SXSW 2016 day 4: Be curious.

By Ian Barry, SVP/Executive Creative Director

Four days into SXSW–it’s almost over–and I’ve attended a lot of sessions with great information. Here are brief summaries and my thoughts on some of the best ones.


Session with Ben Lerer from “Thrillist.” This was the best case I’ve heard for the death of TV and shift to online. In a nutshell, history repeats itself. First there was TV. Then cable took over (TV’s first form of content). Now online media has taken over. Example: Consumers are shifting from MTV to Vice, Lifetime to Refinery 29, Comedy Central to Funny or Die. As a result, cable is dying, and marketers need to shift their dollars online. You can see this presentation over on SlideShare.


Session with Christian Brucculeri with Snaps, Robert Candelino with Unilever, Anthony Green with Kik, and Leslie Robin with Comedy Central. This was an eye-opening session. Marketers are clamoring to figure out advertising opportunities within Messaging apps like WhatsApp, Snapchat (our Cedar Fair client has a great Snapchat program) and Kik. With 257 billion messages sent per day, it represents a huge opportunity to engage users, but it can’t be just any sort of advertising. In these extremely personal and intimate forms of conversation, users won’t tolerate interruptions. Companies like Snaps and Chatbox are currently working with brands to try and bridge this content advertising gap on messaging platforms. This warrants serious discussion for our clients.

One successful branded content play that Snaps has made was with Unilever/Dove for custom curly hair emojis.


Session with Mario Armstrong from “Never Settle Club.” Mario made a very compelling case for the “The Age of Live Streaming.”  The most noteworthy live-stream platforms currently are Periscope, Facebook Live and YouTube Live. His stats show that live streaming has grown 42% vs. pre-recorded at 34%. And the average time spent watching live-stream content is 20 minutes v.s pre-recorded at 2 minutes. Mario summed up his presentation with “6 Ways to Benefit from Live Stream Content:”

  1. Increase digital and real-life traffic.
  2. Increase revenue.
  3. Reach any size audience, anywhere, anytime, on any device.
  4. Engage with your audience.
  5. Unsaturated market and create a sense of urgency.
  6. (Mario’s most important benefit) Fast-forward the buying cycle.

Right now, 54% of the top brands are using live stream to deliver content. Here is a great article summing up this presentation.


Session with Kate Lewis from Hearst Magazines, Lockhart Steele from Vox Media, and Neha Gandhi from Refinery 29. Much from this presentation may seem more like reminders rather than “aha” news, but I thought it was very important to share. With more platforms, marketing interests and data at our disposal than ever before, how do we consistently create compelling content that resonates with an audience? Spoiler alert: Surround yourself with people you can trust. While the temptation to game the system with advanced analytics might be strong, the best formula for success always includes good instinct and real humans crafting stories that create an emotional connection. For me, key takeaways were:

    1. Passion for what you put into content matters.
    2. Less about snackable content and more about relevant content. Maybe it’s a 5000-word story on a blog, and the same story in a 2-minute (or less) video on FaceBook.
    3. Sometimes you should ignore data and go on instinct.
    4. Editor’s job is to listen. Like because “you said so” vs. “I said so.”
    5. First-person stories bring humanity like no other form.


One more thing in this session struck me powerfully. I asked a panelist what’s the most important trait that people who sit in a brainstorm should possess. Her answer was so simple: “Be curious.”

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