Cancel Culture Comes to South By Southwest

South By Southwest kicks off next week. Or does it? According to The Verge, Twitter is canceling employee travel to the annual South by Southwest festival, including CEO Jack Dorsey’s planned keynote, due to concerns over the spread of the coronavirus. The company announced Sunday it was halting all “non-critical business travel and events”, saying […]

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Media Expert, Simon Peel, Helps Get Adidas on the Right Page

Why do you continue to go to marketing conferences? Are they worth the cost, the travel hassles, and the time away from the office? For people interested in marketing effectiveness, the answer last week was yes. Marketing Week, Campaign, and Footwear News are all carrying the story of how Adidas overinvested in digital marketing and […]

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Are You Prepared for South By Southwest?

I first made my way to South By Southwest in March of 2003. The conference, the city of Austin, and the creative industries have all changed considerably since then. It was just 16.5 years ago, but in our accelerated, digitally-disrupted world things happen fast. To make my point even clearer, when I first attended South […]

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When Mary Meeker Speaks, Astute Marketers Listen

Money talks. But what does money say? That’s what people pay thousands of dollars to find out by attending elite conferences and/or annual shareholder meetings. Witness… Hot Takes from the Arizona Desert Bond Capital founder and former Kleiner Perkins general partner Mary Meeker delivered her Internet Trends Report for 2019 at Vox/Recode’s Code Conference at […]

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The Future of Paid Content: Same As It Ever Was?

Eight years ago, I had an opportunity to speak to a group of marketing pros in Boston about the future of paid content. I was invited to speak by my friend and former colleague, Sloane Kelley, one of the founders of Geekend, an annual gathering now in its 11th year. I had an audio recording […]

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Data Predators and Surveillance Capitalists Get “T Boned” at SouthBy

Legendary musician and music producer T Bone Burnett came to SXSW 2019 to slay digital demons. I highly recommend that you make some time to watch his keynote and/or read the text of his speech. It may shake you awake. There is so much to digest in Burnett’s speech that no recap is going to […]

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Unboxing Creativity at SXSW Interactive

AUSTIN—It’s a gray Monday morning in Bat City. My commute to downtown is easy and free parking is available on the east side of I-35. I walk to Rainey Street, where Bose, the country of Australia, and other big brands are temporarily encamped between the permanent food trucks. I am here to visit the Comcast NBCUniversal House […]

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Like Texas, SXSW Is Huge, Rich, Diverse and Impossible to Ignore

South By Southwest, or #SouthBy for short, is a mashup of industry festivals—film, music, interactive, gaming, education—all of which take place in and around the Austin Convention Center over a 10-day span in March. The first SouthBy was held in March of 1987. Now, 32 years in, both SouthBy and Austin are huge. The city’s […]

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The Quants Runneth Over

Data collects, mostly into piles of digital rubble. Yet, data is prized and those who provide it are revered. The high priests of data analytics have the floor right now, which is understandable and ridiculous at the same time. It’s understandable that clients are scared to death of their own intuition and risky creative ideas […]

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Cliff Notes from Cannes

Here’s a recap from a selection of today’s talks at Cannes, in case you were too hungover to attend any panels today, or maybe you’re not in the south of France this weekend: “The sun is setting on Cannes,” one agency exec affiliated with a major holding company told Ad Age. Clients with each passing […]

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Dave Trott Is Making It Simple—Listen, Learn and Grow

Creative director and industry gadfly, Dave Trott, wants to fix advertising. His fix involves stripping away the false complexities put in the way by egotists and charlatans. It’s a long weekend, push play. His talk is full of notable moments, including his discussion of “form follows function.” Trott says we tend to fundamentally misunderstand this […]

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Gary Vee Rocks The Mic, Wins AdPulp’s International Humanitarian Award

The words we use are important. Words convey meaning.

Right now, I am looking for the words to convey how much I love this ass-kicking, fact-kicking session from Gary Vaynerchuk, head of Vayner Media.

