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It became quickly apparent that most start-ups, publishers and platforms believe the fast-track to revenue is to start working with big brands, and the agencies that service them. As the battle to impress marketers began in earnest, the downtown area of Austin devolved into a promotional gladiator pit and pretty much everything trended to free. Tacos, ribs, hot dogs, t-shirts, breakfasts, beers, wristbands, taxi rides, newspapers, web hosting, domain names, carry bags, portraits, test drives, tacos (again), energy drinks, coffee (none of it good), sunglasses and concert tickets were being palmed on every corner.

About the only freebie I failed to spot was a USB memory stick. Which is a pity, because there was a moment when I really, truly, needed one. The really striking thing was how few of the giveaways or promotional tricks were related to the positioning of the brand they were in the employ of, in any way shape or form. But what they lacked in brand synergy, they made up for in sheer volume.

Need to rewind? Catch the previous episode, where Ad Agencies learn “Why you should keep on (or start) playing video games.”

You’re ready for the next episode, when we take lessons in “How to launch an App.”

This video is part of the video blog series  “10 Things Agencies Can Learn From SXSW” presented by Barrie Seppings, Creative Director at Ogilvy Sydney.


If there was one word getting thrown around with absolute abandon during SXSW 2011, it was gamification, a newish word to describe the addition of ‘game mechanics’ such as rewards, levels and status to the interaction between (in most cases) a brand and a consumer.
At least half a dozen panels were devoted to the topic, as well as the Keynote on day 3, where Seth Priebatsch, Chief Ninja of SCVNGR, tried to push through the hype and talk about ‘the game layer’ that is coming to, well, just about everything. In the aftermath, a lot of commentators pointed out that these ‘game mechanics’ are already well embedded in everything from Frequent Flyer programs to your driver’s licence, but that hasn’t stopped the gamification buzzwagon from picking up speed.

Need to rewind? Catch the previous episode, where Ad Agencies learn “How to be useful”.

Watch the next episode, when ad agencies learn “How not to pay for anything” – a skill they are already pretty good at.

This video is part of the video blog series  “10 Things Agencies Can Learn From SXSW” presented by Barrie Seppings, Creative Director at Ogilvy Sydney.

Before I say another word, a moment of full disclosure. I’m an Ogilvy employee, have been for years and I went to Southby on the company dime. That said, of all the official agency activities, stunts and campaigns I saw that week in Austin, Ogilvy’s made the most sense. The New York office engaged a team from ‘graphic notation and facilitation’ firm ImageThink to create visual representations of the major panels and presentations.

These colourful, playful one page summaries were photographed, shipped off to a local printer overnight and emerged the next morning at the OgilvyNotes stand as huge piles of takeaway notes for anyone to grab. In a technology-saturated, mobile-app-focussed environment, these low-tech, analogue, paper-based notes were a hit, not for their novelty value, but for their usefulness.

Plenty of other agencies took to the stage, so to speak. Dentsu had a large stand at the trade show focusing on mobile innovation. JWT played caterer by renting a food truck and giving away free BBQ ribs. Sapient Nitro threw a big party on the opening night. Razorfish participated in several panels and solo presentations. The Barbarian Group did both. The only real misstep, in my opinion, was made by R/GA, who launched a mobile game called ‘SXSW Inferno: Welcome to Social Media Hell’ the week before the conference. Everyone I know signed up to play immediately – then quickly discovered the game was ostensibly making fun of them, and never played (or spoke of) it again. Seems you can’t make friends by turning up to a party and laughing out loud at what everyone’s wearing. Check the video for the full rant.

Need to rewind? Catch the previous episode, “#1 How to think like a software company”.

Stay tuned for the next episode when ad agencies learn “Why you should keep on (or start) playing games.”

This video is part of the video blog series  “10 Things Agencies Can Learn From SXSW” presented by Barrie Seppings, Creative Director at Ogilvy Sydney.

It felt like almost all of the agency types in Austin had converged on one conference room to listen to people from the likes of Barbarian Group, Google, Tribal DDB and Simple Geo talk about how technology is affecting the agency model and the creative process.

There were plenty of good thought starters (applying software development theories like ‘Agile Development’ and ‘Scrum Management’ to the agency process), and some neat metaphors (the brand as OS, campaigns as apps), but it fell short of providing a blueprint. Maybe because there were no actual project managers from actual software companies on the panel. Or maybe because no-one has truly, honestly, worked this out yet. It is abundantly clear, however, that plenty of people are interested in re-tooling the OS of the traditional ad agency. Take a look at the ideas and thought-starters in this episode of the the videoblog series “10 Things Ad Agencies Can Learn From SXSW”

Need to rewind? Catch the previous episode, where we introduce “10 Things Agencies Can Learn From SXSW”

Ready for the next episode? See which ad agencies learn “How to be useful” at SXSW.

Now in its 25th year, SXSW hit the big time in 2011, thanks largely to the interactive portion of what was traditionally a music and film festival. An estimated 30,000 people ‘checked-in’ to Austin in an attempt to discover the very near future of the interwebs, and it felt like most of those people were in marketing.

If proof were needed that the web is mainstream news in America (at least), the festival’s major sponsors were a car company and a soft drink manufacturer. CNN set up a broadcast facility across the road from the convention centre for the week. The Guardian UK also sent a team to produce a special lift-out news section dedicated to the event. Conan O’Brien reportedly did a couple of shows live from ‘SouthBy’. Ashton Kucher showed up, presumably to make it even easier for people ‘on the Twitter’ to follow him.

Where the brands, the broadcasters and the stars go, the ad agencies surely follow – myself unashamedly included – to see what they can learn (or steal).

This videoblog series explores “10 things agencies can learn from SXSW” and is taken from a presentation I gave @ Ogilvy House, Sydney, recently. The first episode gives a background to the event and a look at the “mainstreaming” of digital in the American marketing landscape.

Ready for the next episode? Lesson 1 – How to think like a software company.

We absolutely believe it does – now we have the stats and the case study to prove it.

In a nutshell, the task was to get a range of IT professionals to attend a large, 2 day live event covering a diverse range of topics and products in Sydney. The customer insights revealed that IT professionals actually attend events to meet up with their peers and colleagues – but they can’t really use that as their justification.

So we used this insight to develop a campaign value proposition for the event: “Meet the people who can help you plan your future infrastructure.”

This is classic w2fm thinking, making it incredibly easy for the audience to work out and articulate what is in this event for them. So far so good, but the real work came when the team decided to apply the value prop not just to the communications, but to the design of the event itself. Take a look at the video to see how the team executed ANZ Pulse 2010 event, and the results it generated:

In the case of IBM’s Pulse 2010 event, the results were very rewarding for everyone on the team, but it was also really satisfying for us here at w2fm to see a customer-driven value proposition executed so well  – and then to return such amazing results.