At SXSW 2013, It's Not About 'The Next Big Thing'
Writing in Advertising Age, David Berkowitz, vp of emerging media at 360i, say we shouldn't be looking for The Next Big Thing this year during SXSW. And he's right. SXSW has become so big that it is nearly impossible for any one company to stand out. But, as David argues, seeking the next big thing isn't why you should attend SXSW.
You should attend SXSW to connect with those in your industry who are doing interesting, albeit not earth shattering things, that you can learn about and perhaps put to use in your own business.
As we have written a couple times before, SXSW is no longer a geek fest where computer nerds congregate to discuss the latest trend in coding. Oh that still happens but it's been dwarfed by the preponderance of large brands and agencies who have "discovered" SXSW and decided its an event they simply can not miss. And there's nothing wrong with that.
From Sony to Samnsung, to Chevrolet to Pepsi and many, many more, the Austin Convention Center and surrounding areas in years past have been and will continue to be plastered with some of the most elaborate brand sponsorships we've ever seen. Yes. SXSW is no longer the geekfest it once was. And as we've said, it's been heading away from that cute little anachronism for some time now.
Some argue this is a bad thing. Let them. They are wrong. OK, well everyone has an opinion but SXSW is long past the point when a bunch of programmers would sit around and discuss the best method of coding. It's a full on marketing bonanza. Fueled with the proliferation of social media and its percolation into every aspect of marketing and advertising, SXSW - at least Interactive (there's Music and Film too) - is 100 percent branded, sponsored, underwritten and owned by brands.
And that's not a bad thing. Did you know SXSW has become more than twice as big as the Cannes Lions Festival? And for good reason. Today, marketing is much more about technology, process and function than it is about who designed the prettiest picture.
And to Berkowitz's point, keeping your eyes open for interesting people and panels, not a big breakout, is a far better way to experience SXSW. With so many people in the marketing world in attendance, you never know who you will bump into and what conversation will transpire. And that's the new beauty of SXSW. Not Foursquare. Not Twitter. Not Highlight. No. It's about connecting with the thought leaders in our industry and learning all you possibly can.