Digital marketing mecca or industry jolly? Questions from a 30-year-old SXSW virgin

By Adam Reader | Head of strategy

March 12, 2015 | 5 min read

I am a 30-year-old virgin.

Adam Reader

I’m neither ashamed nor proud to admit the fact that despite celebrating its 20th anniversary*, this year will be my first time at SXSW Interactive.

And like any first-timer, I've an overwhelming sense of excitement, anticipation, nervousness and many, many questions to ask. So many questions. Here’s three of particular significance:

What will be the big trends we see at SXSW 2015?

My first question is the one which fills me with the most excitement as I, like many of my colleagues, religiously follow news in the press and on Twitter during the event to get a sense of what everyone is talking about. Similarly I seek out and attend post-event summary sessions such as the IPA's 44 Club round-up of SXSWi.

It always amazes me the number of big themes which emerge out of left field – 3D printing as the next big industry boom, government surveillance, Grumpy Cat as the most queued for event in 2014… the list goes on.

The most interesting trend from last year, and the one I’m most keen to hear about this year, is the discussion around data privacy. Are we still talking about it? Has it moved on?

As someone who works primarily within social and CRM, the development of this discussion and its repercussions for the use of data in a marketing context is particularly salient.

I doubt Julian Assange or Edward Snowden will be dialling in again this year, but will the SXSW fraternity still be debating where we draw the line on access to data? Will we be pondering the future of data rich social networks such as Facebook and how they can both facilitate consumer anonymity whilst accommodating brands?

My prediction: It will be less of a ‘big theme’ but instead will be an ever-present context and consideration for every piece of innovation we see through the week.

Will there be a big launch to come out of the festival this year?

Whilst not technically launched at SXSW, Twitter famously emerged as one of the biggest tech startups to benefit from the festival in 2007. Followed two years later by Foursquare in 2009 (Ahh foursquare, those were the days). And more recently the mobile-app-based transportation network which is revolutionising the mini cab industry, Uber.

Not every year sees such high profile launches, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that 2015 will facilitate at least one ‘next big thing’.

And finally,

Is SXSW a digital marketing mecca or is it all just a bit of an industry jolly?

This is perhaps the question that my agency will be most keen to know the answer to; so as to justify not only sending two of its employees all the way to Texas this year, but also to weigh up the benefit of attending the festival in future years.

For my part I believe it will be a case of ‘you get out as much as you put in’.

Therefore attending key notes, meeting clients, meeting suppliers, and networking with some of the brightest minds in digital will be the order of the week.

Sure there’s likely to be plenty of opportunities to do the drunken cowboy dance over the week (hey, this is Texas baby!) but ultimately this is a reconnaissance mission to the cutting edge of technology. I owe it, not just to my agency and clients, but to myself to learn about and bring back stories of where our industry is heading in the future.

In summary the next week promises to be a voyage of discovery both personally and professionally – ultimately resulting in one hell of a kiss-and-tell story when I get back.

Go easy on me SXSW, it’s my first time!

*The more informed of you may point out that prior to 1999, SXSW Interactive went by the name of SXSW Multimedia. Well done. But let’s be honest, whether you call it a Snickers or a Marathon, it’s still a delicious peanut based chocolate bar so who cares?

Adam Reader is senior strategist at LIDA


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