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SXSW: Day 1 Recap

SXSW: Day 1 Recap

Havas Global Comms

Havas Global Comms

March 11, 2019

Diversity, autonomous vehicles, eSports, and the changing media landscape dominated the talks at the start of the festival.

Missing out on SXSW this year? Fear not, the Havas Media US team has got you covered. They’ll be providing daily highlights on the sights and sounds of the annual Austin-based conference. Check out the Day 1 highlights below:

 

Jess Santini, Communications Manager:

SXSW 2019 kicked off on International Women’s Day, where diversity and inclusion proved to be a major theme throughout the conference. Staying true to my feminist heart, I decided to stick to female-lead panels on my first day in Austin—where I learned about the importance of representation in the workplace.

The most insightful panel I attended was To Go Far, Go Together: Technology’s New Imperative with Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Founder Priscilla Chan, and CNN Anchor Poppy Harlow.

Chan’s foundation, CZI, works to leverage technology to make the world a better place. They focus on education, science, justice, and opportunity. They also live and breathe diversity with a workforce that’s 61 percent female and 30 percent underrepresented minority. A child of refugees, Chan recounted how her own experience of feeling underrepresented as an Asian-American youth affected her perspective of equality and opportunity as an adult. When establishing CZI, it was “super-intentional” to build diversity into their DNA.

Chan explains: “We believe that we need diverse perspectives at the table to build the solutions that we deserve.” She added that in order to activate change, you need to get uncomfortable and dive deep into the issue at hand.

In an industry with a significant diversity issue, it’s imperative to listen to Chan’s words and take action. We all know that when there is diversity in the C-suite, the results are better. “You see those values in action,” says Chan.

Adam Stolz, Supervisor Ad Ops:

This is my first time at SXSW, so I really did not know what to expect. Obviously, I’m fully aware of the breadth and scope of this event, but the logistics and coordination are quite awe-inspiring. I will admit that the day looked like it was going to start out rather glum as I made my way to the Austin Convention Center to pick up my SXSW badge at registration and was greeted by a line of 3,000 people that wrapped around all four sides of the building. However, credit to the SXSW facilities team(s) for their diligence, because as soon as the doors opened at 9 a.m. the line moved rapidly. In total, I would say I waited about 50 minutes to get my badge, which I was certainly okay with, and left the Convention Center with a very good first impression.

On to my first session: Science Fiction or Future Science. I was extremely excited for this panel as it had Science Fiction Writer Ytasha Womack, Curator for the Space History Department at the Smithsonian Margaret Weitekamp, Research Analyst at Aerospace Industries Karina Perez, and VP of Development and General Manager of Boeing Phantom Works Mark Cherry. All very articulate and brilliant people in their own rights, but I must admit I left the session feeling a little flat. While I appreciated the topics discussed: “What would happen if?” (a question both artists and scientists grapple in tandem), “Can innovation come from dystopia?,” and “Can science fiction keep up with innovation?” I was left a little unfulfilled. Not because what was discussed wasn’t interesting, but more because it was too top-level, and these were ideas that I already ponder often enough. My deep-core nerd wanted more meat around the answers, not so much a bunch of tangible items that we’ve all seen and experienced (the Motorola flip phone getting inspiration from the Star Trek communicator, for example). With that being said, it was still a very good panel with a lot of interesting/fun topics being shared, and I was certainly humbled by the brilliant minds that were in front of me and their complete dedication and passion for their field.

