Archives For sxsw

If you have any experience with mobiles, or South East Asia, or mobiles in South East Asia, you’ve probably come across QR codes several times over the past six or seven years and filed them quietly under ‘Only in Japan’. Get ready to take them out dust them off, as the general population starts coming to grips with the ease of ‘mobile bookmarks’ and people start dreaming up cool new uses for these pixilated black and white squares.

QR codes, and the companies hoping to ‘monetise’ them were at SXSW in full effect, reminding everyone that SMS started life as a test signal format for telco engineers and its current iteration is as a popular web service based on messages of 140 characters. You may have heard of it.

Need to rewind? Catch the previous episode, where Ad Agencies learn “How To Throw A Party (Like You Mean Business).”

Stay tuned for the next episode when ad agencies learn more “How To Get (Rich And) Famous”

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 seems you can make a lot of friends, and some business as well, by renting out a bar (or auditorium) and inviting everyone in town, a tactic employed literally dozens and dozens of times every single night. Apart from the decidedly rockstar party thrown by The Barbarian Group (featuring an indie-rock supergroup, with actor Michael Cera on bass), the really big money events were bankrolled by publishers, software houses and platforms.

Hosting company Rackspace went burlesque. Microsoft held a massive BBQ for start-ups & VCs, and a huge dance party for their latest browser upgrade – both on the same night. Tech blog Mashable took out a double-fronted, three story pub for two consecutive nights yet, in true publisher style, they sub-let the party to a slew of major sponsors. The Foursquare and Frog Design parties were easy to find (just look for the queues) but took hours to get into (just look at those queues!). The biggest event was the official closing party, thrown by Media Temple (mt) (yet another web hosting company), held at a 2,000 capacity open-air bar and featuring a live musical performance. By the Foo Fighters.

The money these parties must have burned through was simply astonishing, but they were packed to the gunwales with people pitching, angling, dealing, wooing, financing, networking and recruiting. It was just like being at the conference, only with a (free) drink in your hand.

Need to rewind? Catch the previous episode, where Ad Agencies learn “How to Launch an App”

Here’s the next episode, where ad agencies learn “Why You Shouldn’t Write Off Yesterday’s Hot Technology.”

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.

The shadow of Twitter (and Foursquare) loom large over SXSW. These two apps found their first public breakthroughs at the festival (in 2007 and 2009 respectively), and are now on their way to world domination.

Everyone start-up wants to be known as “SouthBy’s breakout app” and the key seems to be encourage usage, rather than awareness – a tactic followed religiously by the makers of Hashable, a location-based personal networking service.

The makers of Hashable stayed home, choosing instead to send 20 ‘power users’ to Austin to “hash” as many people as they could in 5 days. They pretty much ended up networking the entire town.
A group of young Aussies also made the trek to SXSW this year to launch their mobile audio tour-guide app called iTourU, setting up a presence at the Trade Show with assistance from Austrade, but relying mainly on enthusiastic users, who created almost 50 custom tours of Austin on the platform in the first few days of the conference.

Other notable launches included LiveShare (private group photosharing), GroupME, (private group messaging), Acts Of Sharing (private group lending your DVDs and stuff) and Neer (location-aware reminders, that could probably be configured for private groups, if that’s what you’re into).

I spoke to lots of these people, and more, in the podcast interview “12 SXSW elevator pitches in 12 minutes”

Need to rewind? Catch the previous episode, where Ad Agencies learn “How not to pay for anything @ SXSW”

Stay tuned for the next episode when ad agencies learn “How to Throw A Party (Like You Mean Business)”

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 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.

30,000 people. 743 presentations. 217 parties.  5 days. 1 cherry-red Corvette.

Putting all of that into one presentation was only ever going to offer a skim along the surface. If you’d like to dive in, here are some great places to start: is, as you’d expect, the official home of the event.


Videos of the Keynote presentations have just been posted up on the official site, including Seth Priebatsch (SCVNGR), Guy Kawasaki (new book: The Art of Enchantment) and the incendiary Bruce Sterling (highly recommended).


The official SXSW Schedule now includes audio recordings of most of the panels and presentations.

The SXSW Trade Show page lists and links all the companies that had a presence in the exhibition hall.


The Sydney Ogilvy Mission to SXSW has blog posts, tweets, photos and more.



The w2fm FM podcast channel on iTunes has the daily podcast wrap-ups and interviews from the event.


The SXSW 2011 Slideshare collection hosts many of the official decks and presentations used at the event. is home to all the ‘visual facilitations’ created by ImageThink


SXSW: Everyone wants a piece is a guest post on the new trendspotting blog STW Nextness

The official SXSW Channel on YouTube majors on music but also contains several keynotes and presentations.

CNN’s coverage of SXSW in blog form.

The Guardian’s coverage of SXSW, assisted by the folks at the supremely laid-back Austin Chronicle.

Mashable’s coverage, of both the event and their two-day long party at Buffalo Billiards

A primer on how gamification works from HowStuffWorks.

Marc Ecko’s Unlimted Justice Project, an attempt to outlaw corporal punishment in US highschools.

A food review of Salt Lick, Austin’s famous BBQ restaurant, on the Test With Skewer blog.

The first thing we did when getting back to sunny St Leonards was to host a SXSW PopUp Gallery here at Ogilvy House.

Photos, OgilvyNotes, flyers and new vocab

We plastered the walls with large-scale printouts of the ‘visual facilitations’ from the brilliant OgilvyNotes project, added our own photos, definitions of new buzzwords and vocab, flyers, posters and stickers.  This gave people a sense of the sheer scale of the event and the depth of the content on offer – over 700 individual presentations, panels and keynotes were scheduled over the 5 days and attendance was guesstimated to be around the 30,000 mark.

Have we met before?

We also created a Business Card Tree, made from the collection of cards we were handed over the festival – it was kind of fun to browse the collection to see if I could actually remember who these people were and what we might have talked about. It certainly gave a sense of the types of people who were there and the companies they represented: basically everyone.

A collection of swag*, including t-shitrs, wristbands, caps and other giveaways was complemented by the official programs, brochures, newspapers and handouts that seemed to accumulate in your backpack like barnacles, no matter how hard you tried to stay paper-free during the event.

On a lighter note, a small celebrity sightings gallery  featured imeges of Ashton Kutcher, kanye West, Michael Crea, The Foo Fighters and more, all of whom made various appearances around Austin. To keep the vibe authentic, we also trucked in a load of delicious tacos from Guzman y Gomez, a case of Miller genuine Draft (served from a cooler, Salt Lick-style) and kept the tunes humming with Texas-soaked alt-country faves like Stevie Ray Vaughn, Lyle Lovett and Jim White – with a few bonus Foo Fighters tracks for good measure.

What’s the takeout? We learnt a ton of new stuff (including the fact that someof the old stuff is still pretty good), met a ton of new people and have a tone of new ideas worth sharing. And we’ll be doing just that, by delivering a series of presentations to the agency (1o Things Ad Agencies Can Learn From SXSW) and to our clients (Get Ready To Gutenberg: Why your Brand’s Future Is In Publishing) over the next few weeks.

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