In the video, a person asks Vaynerchuk how to meet “relevant people” at South By Southwest. Gary Vee rightly does the questioner and the larger world a great service by breaking down what’s wrong with the thinking that misinformed the question.

“When I hear people categorize others human beings as ‘relevant’ it makes want to vomit on myself,” he says.

Vaynerchuk is a humanist and it takes a humanist with brass balls to endow brands (and the company’s behind them) with the necessary degrees of humanity that will make them palatable to the real life people we sometimes refer to as consumers.

In a new article about sales on Medium, Vaynerchuk notes, “I pay attention to what people do and look for patterns. I think of conversion in an emotional more than an analytical way.”

In other words, sales and business is personal. At all levels, business is an exchange between people. It can be an equitable exchange or something less. When it’s something less, may today’s digitally-empowered consumers have mercy on your brand’s soul.

Vaynerchuk sees sales (and the taking care of customers that enables it) as art. A sale is something he creates and he believes in masterpieces. To get there, he uses leading questions “to reverse-engineer your needs and provide the insight that I could deliver on.”

At the heart of Gary Vee’s offering, and the reason for his charm and success, we do not find the social media tactic de jour. His message is about the fundamentals and the need for applying them in life and in business. Be a good person/business. Offer to help. And continually serve and grow your relationships.

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SXSW: The New World’s Fair for Brands

The first thing I noticed when we stepped outside at the Austin airport was the smell of freshly cut grass. That may have been the most promising moment of SXSW Interactive.

SXSW’s website describes the Interactive portion of the festival as:

An incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity, the 2014 event features five days of compelling presentations and panels from the brightest minds in emerging technology, scores of exciting networking events hosted by industry leaders and an unbeatable lineup of special programs showcasing the best new websites, video games and startup ideas the community has to offer. From hands-on training to big-picture analysis of the future, SXSW Interactive has become the place to preview the technology of tomorrow today.

There wasn’t a ton of “the technology of tomorrow” this year. Many of the festival sessions covered the technology of last year.

In truth, this year’s event felt more like a World’s Fair of Brands. As someone from a creative agency, it was cool to see the big budget experiential displays that brands built. The pragmatic part of me wondered what KPIs those brands internally set for an event that was marketing to, well, a crowd of marketers.

Secret - SXSW

It seemed to be the consensus among attendees that there wasn’t a breakout startup star of the festival. That said, there were some inspired moments. Here are my top three:

TechCrunch’s Josh Constine interviewing Secret co-founder David Byttow.
If you missed this session, I’m truly sorry. Secret is one of several new anonymous apps that are rising in social. The SF tech community in particular has flocked to this 40+-day old app, making the secrets that appear there somewhat of a Silicon Valley parlor guessing game. But hearing Byttow speak to the human insights behind the app—the notion that at the end of the day we all want to be understood and by removing our identity we can more easily convey emotions—that is a beautiful basic human insight upon which to build a platform.

New York Times best seller Jonah Berger talking about what drives word-of-mouth.
Funny thing about this, I’d been trying to connect with Jonah in Philadelphia for a few months. He’s a Professor at Wharton, but has been in residence at Duke this semester. I had to travel to Austin to finally catch up with him. It was worth it. Jonah has identified a science behind why people share, something he calls six STEPPS, an acronym for Social currency, Triggers, Emotion, Public, Practical value, and Stories. Read his book.

Equipping and inspiring the next generation with Dean Kamen.
A master inventor, engineer and humanitarian, Dean Kamen is a genius living among us. He may be best known as the inventor of the Segway, but this guy has invented enough things that he’s toeing Ben Franklin territory. He’s also the guy who helped make Coca Cola’s Freestyle machines in exchange for distribution of his water and power generators to schools in Ghana. This guy isn’t just smart, he’s a better person than many of us. And that’s what a lot of his talk boiled down to. The world of ideas isn’t a zero sum game. Technology isn’t a zero sum game. We can help the world while we help ourselves.

