SXSW: Why it was awesome, and getting back to the real-world

“Puncha me in da face, Luigi!” – my awakening experience at SXSW.

I’ll admit that my first exposure to SXSW was overwhelming in the beginning. Between the skinny-jeaned hipsters, parties, promotions and swag pushers I was taken aback. But, I sucked it up, drank a beer or two and bullied my way across the 4 corners of Austin that us creatives owned for 5 days.

With my sleeves rolled up I started a mission to learn something new.

Now I might of been a SXSW virgin, but one thing that worked in my favor was that I had been to one other conference in my career and the one thing that I learned was that I needed to avoid the sales guy as I selected which sessions to attend. I’m sure you know the one… it’s the guy that has very little to say in order to spend the rest of their time hawking a book or service. So I started off on the wrong foot when my very first one was just that, but I pressed on.

The goodness that followed was well worth that first misstep. Here’s what I learned.

1.     Either creatives love to drink a LOT or the people that put on the parties think we do, because there was booze EVERYWHERE!

2.     Chevy is making a push to re-emerge from the shadows of a bad decade (at least), because they had the new Volt and other cars all around the Convention Center. It’s good to see an American car maker making an intelligent move to market appropriately (not to mention seemlessly).

3.     It turned out that some of the “big” agencies may not know everything either. Seems we all might be in the same boat of trying to figure out the next step.

4.     That said, R/GA did blow me away with their session titled “Congratulations: Your Brands About To Be Obsolete”. The way they nudge their clients to forge beyond what a client might consider “top of the mountain” success was inspiring. Sure, all of us marketers have a challenge when trying to convince our clients to push their boundaries, but the corporate landscape now, more than ever, has too many case studies of failure to point to as companies treaded water when they should of been forging ahead.

5.     I reaffirmed that my life is pretty damn good after learning how traditional journalism has gone rogue in Mexico. Being a first-gen Mexican American, with two children of full mexican descent, sitting through “The Impact of Social Media Tools in Mexico” was life altering, at the very least. Social media tools, that here in the states have too often served the marketing message (especially from Hollywood and our beloved athletes), is the single transparent conduit to authentic information of the unfortunate daily life that has become the norm in Mexico. Traditional reporting has changed due to the mexican drug cartels that have taken control of a country (and traditional media) in a massive stranglehold that appears to have no end in sight.

6.     We may be at the point where technology has surpassed practical application. The next big thing may just be the next version of something that might of once been “the next big thing”. As a creative, I truly believe that we are armed like never before with technologies, devices and platforms. The “next big thing” is now in our hands to create, because it’s definitely ready to be developed!

7.     And the final thing I learned is that, beyond being a bunch of drunks, we creatives might also be a bunch of opposite-sex, challenged dorks crunching pixels behind our screens all day and every day. Plenty of our beloved product pushers at the conference reached out to some attractive ladies, dressed them up and sent them out to mingle with the masses as they posed for photos and passed around promotional materials. I think it worked! But it’s OK, because what happens in Austin..stays…oh wait, that’s not Austin!

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