create an immersive experience called “Good Omens’ Garden of Earthly Delights.” The activation is divided into hell on one side and heaven on the other. HBO created a Game of Thrones experience, thrusting visitors into the shows world and also tied in a link to the Red Cross so that people could donate blood and get a limited edition branded T-shirt in return.

In a panel with the NBA, there was much discussion of how digital players, streamers and leagues are feeding the super fan’s appetite, recognising that traditional fans no longer exist. How fans connect with sports is radically different now and the NBA is using new technology to expand on fan relationships – including launching the NBA 2K League, the first official esports league operated by a U.S. professional sports league. As AR, VR, XR (and much more) grow, there are huge opportunities to create meaningful and memorable experiences for consumers want, which we cover in one of the episodes of our recently launched Season Two of Media Dystopia.

Is privacy dead? A session titled: Beyond the Data Surveillance Business Model focused primarily on data and consumer privacy issues. Elizabeth Warren and other 2020 U.S. Presidential hopefuls and Congress representatives, have recently taken a stance on data privacy from a consumer protection and anti-trust perspective and discussed this on stage. Amy Webb (a ‘quantitative futurist’) held a panel session titled: Fighting Misinformation & Defending the Open Web which asked: As we get more connected in every aspect of our lives, do we really know how safe our data is stored and used? Is all of it being used ethically and will it always be? Ultimately, the key take-away for brands is simply this: trust and transparency. Consumers want privacy and brands and platforms that give it to them whilst delivering valuable services and information, will be the ones that earn their trust.

Inclusion and profit: Filmmaker Cheryl Miller Houser stated during her session: Storytelling and Empathy in a Purpose-Driven Economy, that 78% of consumers want to align with companies that share their values and create positive social impact, as do employees and investors. Brands appear to be inundated by the demand for authentic inclusivity in their campaigns. To drive performance, advertisers need to be active instead of reactive. Meaning, brands are required to represent the widest range of people and go beyond a symbol of inclusion next to their logo. The key learning is to think how you leverage content to elicit an action. Creating content and messaging which reflects the needs and values of your company and authentic representation, will transform brands into a social and cultural movement, driving positive change, brand awareness and revenue.


People love SXSWi because you escape your day to day and can be inspired. So, if you want a deep dive into the specifics of our industry and technology, Austin won’t be for you. However, if you want to get out of your comfort zone and learn something new, head south to nourish your mind and body (the barbecue is excellent). You can check out more from our team at SXSWi on the link below.

Further Reading:
Mindshare in the Loop | SXSW | Digiday