Monday, March 11th, 2019 | 4 min read
There’s an interesting dynamic at work here at the world’s largest slim fit button-down shirt convention. I feel like I’m immersed in SXSW, but also feel like I’m watching the whole thing from a distance. The daily recap videos that air on screens around town, news coverage, and Twitter chatter make clear which events are drawing widespread attention.
While I was learning about techniques for brand storytelling, Henry Winkler was hosting an acting workshop for an overflow crowd. Guess which event drew more conversation? This dynamic doesn’t result in FOMO, but rather forces me to see as much as I possibly can in hopes of catching something that makes waves beyond the room.
Another thought: At risk of sounding a bit pompous, SXSW feels like the most important (or at least the most newsworthy) event happening in the country – and maybe even the world – at this very moment. Presidential candidates are here looking for some early campaign momentum, global brands are exhibiting products that will shape the future, and countless celebs are wandering around in plain site. And, judging by a quick glance at Twitter, many top journalists are down here to keep an eye on everything.
Sure it can sometimes feel like a bloated, chaotic, and over-branded festival of self-congratulation, but there’s an amazing energy that pervades it all. My hotel’s lobby has been straight rockin’ for four straight days, as has every downtown bar and restaurant. It’s over-the-top but totally exhilarating.
Marketing to binge watchers
Earlier today I hit a panel on how TV networks are adjusting their approach in the age of binge watching. Trisha Meathe – Director of Social Content Strategy at Fandango/NBCUniversal – said that on social media, the network has “two seconds” to get them interested in anything.
Gaining a potential viewer’s attention is just half the battle, though. Meathe added that when it comes to on-demand platforms, the user experience must be as seamless as possible.
Amy Shelby , VP of Digital Marketing at The CW, observed that TV marketing now has an “always-on” mentality. “It used to be a lot more cyclical,” she said. “But now people are coming through the funnel at different times. There’s lots of pressure on us to keep our fans engaged throughout the year.”
Kadrian Alvarenga, Director of Advertising & Media at FX Networks, said that his network factors qualitative information into its marketing strategy, in addition to hard data. He said that while The Americans (a personal favorite of mine) wasn’t one of the most watched FX programs, it received so much critical acclaim – plus a few Emmys – that the network prioritized efforts that reached the show’s modest-but-rabid audience.
The cool(er) kids are coming
Spotted: the first crop of pink SXSW badges that denote attendees of the music festival. Apologies in advance if I abruptly pivot to only writing concert reviews.
Food as a force for good
I was too curious not to pop into an afternoon panel on “Gastro-Diplomacy.” The panelists discussed how food can be a uniting force on a large scale (e.g., state dinners) and a small one (people experiencing different cultures by trying new cuisines – and helping immigrants build livelihoods in the process).
Johanna Forman, an adviser at Stimson – an international policy think tank – cited recent research which found that in an increasingly secular world, the #1 thing that brings American millennials together is dining out (followed closely by SoulCycle, she said).
Marie Principe, Program Officer at the Center for International Private Enterprise, highlighted the important role food can play for entire ethnicities. She talked about how the widespread popularity of pizza and pasta may have helped Italian immigrants diffuse the negative stereotypes they faced as the first few generations arrived in the United States.
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