It was an interesting SXSW, to be sure. I had fewer mind-bending hallway conversations due to the sheer volume of the event, and that was a bummer. But beyond the teeming venues, full sessions, long lines, and celebrity appearances, inspiration was around, if you listened for it.

Apart from the event itself, Austin is an attractive American city to visit in the temperate month of March. Here are three must visits:

Shady Grove: Austin-inspired menu with a gorgeous tree-lined patio and cowboy-esque interior. Yee-haw.

The Salt Lick Bar-B-Que: It’s a little bit of drive from downtown and worth every minute. These people are cooking meat in a pit the family built in 1967. With a recipe inspired by their great-grandmother named Bettie from Mississippi. I don’t think anything more needs to be said about this. Let’s go.

The LBJ Presidential Library: I’m a politics and history nerd. Next year, I am definitely making time for this!

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Social Gets Some Big Time Face Time @Dreamforce 2013

Heads up SFO. A small city of people are flying in for Dreamforce, the annual user conference put on by in San Francisco this week.

According to reports, some of the Dreamforce badge wearers will be seeking information on how to incorporate social media marketing and social selling into their practice. Others may be looking for a good party to attend. I hear Green Day is performing at a VIP function. How punk rock is that?

According to USA TODAY’s preview piece on the conference, L’Oreal began using new marketing and analysis tools Salesforce rolled out this year.

The software helps automate the process of discovering the interests of existing customers, then deciding which promotions to send to their social media accounts, via text or video ads.

L’Oreal brand managers used it to sign up thousands of hair salon owners in the U.S., who in turn used it to create thousands of Facebook pages that were peppered with social media ads for shampoos and conditioners.

I am a huge fan of discovering the interests of existing customers. That’s the fuel on which marketing runs. But I will admit to getting hung up a bit with the idea that software will effectively automate the process. I’m not saying software does not work in this capacity, or that this particular software as a service is not needed. Rather, I want to question which sales and marketing processes can and should be automated, and which work best when done manually.

I know this much, an email does not equal a phone call and a phone call does not equal a face-to-face meeting. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, and possibly include said thoughts in an upcoming feature article.

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CPG Brand Advertising In A Split-Screen World

It is Advertising Week in New York City. Of course AdPulp’s editor, publisher and contributing writers are nowhere near New York City, so let’s look to Bloomberg’s coverage for a moment.

?Here is B. Bonin Bough of Mondel?z speaking to the impressed press about real-time marketing:

“We can raise the overall ecosystem and ROI of our our media,” Bough says. “We can raise the effectiveness of our television by participating in social or mobile activities at the same time.”

This integrated thinking lends itself to the idea that any rift between TV and digital is pointless. Brands who know, know how to do them both and apply the best metrics available to each, while keeping in mind that persuasion is an art.

According to a new study from TiVo, television tends to bring in new customers, while digital secures more sales from existing customers.

Television and digital are thus complementary in terms of both media and sales impact.

Here’s a Super Bowl ad flashback for you, one with Bough’s thumbprint on it.

Previously on AdPulp: Oreo Cookie Scores Social Media Win On Super Bowl Sunday, GoDaddy Heads To The Bank On Monday

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The 3 Percent Conference Equals 100 Percent Valuable Conversation

Back when it was first announced and details were scant, I made mention of the 3% Conference, an effort to call attention to the lack of female CDs in the ad industry.

Since that time, conference founder Kat Gordon not only organized a successful conference in 2012, she’s doing it again this year. And she recently took her “Where are all the Donna Drapers?” presentation here to Seattle for an evening which also featured a discussion panel of local CDs. I attended, and I was one of only 5 or 6 guys in a room of 100 or so. (Which is truly is an odd feeling.)

Kat’s presentation is pretty brief but statistic-heavy to back up her assertions: That women are dominant as consumers, social network participants and even gamers, yet woefully underrepresented in agency conference rooms and corporate boardrooms.

