A Peek Inside First-Time SXSW Experience – Day 4

Fahlgren Mortine Associates Share Their Experience at SXSW Interactive

As SXSW Interactive draws to an end, Fahlgren Mortine associates Mary Hoy and Dennis Brown reflect on all they’ve learned, what they’ll remember and how the experience has shaped their thinking in the emails below.



Yesterday I mentioned that SXSW was like a great buffet for the mind. Well, today I’m suffering the intellectual equivalent of a food coma. The effect of three intensive, physically active 12-hours days hit me full-force today. The SXSW Zen Master has become the SXSW zombie.

I decided to focus the final day on branding and marketing sessions, and, while they were uniformly good, they didn’t excite me the way previous sessions had. Some of that was certainly due to fatigue, but I also think that branding and marketing doesn’t have the sharp edge of innovation of some of the other topics I explored here. I walked out of several sessions feeling like I could have heard that talk or panel anywhere—they lacked the spirit of disruption and innovation that is at the heart of SXSW.

Speaking of disruption, though, a session on navigating native advertising that featured representatives from The New York Times (a different one than I heard on Friday) and Forbes comparing the two companies’ models for producing content, got me thinking. As you know, The New York Times is building a content agency so they can control all of the content, even branded, that appears on their site. Forbes, of course, employs a different model, providing a platform for brands to publish content they create, within certain parameters. As an agency, we will have to adapt to these models (and in-house content agencies) and find ways to bring our clients the most creative and effective program, regardless of where content gets created.

Reflecting back on the four days of the conference through the fog of fatigue, I’m really glad I got an opportunity to experience it. The crowds and long lines and bus trips were frustrating, but there is an energy and attitude here that knocks you out of your comfort zone. It makes you think differently about the things you are doing and makes you want to do different things. It’s simultaneously humbling and motivating when you see how many smart and engaged people there are out there, some genuinely trying to make the world a better place and some just trying to create or capitalize on the next business opportunity.

So now, while I’m physically ready to go home, I need to figure out how to intellectually stay in the place SXSW has brought me to. I’m not exactly sure how to do that.

I’m eager to hear your thoughts on the day – and the event.




I’m physically and mentally right there with you – this has been a great ride, but I’m exhausted in every sense of the word.

Funny you should mention the different approaches to native content development. I sat in a session with Eva Chen and Michelle Phan, the YouTube sensation, officially listed as “Digital Pioneer,” in our programs. Michelle has established herself as a legitimate brand influencer and has her own make-up start up. To be brutally honest, I attended the session out of curiosity and a desire for some lighter subject matter. What I got was authenticity personified. There were plenty of questions, but someone asked specifically about how brands should pitch her content ideas. Her response, (paraphrased) was: Don’t pitch me an idea – let me tell you what I would develop because I know my brand and community best so I know what will resonate.

My favorite takeaway of the day, though, had to be the “creepiness scale” I got from my session with IBM. The session was centered on real-time marketing and its future evolution. You know that creepy feeling you get when you get a hyper-targeted marketing message that’s just a touch too fast? Leave it to Gartner to figure out how to avoid those, “too soon” moments. Not surprisingly, the “appropriate” time to respond is just past the creepy point, and if you don’t capitalize on that moment, you’re going to slide very quickly down the scale to irrelevant.

And there we were, right back at that importance of capturing attention, reductions in attention span and how we must take advantage of the moment (where length of moment is ever-decreasing) to deliver value in the exact right instant it matters.

A couple of parting shots from some of my most memorable moments:

Surprise with simplicity (to help mental processing) and compound unconscious nudges (on the value of frequency in brand elements.) – Hey Human

Figure out if your story is 15 seconds or 2 minutes. Then pick your format. – Morgan Spurlock

Have we lost some of the beauty that is simply experiencing the moment because we’re too busy trying to get the best photo to share? – Karlie Kloss

Disruption must result in value. – Everyone.

Best quote:

“I’m no less aggressive than I was at Microsoft. Nobody calls me that anymore because I’m working in a culture where that isn’t a bad thing.” – Sara Clemens, Pandora

Best duo quote:

“Every algorithm has an author. Every author has a choice.” – Sinan Aral

“So much of the world is designed by so few people. What does this do to choice?” – Young Guru

Best audience question:

“Is data the new doping?” – on a SXsports panel

Best Q&A:

(Q) Has video content peaked?

(A) Video is the Internet. Someone could have asked the same question about

(A) Video is the Internet. Someone could have asked the same question about text. – Stacy Martinet, Mashable

Happy to have shared this experience with you!


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