As I made my way to the second session of the day, I didn’t know it at the time, but a theme was starting to build. I’m going to call this theme “Future Fact” because this next panel blew my mind! Media and Entertainment for Autonomous Vehicles—I really do not have enough time to fully extrapolate all the information provided in this panel because I’m still decompressing it as I type. All I can say is this is an untapped gold mine and anyone or any entity that is not investing or developing into this landscape now is going to be left in the dust. By 2030, it is estimated that 30 percent of the shared miles on the road in the US will be either with electronic or autonomous vehicles, and we’re looking at a potential $7 trillion industry in the next 20 years. (Yes, I said “trillion.”) The most fascinating part about all of this is that most of us do not grasp the concept of AV (I’m going to start using the acronym now). We’re not talking about just linear media funneled and targeted to you while you stream your Netflix show on your phone. We’re talking about the concept of “The 25th Hour” and what people would do with their time if they literally had an extra hour a day to learn, network, game, shop, sleep, and (for many) work. So how do we take advantage of this vast new frontier with an immersive AR/VR environment for AV? And just as importantly, who owns it? The auto manufactures sure think they do. Perhaps, Bose with their speakers in the car think they do. The data company pushing the environments definitely think they do. So from there, where is the commerce generated and how does this get paid for? Well, that’s also the big debate. Obviously, our first initial thoughts are brands, though how they market/design/develop these new concepts is up to us to help guide. Then there is also the talk about subscription-based models as well.

Needless to say, I’ve just scratched the surface of this wonderful conference, and I’m very much looking forward to Day Two.

Meredith Carber, Associate Media Director, Digital Investments:

A shift is occurring in the media/journalism industries, where standard forms of digital advertising are being de-emphasized, and the need for authentic storytelling and content is growing. As Baratunde Thurston stated, “In the current landscape, we the people, are now we the product.”  Ad dollars are being spent on buying consumer data and serving ads in “relevant” environments without taking into account how consumers are interacting with content on a publisher’s site, what actually is relevant to the consumer, and what will create actual impact and engagement. Publishers like Quibi are building short-form mobile content that aligns with consumer video consumption habits and short attention spans, while the New York Times is realizing that in order to maintain brand integrity and build authenticity and a loyal consumer base, they must shift from relying just on ad spend to fund their business model and find alternative methods. The alternatives being considered include:

  1. Building a relationship with consumers via meaningful and unique content that not only tells a story but shows the impact (print, digital, podcasts, etc.) and is exclusive to publisher’s members, but can only be accessed via a paid subscription model.
  2. Government subsidies (i.e., media tax), though more of a long-term solution that would allow consumers the freedom to consume any content they choose, without having to select which ones they are willing to pay for.
  3. Do away with audience targeting of ads and focus on building strong and impactful content and actively selecting the right brand to align with that content.

How Does This Affect Our Clients and Our Business:

In healthcare, the focus has been to leverage hyper-targeted data segments to reach users regardless of where they consume content, to ensure qualified audience awareness and engagement with messaging. However, given the limited engagement seen on banner media and consumers high engagement with various formats and authentic and impactful content, healthcare brands need to rethink their marketing strategy. They should view it as a full-funnel approach, where they are not only aligning with relevant content but utilizing publisher data from their audiences to curate extremely relevant content (in various formats), which can provide brand integration—allowing brands to reach the right consumer and build authenticity. This data can then be used, in addition to other audience factors, to re-message and drive the conversion.

Jenn Bjorklund, Connections Planning Director:

The power of personalization and choice is critical for the “connected fan.” Brands like the NBA and NFL are challenged with keeping their 18–34 target audience engaged across a 2+ hour program, and there is a need to make these games more immersive—making the fans feel as if they are right there on the sidelines. The recently launched Fan-Controlled Football League (FCFL) recognized this and took cues from eSports to create a league that puts the fans in the game. In FCFL, fans pick the roster and call the plays in real time. Basically, it’s Madden brought to real life for Twitch. Traditional sports athletes are thought of as “gladiators,” and these leagues are challenged with showing the human side of the athletes, whereas with eSports and FCFL every user has the opportunity to be a star. Platforms like Twitch make it easier to build a 1:1 personal connection across the community as consumers can speak directly with these eSports athletes and their fellow community members, and react to real-time feedback. Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, the newest owner and captain in the FCFL, spoke to how the NFL needs to evolve the game, to highlight the lighter side, and make it more fun.

