With only one day to go until one of the biggest industry events of the year, ClickZ is super excited to be attending the South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive festival 2014. From Saturday, March 8, through to Tuesday, March 11, we’ll be bringing you original coverage of the largest trends that are coming out of the event, as well as exclusive interviews with some of the biggest marketing and technology influencers.
But before we go anywhere, we wanted to give you a sneak peek into some of the biggest topics of conversation at this year’s SXSW Interactive – or the biggest anticipated topics of conversation, should we say. In order to do that, ClickZ asked a few industry leaders their thoughts on what they expect. Here’s what they said:
ClickZ: What do you expect the biggest topics of conversation to be this year at SXSW and what are you most looking forward to?
Kayla Green, director of Digital and Enterprise Strategy, Saatchi & Saatchi LA
I think we’re going to see a lot of discussion around the topic of privacy this year. It’s a subject that’s top of mind right now and as we hear from companies who are leading in new digital capabilities, there will be questions around the privacy implications of these new technologies and tools. Brands and agencies need to be cognizant that this is something audiences want to know more about, and we’d be doing ourselves a disservice if we rallied around new technologies and innovations without asking the tough questions around privacy and data management.
The conversion of technology and marketing lands at SXSW, so it’s natural that the new apps, services, social media platforms, and tools that make our lives better always seem to shine in Austin. However, the conversation this year may not be around the newest shiny object, but rather around questions of privacy – how secure is user information, where is the data stored, who owns the data, and how does the audience maintain privacy with these new products and services?
What I’m most looking forward to? My job is to understand human behavior and motivations surrounding digital technologies and platforms. Those of us in strategic planning fields look forward to SXSW as a meeting ground for experimentation with leading edge technologies and social platforms. Once a year, we find ourselves in Austin with thousands of early adopters who jump head first into the new launches of products, apps, and services while at the Interactive festival. These early adopters spend their time in Austin talking about what’s on their phone, what they’re wearing, who they’ve connected with, and how. All of this new technology leaves people like me searching for the how and the why of this new media usage so that we can generate a level of foresight and understanding of how we can apply these new technologies to our business.
Heidi Browning, senior vice president, Strategic Solutions, Pandora
This year at SXSW we’ll continue to see the exciting trend of highly personalized technology, products, and media that can learn and adapt to the user. Product and service monopolies are nearly extinct: consumers want their own special, customized connections with apps, websites, and brands. From a brand perspective, as consumers become more connected through smartphones, wearable technology, cars, and homes, the clear winners will be the brands that understand what they really want and deliver it flawlessly through a simple, personalized user experience. Looking at the connected car, for example, it has to deliver a wholly different experience that augments the driving experience rather than hindering it and keeps things intuitive for the connected consumer. So, while the latest and greatest products change from year to year at SXSW, fundamentally, the rules of success are the same.
Nathaniel Perez, global head, Social, SapientNitro
SXSW delivers another year of action-packed knowledge. I believe the top themes will be:
• The intersection of creativity and innovation will be at the heart of the conference this year. Pushing the boundaries of technology-enabled creativity has and will keep being a key conversation. Exploring how innovation and creativity has and can fuel new ways to build products, businesses, and cultures is a fascinating aspect of what’s going on these days.
• Wearables and the Internet of things will obviously be the shiny object this year. As last year brought Google Glass in its early forms to the SXSW public, this year will kick wearables into the stratosphere, helping audiences grasp the power of wearable experiences, data and the quantified self, and much more. Beyond wearables, Internet-powered devices and appliances, and the seamless role they can play in our lives, will also be a popular topic.
• DIY and hacker culture: This is a “doer’s” revolution. From quirky to crowdfunding to 3-D printing. I believe SXSW will impact the power that technology is having on the very human ability to make things. I’m really eager to connect with new vendors, start-ups, and emerging tech companies. Also always happy to be inspired by the power of the SXSW crowds and knowledge.
Peter Fasano, senior vice president, Social, Ogilvy
My annual “spring break for nerds” trip to Austin for SXSW has a heart that beats in the center of the Driskill Hotel bar. We gather here for late-night conversations yielding the most value and percolate for the months following. I anticipate conversations this year will bubble up into three focus areas – Big Data, the Internet of things, and collaborative economies.
