The South by Southwest Interactive conference is in full swing in Austin through Tuesday. Through the sea of parties, panel sessions, and panel sessions that turned into parties, and the horde of media and marketing professionals seen wandering around 6th street street, a few highlights and trends have emerged so far:
SXSW is still known as the place where startup dreams are born and social media apps can explode overnight. But that reputation no longer matches the evidence on the ground. Instead, it’s about marketers marketing their marketing efforts to other marketers. Sure, you’ll still find the Hootsuite foot-peddled trolley, but you’ll also see the Nat Geo “Escape the Cold” simulator, the HBO Silicon Valley-sponsored Pedicabs and the Bausch + Lomb “Lens Lounge.”
And of course, agencies have their own branding to do. Take, for example, the agency MRY’s house in downtown Austin, where rapper Nas appeared Saturday night.
A group of Omnicom agencies used SXSW to put on a show for their clients by setting up a real-time newsroom on the fourth floor of the Marriott in downtown Austin—dubbed StoryConnect. Inside, folks from the agency Resolution Media, FleishmanHillard, and the data and analytics firm Annalect were found eyeing a group of overhead TV screens that looked like something Carrie might be staring at on an episode of Homeland.
Among the screens was a dashboard of data pulling together tweets from the show (people were naturally tweeting about the upcoming season premiere of “Game of Thrones” as much as they were the brand Mazda). Another screen compiled news headlines from across the globe (on this day it was filled with mentions of Ferguson and North Korea testing surface-to-air missiles). Each day during SXSW the group was crunching data and producing daily summaries, infographics, and yes, even digital comics that got distributed to clients and the press.
Darrel Jursa, a lead partner at FleishmanHillard, says this sort of real-time sentiment tracking was used at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, and one marketer used some of the social chatter as motivation to tweak a future TV ad.
“This is not something we really have an ROI for,” Mr. Jursa said. “But we can look at what people are talking about in Austin and turn some of that into content and insights that can be used beyond this week.”