How Does This Effect Our Clients and Our Business:

There is a lot that traditional sports can learn from eSports, and it is the merging of these two where opportunities for fan growth may stem. The community aspect is at the heart of fandom, and brands (sports or otherwise) should look for opportunities to take direct feedback from their consumers to make them feel they are fully immersed in the experience and keep their attention. Furthermore, traditional sports leagues still have that exclusivity factor, and there’s a huge gap between the fan and the player. Breaking down these barriers by finding ways to make the athletes more accessible and putting all on a more even playing field will give consumers a sense of belonging and brand loyalty. Lastly, as fandom grows through opportunities to personalize their experience with platforms such as Hulu, it’s important brands think about how they are tailoring experiences to each unique individual fan.

Kristen Ziaks, VP Director Communications Strategy:

Major Takeaways:

Brené Brown, Researcher, Brené Brown Education and Research Group

  •      “We are more digitally connected than ever, yet we feel more isolated than ever before.”
  •      “We are hardwired to crave belonging. It is part of our DNA. True belonging is found when you have the courage to speak your whole truth with your whole heart, and that is the best way to protect creativity.”

Maria Shriver on the women’s health crisis she wants to bring awareness to the most: brain health

  •      “Women tend to put their own health on the back burner. That isn’t respecting yourself or honoring brain health. Companies need to know that many of their employees are caregivers. We are a caregiving nation, and no one talks about it.”
  •      “Stress, sleep, where you work, who you interact with all have long-term implications for brain health. This should matter to ALL businesses because if their employees aren’t putting their mental health first, it’s impossible to bring creativity to the day-to-day.”

Chad Johnson, former NFL player and league owner, on the eSports gamification of real sports

  •    “The reason this industry has taken off the way it has is because there isn’t another platform that exists today that allows communities to take part and engage with one another like eSports.”
  •      “For those that have tried to argue whether or not eSports is a true sport, I would say, ‘Are NASCAR drivers not athletes because they are sitting down?’ All sports are 90 percent mental, regardless of the level of physicality. There is no room for error. You have to be at peak performance mentally to excel.”
  •      How sports that rely on traditional broadcast mechanisms (cable, network) will have to compete: “Traditional sports will need to evolve. Viewership is going down—they need to make changes. It feels like an ivory tower now where fans don’t have a voice. It’s passive.”

Ariel Horn, Global Executive Producer, Riot Games

  •      “Every decision we make is an effort to foster a fan/player dynamic. Building a community where the fan has a voice. To that end, I’d like to see our community grow up a little bit; right now, that voice is hiding behind a keyboard. We need to support each other.”

The Weekly: New York Times Expands to TV

The New York Times has dabbled with cinematic long-form video via Showtime’s Fourth Estate, which premiered last year. But this is their first foray into producing long-form content for cable TV, which is less about the process of journalism and focuses squarely on the stories and characters whose voices need to be heard.

Sam Dolnick, Editor, New York Times

  •      “Each of these episodes should help people understand the world and seek the truth. Good stories should transcend formats, and you’ve seen that with our expansion into audio/video. This is a continuation of that journey.”
  •      On whether the NYT has enjoyed a jump in subscriptions due to the cultural context of the “Trump Bump”: “It’s partly that, but it’s also a result of how much access we are now privy to. There’s an overwhelming amount of information out there, and people are hungrier than ever for the facts and the truth. What is fact vs. fiction? That’s the mission of the New York Times.”

How Does This Affect Our Clients and Our Business:

In a landscape where there is so much choice, noise, and access, brands will need to understand what authentic value they bring to consumers in order to engage in a meaningful dialogue. What this means is that we must push ourselves as marketers to think beyond rational product benefits and identify the core consumer insights and needs that will connect with our audiences on another, more meaningful level. What is the brand’s POV that strikes a chord on an emotional level with their consumers? This is exacerbated by a world that is increasingly digital-first. Humans are craving interactions that feel authentic and unique and are hungry for communities to engage in where they feel they have a shared interest and common ground.  Brands that can figure out a way to facilitate this community in a way that resonates and brings a unique POV will win.