The event proves the market supply and demand opportunities that drive collaborative economies – I booked my stay at Airbnb and will navigate the city with via UberX and a shared bike. The Internet of things driving home, car, and health tech are exploding as consumers embrace quantifying and optimizing their daily lives. Together, these two trends are driving the insights and innovation for the start-up and corporate worlds through bid data. Meet me for a drink after 1 a.m. to carry on the conversation.
Dave Marsey, executive vice president/managing director, DigitasLBi, San Francisco
I believe the biggest topic of conversation this year will be around large-scale marketing activations happening outside the convention center or hotel ballroom. Like Gogo’s use of their test plane for a lucky few to experience their new text-based air-to-ground product. Or Pennzoil’s plans to let riders test-drive a life-sized Mario Kart to promote their new natural gas product. I don’t anticipate any big topics around new products or innovation, which is a shame given what the conference is all about.
Matt Herrmann, executive vice president, director of Strategy, BBDO San Francisco
I think the most interesting questions and conversations at SXSW 2014 will be around the nexus of wearables, biometrics, and genomics. Will the near future contain a plethora of devices that measure very specific variables from our life, or are we headed toward a convergence of devices, with most of our personal data coming from apps? Will that data lead to more efficient user recognition, making the password problem feel “very 2013”? And ultimately, is there a real appetite from mass audiences for this fire hose of data, or is it all just very nuanced naval gazing? The answers will shape the future of behavior-based marketing strategies.
The best moments of SXSW are always the most unexpected, but I’m very much looking forward to two talks for two radically different reasons. Kristina Halvorson’s talk “Go Home Marketing, You Are Drunk” promises to remind us all that jumping onto the next shiny new thing isn’t always the best strategy. Most marketers still have plenty to accomplish with the less sexy, but more productive tasks of consumer understanding, content strategy, and product iteration. Also, as an unrepentant nerd child of the ’80s, I’m also looking forward to having my consciousness expanded by Neil deGrasse Tyson’s talk. For me, SXSW is always inspiring, but the moments that have the most lasting value are those that give you a new perspective on the world – I can’t think of a better person to do just that.
Aki Spicer, head, Social and Digital Strategy, TBWAChiatDay New York
I expect some chatter directed to programmatic, native, (free) app economy, wearables, Bitcoin, and the seeming tablet usage crash after four years. Oh, and iBeacons.
I’m looking forward to a few things. I’m most eager to connect with others, particularly digital leaders so we may share notes on a few different topics. These include, agency integration – how are we all doing? Clients “getting it” – what are others experiencing? Budgets, particularly social – anybody else seeing the cash? Also I’m looking forward to the next technology. After all, Twitter debuted at SXSW years ago. Foursquare and countless other geo-location apps exploded at SXSW. I’m always interested to see what is dominating phones and interests.
David Shulman, chief executive, Organic
Four years ago, when I attended my first SXSW, I went looking for a glimpse into the future and in search of the “next big thing.” It was eye-opening. And exhausting. And while I didn’t find “it,” I did take away a few insights which subsequent trips to SXSW have continued to reinforce.
As I return for my fourth year, I am clear on what SXSW is all about for me. It’s not about finding the newest technology; I saw plenty of that at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas just a few months ago. It’s not about the next big start-up; it’s hard to keep a secret nowadays. It’s not about the killer keynote; I can catch all the tremendous speeches online, without having to struggle through crowds in Austin. For me, the real value at SXSW is the personal interactions and ideas that are birthed out of these conversations. The human-to-human interface. The human connection.
What I’m most looking forward to? Talks about smart objects and environments and how to design great customer experiences with them. Conversations about the different uses of data and how it is able to deliver true human value. Learning about innovative start-ups that spark ideas that can help our clients better connect with their consumers. Informal exchanges with peers and presenters about emerging topics and ideas that are revolutionizing the way we will connect tomorrow.
My advice: don’t over-schedule. The most valuable parts of SXSW are unplanned. The unintended introductions, unexpected interactions, and unplanned conversations are where ideas are hatched and value is created. These are the things I’m most looking forward to next week.
Will you be at SXSW? Come and say hi if so! We always love to meet our readers, both old and new. We’ll also be equipped with our video camera so if you have something digitally exciting going on, please tell us about it. If you’d like to meet, please email me at Melanie.White@incisivemedia.com.
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