She makes a very convincing case, but more than that, it’s clear she’s thought through many of the common criticisms people bring up whenever someone tries to advocate for this issue: That CDs hire the best book, regardless of gender; that more women choose to get off the corporate ladder for family reasons; and that women in creative departments are either too passive or too bitchy vs. being confident and assertive. And she goes to great lengths to insist men aren’t the enemy here.

I won’t get into all those issues — having worked for many (yes, many) female creative directors, I certainly have opinions to share another day.

Admittedly, I came the presentation to see if Kat would touch upon what I’d consider to be the core, thorny issue at the heart of this: The white male dominated award show/industrial complex, and the idea that what often gets considered the best advertising comes from a male perspective. Because for decades now, that perspective has shaped our collective creative output and influences what younger creatives imitate as they find their voices.

Kat does address this, briefly. She uses this Minute Rice ad as an example of smart marketing to women:


On her blog, she gives it a “Warm Blanket” Award for its resonance with its intended audience. But until more work like this receives equal praise at high-profile awards shows, we won’t see more work like this. Is it the best ad in the world? Probably not. But it’s more resonant than some jerk-off visual solution or something with more attitude — the kind of work that would ordinarily win for a product like Minute Rice. It’s only unworthy of awards because of our industry’s own ingrained awards biases.

As long as middle-aged white guys proclaim themselves the ultimate arbiters of award show worthiness, then vote for their own work and that of their friends to win, the cycle perpetuates itself. And right now, young creatives need to get the credit for their work, win awards, and make a name for themselves in order to advance and make more money. We all play the game in some regard, which means gaming the system and for many female creatives, it means learning to play it like a man. During the discussion, some on the panel and in the crowd acknowledged that they once did ads specifically to win awards, not ads that reflected their own perspective or voice.

Ultimately, this means many female creative directors, and some of the work they’d champion, won’t make much progress. If there are more female CDs throughout the ad industry, and making decisions come award show time, you’d see different kinds of work prevail. And students and juniors entering the industry would look to that work for inspiration. I think it’d be better for advertising all-around and we’d be more valuable to our clients.

But the award show discussion is only a small part of what Kat and the 3% Conference is about. Kat offers other suggestions for clients, agency management, and creatives to help recognize female talent. But it’s entirely possible that the answer won’t come from within the current industry structure. As Cal McAllister of Wexley School for Girls said on the discussion panel, the system was built that way and can’t be fixed — it needs to be broken. Which is why he’s running his own agency his way. Maybe the 3% would be 50% if female creative directors made themselves female agency owners. And then you’ll see real changes.

Find out more about this year’s 3 Percent Conference here.

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MarketMixNW 2013 Offers Up A Valuable Mix Of Marketing Information

There weren’t any Grumpy Cats like at SxSW or half-naked Argentine Creative Directors like at Cannes, but the MarketMix 2013 Conference sponsored by the Puget Sound American Marketing Association did prove worthwhile, at least from this copywriter’s perspective.

The key to these types of conferences is to pick some sessions on topics you don’t know much about. Although many speakers seem to be pimping their own companies or books, others can be really insightful. And this conference, which is geared more towards client-side marketers than creatives, turned out to be more valuable for me than some social media or awards show-related wankfest.

I’ll hit some highlights:

In one session, the partnership of the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center and Seattle ad agency GreenRubino was spotlighted. A major fundraiser was launched with the theme “Be Breakthrough” and highlighting some of the Fred Hutch researchers. Here’s a sample spot:

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center – Jim from GreenRubino on Vimeo.

But the campaign (see one spot below), with its vanity URL and message “When you give to science, science gives back,” wasn’t as successful in raising money and awareness as a subsequent, more direct message featuring local TV personalities and the idea that donating money saves lives. I suppose when the desired response is “give money,” the appeal needs to be more straightforward. It was also quite interesting to see agency and client make a serious pivot mid-way through the year-long campaign, although the agency’s reaction to switching things up wasn’t discussed.