Missing out on SXSW this year? Fear not, the Havas Media US team has got you covered. They’ll be providing daily highlights on the sights and sounds of the annual Austin-based conference. Check out the Day 1 highlights below:

 

Jess Santini, Communications Manager:

SXSW 2019 kicked off on International Women’s Day, where diversity and inclusion proved to be a major theme throughout the conference. Staying true to my feminist heart, I decided to stick to female-lead panels on my first day in Austin—where I learned about the importance of representation in the workplace.

The most insightful panel I attended was To Go Far, Go Together: Technology’s New Imperative with Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Founder Priscilla Chan, and CNN Anchor Poppy Harlow.

Chan’s foundation, CZI, works to leverage technology to make the world a better place. They focus on education, science, justice, and opportunity. They also live and breathe diversity with a workforce that’s 61 percent female and 30 percent underrepresented minority. A child of refugees, Chan recounted how her own experience of feeling underrepresented as an Asian-American youth affected her perspective of equality and opportunity as an adult. When establishing CZI, it was “super-intentional” to build diversity into their DNA.

Chan explains: “We believe that we need diverse perspectives at the table to build the solutions that we deserve.” She added that in order to activate change, you need to get uncomfortable and dive deep into the issue at hand.

In an industry with a significant diversity issue, it’s imperative to listen to Chan’s words and take action. We all know that when there is diversity in the C-suite, the results are better. “You see those values in action,” says Chan.

Adam Stolz, Supervisor Ad Ops:

This is my first time at SXSW, so I really did not know what to expect. Obviously, I’m fully aware of the breadth and scope of this event, but the logistics and coordination are quite awe-inspiring. I will admit that the day looked like it was going to start out rather glum as I made my way to the Austin Convention Center to pick up my SXSW badge at registration and was greeted by a line of 3,000 people that wrapped around all four sides of the building. However, credit to the SXSW facilities team(s) for their diligence, because as soon as the doors opened at 9 a.m. the line moved rapidly. In total, I would say I waited about 50 minutes to get my badge, which I was certainly okay with, and left the Convention Center with a very good first impression.

On to my first session: Science Fiction or Future Science. I was extremely excited for this panel as it had Science Fiction Writer Ytasha Womack, Curator for the Space History Department at the Smithsonian Margaret Weitekamp, Research Analyst at Aerospace Industries Karina Perez, and VP of Development and General Manager of Boeing Phantom Works Mark Cherry. All very articulate and brilliant people in their own rights, but I must admit I left the session feeling a little flat. While I appreciated the topics discussed: “What would happen if?” (a question both artists and scientists grapple in tandem), “Can innovation come from dystopia?,” and “Can science fiction keep up with innovation?” I was left a little unfulfilled. Not because what was discussed wasn’t interesting, but more because it was too top-level, and these were ideas that I already ponder often enough. My deep-core nerd wanted more meat around the answers, not so much a bunch of tangible items that we’ve all seen and experienced (the Motorola flip phone getting inspiration from the Star Trek communicator, for example). With that being said, it was still a very good panel with a lot of interesting/fun topics being shared, and I was certainly humbled by the brilliant minds that were in front of me and their complete dedication and passion for their field.

