Let me tell you about my favourite moment of SXSW this year.
I’m afraid it doesn’t deliver deep profundity. Nor does it contain any laser-guided insights. The kind to help you harness the infinite power of quantum computing to bolster the effectiveness of those bunion cream banner ads you’re working on right now.
No. Sorry. It has none of that stuff.
It’s more human. And by that, I mean, it’s frothy, flippant and 100% frivolous.
Let me explain.
There I was enjoying a talk by Alex Chung, chief executive of Giphy - front row too - in danger of colleagues calling me a fanboy, as this was the second time I’d heard him speak at a SXSW festival.
On this occasion, we’d already seen impressive numbers,heard bold suppositions on where he thought content was heading and laughed at his carefully curated deck of killer gif side-splitters.
Then he casually showed us his company’s latest thing: a Giphy branded disposable camera that created, well, gifs.
He held one of his new toys in his right hand. At the same time, its image burst into life on the big screens within the ballroom.
Being a man of a certain age, I tilted my head to one side and raised an eyebrow quizzically. Perhaps at the same moment, my mouth opened slightly and attempted to shape a gentle “Huh”. I can’t quite recall.
That’s because, sat either side of me, two black-clad, ink-invaded hipster heroes emitted synchronised sounds of awe and wonder.
“That is sooo kewwwwwwl,” they purred in exquisite harmony. The extension of that final word was longer than the horns of the best-in-breed at the nearby cattle show.
I laughed. For this was peak SXSW.
Forget Elon Musk’s deadpan dystopian deliberations.
Even Arnie announcing there was a completed Triplets script couldn’t compete.
If I had had my wits about me, I would have captured the moment on my mobile using my Giphy app. You know, the one that allows you to record and create gifs.
The Chung wasn’t done yet. Before you could say most-pivotal-moment-in-the-history-of- digital-ecosystems, Alex revealed a second piece of Giphy hardware: a prototype he called the Giphy Frame.
It was sleek. It was snazzy. You could hand it to someone at a party. The gif you can gift. Said no-one ever. Except me.
My BFFs beside of me groped helplessly for their goat-horned coffee mugs. It was all too much.
Even I was forced to pull on the neck of my Keep Austin Weird tee-shirt to cool down a little.
At this point, we the audience were like a hive-mind unified by a single thought: is Alex Chung some kind of wizard?
It was like that moment in Perfume when the crowd’s adulation grows so intense they devour the object of their collective affection in an act of raw beatific cannibalism.
Alex knew this. He’d been here before. He knew how to control the room’s thermostat. Calmer than a zephyr from the prairies, he broke the news: his new-fangled gadgets might never see the light of day. At that moment, a thousand fledgling dreams died. What a tease.
This was my SXSW moment. End of. It wasn’t a brilliant Blockchain breakthrough. Or an immersive XR experience that trapped you inside a monkey mind maze. Or a close encounter with Steven Spielberg.
It was a prototype. A small box. A plaything. One that none of us may ever get our hands upon.
Sorry about that. When all’s said and done, I’m just a bloke who deals in throwaway comments.
Richard Norton is executive creative director for Indicia/Konica Minolta Marketing Services