I also saw a great presentation on crowdsourcing from POSSIBLE’s Mike Reeder and local food & travel blogger Jennifer Chiu, who leveraged the audience of her “Roll With Jen” blog by turning to Kickstarter to launch her web TV series:

While the crowdsourcing of ideas and creative work has been discussed at length in the ad business, crowdfunding is an exciting possibility for fledgling brands and entrepreneurs. Mike and Jen brought that notion to life for the attendees. Jen also noted that positioning herself as a “Female Anthony Bourdain” helped boost traffic and donations to her Kickstarter.

Another interesting presentation was from AllRecipes, which has worked its way to become one of the world’s most heavily trafficked sites. They’ve been at it for 16 years, so it didn’t happen overnight. Having a mobile-optimized site is key for them, but they demoed their Video Cookbook app, which highlights recipe directions while we watch the food being prepared.

Clearly, they’ve got a devoted following: According to Allrecipes’ surveys of their users, 50% use the site on a mobile device. And of that 50%, half use it while they’re at the grocery store. While the presenters were a little cagey about trying to partner with advertisers to reach people right at the point of purchase (I’d say they’re not quite there yet), I’m sure some marketers, somewhere, are salivating over the idea of using NFC technology to hit consumers right in the aisles.

Of course, what the conferences do well (if you’re willing to chat with strangers) is allow me to meet folks I’d never meet otherwise, which can also be insightful. I have one good example.

In a casual chat, I met one marketing director for a local Seattle utility. They have 1.7 million customers. So how many of them use Online Bill Pay? Only 20%. I would never have guessed a figure that low. And it’s why she still values ways to reach customers through (gasp) bill stuffers. Try using that statistic the next time someone in your agency says, “no one pays their bills through the mail anymore.”

There were also some presenter shout-outs to Uber, the car-for-hire service that’s caused a splash in many cities. It’s quickly becoming the case study/example du jour of digital marketing disruption among marketing conference speakers. Does this mean fewer people using Zappos as an example? We’ll see.

You can get a sense of all the chatter at the conference by looking at #marketmix on Twitter.

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An Agency In Five Days: JWT Pops Up At SXSWi Next Month

Big agency services for startups, at retail, for five days only. WALTER looks to be another great idea from JWT.

Call Us Walter

Next month in Austin, technology startups in town for SXSW Interactive will have the chance to meet with JWT’s “collective of industrious outsiders who embrace uncertainty and invent within chaos.” I take it they’ll leave their suits back home in New York and Atlanta, because this sounds like a roll your sleeves up event.

Startups can submit their elevator pitches on now. If The WALTERS like what they hear, they’ll create a “customized, strategic marketing plan for your startup during SXSWi.”

I like this idea on so many levels. It’s great PR for JWT, but more than that, it allows the big agency people to grapple with a different set of problems, while lending the startups access to expertise that would be otherwise unaffordable (assuming there’s no VC money on the table).

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What Corporate America Still Misunderstands About Black People

Everyone wants to talk about race these days and thank heavens. Radio One is sponsoring an event at the One Club in New York titled – “Urban Legends: What Corporate America Still Misunderstands About Black People.” They don’t mince words. Panelists include Catherine L. Hughes, founder and chairperson of Radio One; Steve Stoute, founder and CEO of Translation; Najoh Tita-Reid, director of multi-cultural and African American marketing at Proctor & Gamble; and Julius Dunn, program director for The One Club’s Adversity Program. The event will be held on Tuesday, January 13, 2009 from 9:30 am – 11:00 am.

I tell you what – I might just go to see Steve Stoute. Remember that video we posted of him talking about Janet Jackson’s, Nipplegate? He’s got a dry humor that might be even better enjoyed live. Check out a much more staid version of Steve from his induction video into the AAF’s Hall Of Achievement.

More: Russell Simmons and Donnovan Andrews Working to Build Cultural Shop

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South By Coverage

I’m attending SXSW this week with my colleagues from BFG. Discover our reporting on the panels, keynotes, parties, live music and Austin flavor throughout the week on the BFG Blog. You can also follow my Twitter feed and see pix on my Flickr page. Once the music cranks up mid-week I’ll also be adding content to Leftover Cheese, my music site.