As I made my way to the second session of the day, I didn’t know it at the time, but a theme was starting to build. I’m going to call this theme “Future Fact” because this next panel blew my mind! Media and Entertainment for Autonomous Vehicles—I really do not have enough time to fully extrapolate all the information provided in this panel because I’m still decompressing it as I type. All I can say is this is an untapped gold mine and anyone or any entity that is not investing or developing into this landscape now is going to be left in the dust. By 2030, it is estimated that 30 percent of the shared miles on the road in the US will be either with electronic or autonomous vehicles, and we’re looking at a potential $7 trillion industry in the next 20 years. (Yes, I said “trillion.”) The most fascinating part about all of this is that most of us do not grasp the concept of AV (I’m going to start using the acronym now). We’re not talking about just linear media funneled and targeted to you while you stream your Netflix show on your phone. We’re talking about the concept of “The 25th Hour” and what people would do with their time if they literally had an extra hour a day to learn, network, game, shop, sleep, and (for many) work. So how do we take advantage of this vast new frontier with an immersive AR/VR environment for AV? And just as importantly, who owns it? The auto manufactures sure think they do. Perhaps, Bose with their speakers in the car think they do. The data company pushing the environments definitely think they do. So from there, where is the commerce generated and how does this get paid for? Well, that’s also the big debate. Obviously, our first initial thoughts are brands, though how they market/design/develop these new concepts is up to us to help guide. Then there is also the talk about subscription-based models as well.

Needless to say, I’ve just scratched the surface of this wonderful conference, and I’m very much looking forward to Day Two.

Meredith Carber, Associate Media Director, Digital Investments:

A shift is occurring in the media/journalism industries, where standard forms of digital advertising are being de-emphasized, and the need for authentic storytelling and content is growing. As Baratunde Thurston stated, “In the current landscape, we the people, are now we the product.”  Ad dollars are being spent on buying consumer data and serving ads in “relevant” environments without taking into account how consumers are interacting with content on a publisher’s site, what actually is relevant to the consumer, and what will create actual impact and engagement. Publishers like Quibi are building short-form mobile content that aligns with consumer video consumption habits and short attention spans, while the New York Times is realizing that in order to maintain brand integrity and build authenticity and a loyal consumer base, they must shift from relying just on ad spend to fund their business model and find alternative methods. The alternatives being considered include:

  1. Building a relationship with consumers via meaningful and unique content that not only tells a story but shows the impact (print, digital, podcasts, etc.) and is exclusive to publisher’s members, but can only be accessed via a paid subscription model.
  2. Government subsidies (i.e., media tax), though more of a long-term solution that would allow consumers the freedom to consume any content they choose, without having to select which ones they are willing to pay for.
  3. Do away with audience targeting of ads and focus on building strong and impactful content and actively selecting the right brand to align with that content.

How Does This Affect Our Clients and Our Business:

In healthcare, the focus has been to leverage hyper-targeted data segments to reach users regardless of where they consume content, to ensure qualified audience awareness and engagement with messaging. However, given the limited engagement seen on banner media and consumers high engagement with various formats and authentic and impactful content, healthcare brands need to rethink their marketing strategy. They should view it as a full-funnel approach, where they are not only aligning with relevant content but utilizing publisher data from their audiences to curate extremely relevant content (in various formats), which can provide brand integration—allowing brands to reach the right consumer and build authenticity. This data can then be used, in addition to other audience factors, to re-message and drive the conversion.

Jenn Bjorklund, Connections Planning Director:

The power of personalization and choice is critical for the “connected fan.” Brands like the NBA and NFL are challenged with keeping their 18–34 target audience engaged across a 2+ hour program, and there is a need to make these games more immersive—making the fans feel as if they are right there on the sidelines. The recently launched Fan-Controlled Football League (FCFL) recognized this and took cues from eSports to create a league that puts the fans in the game. In FCFL, fans pick the roster and call the plays in real time. Basically, it’s Madden brought to real life for Twitch. Traditional sports athletes are thought of as “gladiators,” and these leagues are challenged with showing the human side of the athletes, whereas with eSports and FCFL every user has the opportunity to be a star. Platforms like Twitch make it easier to build a 1:1 personal connection across the community as consumers can speak directly with these eSports athletes and their fellow community members, and react to real-time feedback. Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, the newest owner and captain in the FCFL, spoke to how the NFL needs to evolve the game, to highlight the lighter side, and make it more fun.

