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SXSW 2016: That's a Wrap



MullenLowe wraps up SXSW with highlights including presidential wisdom, diversity and keeping it real

SXSW 2016: That's a Wrap

Celebrating 30 years this March 2016, MullenLowe Group showed SXSW Interactive its challenger cowboy within: two extraordinary panels, going analog at a digital conference with American Greetings, and throwing a BBQ ‘meat & greet’ with live music and plenty of squid ink!

With over $300 Million injected into the town of Austin, Texas for the SXSW Festival, the trifecta music, film, and digital conference has become a mass forum for agencies, brands, and startups alike.

The speaker line-up included the President of the United States of America Barack Obama, badass chef and producer Anthony Bourdain, NASA Astronauts, and of course panels from the MullenLowe Group network.

Our SXSW highlights:

A forum fit for a President

To hear the President speak is a once in a lifetime opportunity. US President Barak Obama took the stage at SXSW Interactive to speak to a sold-out keynote seminar on the power that creativity and technology allow us today. Undeniably inspiring, Obama was the first President in history to hire a Chief Digital Officer, and had a simple ask to his SX friends: how can we create smart systems, and use the same technologies we are using to sell things, to instead make Government more responsive. Being passionate about what you are doing, building, making, is key to success. And whatever that next cool ‘thing’ is, try using it to tackle inequality.

Authenticity is key

If you’re not authentic, or your brand doesn’t come across as authentic, engagement from consumers and people at large will not come easy. Trust and quality over quantity is becoming more important as the use of social influencers continues to rise. TV isn’t going away, but this new pool of endorsers creates an incredibly intimate and personal way of reaching consumers. It allows ‘real’ people to recommend something to peers. Influencers know their audience better than a brand does, so trusting them to talk to their audience in the way they know best, even if it is a bit off brand, is a risk you need to be comfortable taking. As the packed room for Tony Labriola’s (SVP, Group Account Director, Food & Health, MullenLowe U.S.) session, Eat this Panel (If you Dare): Food Myths Debunked, showed – people want the real deal and the facts, and they’re getting better at distinguishing what is and isn’t.

Analog is making a comeback

In a conference dedicated to technology and all things virtual reality, the American Greetings ‘Analog House’, organised by the AG team in MullenLowe Boston, was a breath of fresh air, but also a bit of a wakeup call. As everything moves to digital and online, it can’t be denied that some brands and agencies are taking a look back in the other direction. People are buying vinyl records (14 million new vinyls sold in the U.S. just this year), using film cameras, buying books from bookstores and still handing out printed business cards. It ties back into the point of authenticity – there is still a part of people that wants to have authentic, real-life, experiences with loved ones, brands and the things they purchase. With ecommerce companies like Amazon opening actual stores, brick just might be the new black…

Keeping it real in the future of entertainment

Ira Glass, creator of NPR’s This American Life, addressed an audience of fans and followers to talk storytelling in digital. With his popular Serial podcast, we learned tech and timing are essential to success – the same week Serial launched, Apple installed it’s podcast app in all smartphones resulting in 4M downloads of Serial the first week. Podcast content also allows for enhanced storytelling to unfold – including things you can’t do on-air, like cursing. Provoked by an audience member’s question, Glass admitted he was once a clown and as a result now carries balloon animals with him; he wistfully crafted a baby blue poodle on stage – pure gold. With a cultish following, Anthony Bourdain also spoke as a keynote to a jam-packed room of foodie and travel fans that ate up every word he said. When it comes to production, no re-takes, no walk-in’s, and no exit takes are permitted; otherwise you lose authenticity. When it comes to building a personal brand especially, he explained how the road to madness is caring about what your audience thinks too much, and never creating something you wouldn’t want to consume yourself.

Diversity is still a hot topic

It was no surprise; there was a ton of female-focused panels…with rooms mostly filled by women. And there were plenty of discussions revolving around the perception of race and diversity, and the lack thereof, in the workplace and in creative campaigns – we’ve made progress over the years but there is still a long way to go. As Erin Swenson Gorrall, Group Planning Director, MullenLowe U.S., stated, “Instead of looking at differences, let’s create a space where we find what we have in common and celebrate it”.

Wrapping up with a meat and greet

When the sessions were over, MullenLowe Group put on a BBQ at Freedmen’s Bar. Employees from around the network joined in the fun including MullenLowe Group, MullenLowe U.S., MullenLowe Mediahub and MullenLowe Open. Their clients came too – American Greetings,, Scott’s and Capital One were all tapping their feet to the croons of a Texan band, drinking MullenLowe Group ‘squid ink’ cocktails, eating (more than) their fill of smokehouse brisket and getting ink’d of course.

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MullenLowe US, Mon, 21 Mar 2016 20:58:23 GMT