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Think BR: SXSW is no longer just an exclusive club for technologists

In the aftermath of SXSW, the new intersection between technology and marketing is something agencies can't afford to ignore, writes Tom Poynter, joint chief executive for London, Iris.

Tom Poynter, joint chief executive for London, Iris

Tom Poynter, joint chief executive for London, Iris

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Last month SXSW took place, the world’s leading annual digital and interactive festival.

This not only meant the convergence of 30,000 of the world’s most influential thought leaders from the fields of creative, media, tech and digital, but also a meeting of minds of some of the biggest pioneering brands on the planet such as Facebook, Apple and Nike.

And it was hard to ignore the message to brands: it’s time to do or die when it comes to incorporating technology into their marketing plans.

SXSW is no longer just an exclusive club for technologists. The growth of technology and the impact new technologies are having on marketing mean that brands and agencies are having to sit up and listen.

The era of the ‘smart consumer’ is officially here.  

Some purists may argue that SXSW has gone mainstream and it is now time to create a new type of SXSW, but this also means it has reached the tipping point and that brands who don’t engage with technology will be left behind.

This growth in technology means that clients are becoming more and more informed in this area.

There are two outcomes to this: firstly, agencies need to raise their game to keep delivering value and influence and secondly, this marriage between creative, technology and marketing will soon become the norm for forward-thinking brands who need to speak to this next generation of hyper-connected consumer.

Today though we still don’t see enough risk taking with clients. Now is the time for brands to start stepping up and not relying on analysis paralysis to inform an idea or marketing strategy.

In addition, something we need to remember is consumers don’t see on and offline worlds separately - they are looking for instant gratification, reward and a shareable experience.

Therefore their expectations are higher than ever before. We need to keep meeting their needs by providing them with utility, experiences and stories that enrich and enhance their lives.

Thus comes the advent of the agency social media division – we have one called Urgent Genius, which monitors trends in real time and then aims to create content that is live within 24 hours to newsjack that trend or meme.

It takes a brave client to embrace this, but the benefits outweigh the risk.

The outcome of all of this is that brands not waking up to this are not going to fully benefit from the richer things that agencies can deliver.

Our SXSE1 event this week not only gave marketers a look at the key takeouts from SXSW, but highlighted the top developments in technology which marketers need to be aware of this year:  

Zeebox and Miso

Multiscreen consumption is continuing to grow as people move from the lean-back viewing habits of the last 30 years into a more engaged interactive experience, whether its following the Twitter commentary for Newsnight or finding out more about the history of the Titanic as you watch the latest installment of the new series. 

These apps provide the framework for the viewer but also a key advertising channel for brands.  

Highlight, Glancy, Banjo and Sonar

Ambient apps are about to make the big time. They help us to be ever more informed about the world we move through, telling us who we know nearby, or even things we might have in common with those we don’t know. 

The next evolution of Foursquare is all about using location data to become a social recommendation engine, letting you know what the best dish in a local restaurant is or where the best place to park is.  


Hackers’ favourite Arduino, and the much anticipated Rasberry Pi, are inspiring the next generation of tinkerers, allowing individuals to build their own smart objects, from tweeting pot plants to fridges that inspire you to cook based on the ingredients. 

This is a relatively untapped area for brands and something they need to take note of.

We need to be doing more empowering of clients to enable them to weave these smart new inventions into their marketing plans from the beginning, not bolting them on at the end or seeing them as purely as a ‘facet’ of digital or social.

This is the route to real engagement and brands that embrace it will get there first.

Tom Poynter, joint chief executive for London, Iris

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