How Does This Effect Our Clients and Our Business:

There is a lot that traditional sports can learn from eSports, and it is the merging of these two where opportunities for fan growth may stem. The community aspect is at the heart of fandom, and brands (sports or otherwise) should look for opportunities to take direct feedback from their consumers to make them feel they are fully immersed in the experience and keep their attention. Furthermore, traditional sports leagues still have that exclusivity factor, and there’s a huge gap between the fan and the player. Breaking down these barriers by finding ways to make the athletes more accessible and putting all on a more even playing field will give consumers a sense of belonging and brand loyalty. Lastly, as fandom grows through opportunities to personalize their experience with platforms such as Hulu, it’s important brands think about how they are tailoring experiences to each unique individual fan.

Kristen Ziaks, VP Director Communications Strategy:

Major Takeaways:

Brené Brown, Researcher, Brené Brown Education and Research Group

  •      “We are more digitally connected than ever, yet we feel more isolated than ever before.”
  •      “We are hardwired to crave belonging. It is part of our DNA. True belonging is found when you have the courage to speak your whole truth with your whole heart, and that is the best way to protect creativity.”

Maria Shriver on the women’s health crisis she wants to bring awareness to the most: brain health

  •      “Women tend to put their own health on the back burner. That isn’t respecting yourself or honoring brain health. Companies need to know that many of their employees are caregivers. We are a caregiving nation, and no one talks about it.”
  •      “Stress, sleep, where you work, who you interact with all have long-term implications for brain health. This should matter to ALL businesses because if their employees aren’t putting their mental health first, it’s impossible to bring creativity to the day-to-day.”

Chad Johnson, former NFL player and league owner, on the eSports gamification of real sports

  •    “The reason this industry has taken off the way it has is because there isn’t another platform that exists today that allows communities to take part and engage with one another like eSports.”
  •      “For those that have tried to argue whether or not eSports is a true sport, I would say, ‘Are NASCAR drivers not athletes because they are sitting down?’ All sports are 90 percent mental, regardless of the level of physicality. There is no room for error. You have to be at peak performance mentally to excel.”
  •      How sports that rely on traditional broadcast mechanisms (cable, network) will have to compete: “Traditional sports will need to evolve. Viewership is going down—they need to make changes. It feels like an ivory tower now where fans don’t have a voice. It’s passive.”

Ariel Horn, Global Executive Producer, Riot Games

  •      “Every decision we make is an effort to foster a fan/player dynamic. Building a community where the fan has a voice. To that end, I’d like to see our community grow up a little bit; right now, that voice is hiding behind a keyboard. We need to support each other.”

The Weekly: New York Times Expands to TV

The New York Times has dabbled with cinematic long-form video via Showtime’s Fourth Estate, which premiered last year. But this is their first foray into producing long-form content for cable TV, which is less about the process of journalism and focuses squarely on the stories and characters whose voices need to be heard.

Sam Dolnick, Editor, New York Times

  •      “Each of these episodes should help people understand the world and seek the truth. Good stories should transcend formats, and you’ve seen that with our expansion into audio/video. This is a continuation of that journey.”
  •      On whether the NYT has enjoyed a jump in subscriptions due to the cultural context of the “Trump Bump”: “It’s partly that, but it’s also a result of how much access we are now privy to. There’s an overwhelming amount of information out there, and people are hungrier than ever for the facts and the truth. What is fact vs. fiction? That’s the mission of the New York Times.”

How Does This Affect Our Clients and Our Business:

In a landscape where there is so much choice, noise, and access, brands will need to understand what authentic value they bring to consumers in order to engage in a meaningful dialogue. What this means is that we must push ourselves as marketers to think beyond rational product benefits and identify the core consumer insights and needs that will connect with our audiences on another, more meaningful level. What is the brand’s POV that strikes a chord on an emotional level with their consumers? This is exacerbated by a world that is increasingly digital-first. Humans are craving interactions that feel authentic and unique and are hungry for communities to engage in where they feel they have a shared interest and common ground.  Brands that can figure out a way to facilitate this community in a way that resonates and brings a unique POV will win.

Havas is one of the world’s largest global communications groups, and committed to creating meaningful connections between people and brands.

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