ClickZ’s South by Southwest Industry Preview

ClickZ caught up with some top industry insiders before they headed to Austin for South by Southwest Interactive to discuss which panels and topics they’re most looking forward to this year.

zachary-paradis-280x380Zach Paradis, Director of Strategy at SapientNitro

South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive has gone from being this little thing that was kind of a cute, off-to-the-side event to a hub for product management, user experience, and start-ups. It’s really an opportunity to stand in the future a little bit to see what’s next. I think the start-up component continues to be a critical thing for marketers. Getting exposed to people trying to break new ground in new industries is a tremendous opportunity because you’re allowed to kick the tires of these new ideas and see if they’d work for your business. I’m planning on going to the wearable technologies accelerators. Wearables is a category that everyone’s talking about. Going to these accelerator sessions and actually seeing eight different companies attacking wearables with radically different approaches, this is what allows marketers or product developers to think, “How could this apply to my customers?”

juusomyllyrinneJuuso Myllyrinne, Global Digital Strategy Director for TBWA

There are a couple of hot topics at SXSW this year. Last year, there were a lot of conversations about privacy and data issues. I think those topics will still be hot this year. Consumers are becoming more and more aware of marketers using their data and in some cases abusing their data. How do you tackle that?

We’ve also just been talking about data in the sense of media usage. I think we’re ready to talk about it also as a creative tool. Another thing that will be discussed quite a lot is virtual reality. The technology is turning to the point where you buy a hundred dollar headset and you put your phone in it and it’s a virtual reality headset. But is it practical? What can marketers do in that space? That’s going to be one of the key topics. It’s a dividing thing. Some people say absolutely, and some say absolutely not. I think it’s a question of who is going to crack the market and create the content.

farrah-bezner-headshotFarrah Bezner, Sour Patch Kids Marketing Director for Mondelez International

We’ve been working a lot with social influencers on Sour Patch Kids, and I’m interested in seeing how that’s evolved and what people are talking about in the space of influencers. I see influencers as today’s culture hackers; people who are breaking culture to make culture, whether that’s YouTube influencers changing the way content is being created or musicians creating popular music. I see SXSW as a great place to discover new culture makers. We still divide SXSW into those three buckets of Interactive, Film, and Music, but those lines are really blurring. As people and brands try to connect with one another, we’re all leveraging each other’s strengths.

azher-ahmedAzher Ahmed, Senior Vice President and Director of Digital Operations at DDB Chicago

In an era of data/security and privacy concerns, Gigya is doing some exciting things around social identity. I look forward to hearing how they are positioning their new focus to brands and agencies.

And it’ll be fun to participate in the start-up pitches that McDonald’s is hosting and see what comes out of it in terms of a better convenience for their consumers.


doughopkins-photoDoug Hopkins, Director of Experience Strategy & Design for Isobar US

I am personally very excited and looking forward to topics such as the role and use of data to shape highly tailored user experiences and how organizations can leverage the exponentially growing amounts of data to glean insights to inform the launch of new products and services or to enhance the design of their offerings. I’m also looking forward to topical tracks related to how companies and their agency partners can move more quickly using agile methods, while still creating greater levels of certainty by leveraging data or testing to insure that more rapid releases will succeed and not fail. It’s also important to focus on more consistent topics that fall outside of hype cycles, such as ethnographic research opinions on how technology is changing people’s lives and the culture at large. This is a point of view that takes a step back and examines the change dynamics in a more thoughtful way than just trying to determine or categorize what is hot or not.

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