More Than Boots and BBQ – Our SXSW Interactive Takeaways

More Than Boots and BBQ – Our SXSW Interactive Takeaways

Our BPI team went down to Austin, Texas for SXSW Interactive again this year. While the festival has changed from a place for start ups to launch to a place where major brands and organizations show off innovation, we found that even in its latest iteration, SXSW still delivers.

Below are some of the takeaways we noted from this year’s conference – what did you see or experience? Share in the comments.

Tech Can Be Used For Good: President Obama came to SXSW this year for the first time and talked about how start ups can get engaged with government. He described how the tech community can drive civic innovation in areas like installing Wi-Fi access in low-income housing and rural areas.

Digital and The 2016 Election: BPI hosted a #Twitter4Politics event to talk about the 2016 election. BPI’s Andrew Bleeker spoke alongside Vincent Harris about the tension between the rise of data and content and what that means for campaigns. They also discussed Twitter’s role during the debates, the power of earned media for certain candidates, the ideal media mix for a primary versus a general election and the difference in digital strategy between the Democrats and Republicans.

Is Email Dead? Not Yet, But It Has Some Competition: Email could be on its deathbed — at least in the office. Startups, Silicon Valley giants and agencies are concerned with productivity in the office and are turning away from email. For many companies at SXSW, group messaging apps like Slack and WeChat are replacing email. While email marketing is still king for e-commerce and grassroots fundraising, these messaging apps are changing the game during work hours in terms of where people spend time.

In Era of Ad Blocking, Content Still Reigns: After hearing from publishers and brands, we continue to believe that content is king – especially native and sponsored content. The reason? This form of advertising can’t be blocked. Ad blocking was widely discussed at SXSW, particularly with the release of iOS 9, which will have an ad-free browser easily accessible to all. We saw speakers emphasize the importance of staying away from one size fits all strategy when it comes to creative and tailoring ads to the consumers. For an example of creative ad placement, Chevy ran a video ad inside a print publication. Meanwhile, some publishers are addressing the issue head on by blocking users who have ad blocking software enabled or asking them to be added to their ad blocking whitelist in order to consumer their online content.

Virtual Reality Goes Mainstream: Virtual Reality or VR has arrived as a form of content distribution. At SXSW, there were VR headsets being passed out at many corners around the conference. Several sessions as well as corporate activations were dedicated to the “virtual” experience. This article talks about why Virtual Reality will be especially important for media companies who can extend their rich storytelling into the virtual realm. As advertisers, we will benefit from this in the form of sponsored content and branded virtual experiences. Brands, advocates and others are exploring how the virtual experience can drive experiential learning for individuals in a truly immersive way.

Brand Influencers Go Pro: We have worked with online celebrities over the years, but as the industry has matured, so have the digital influencers who have figured out how to work professionally with brands and agencies to leverage their audience on platforms like YouTube, Vine, and Instagram. For example, we heard about how RewardStyle monetized good blogger content for fashion brands and how the use of human stories beat out public policy messaging in the marriage equality fight. For a look at who are the hottest online influencers, see this new list from TIME.