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JWT Launches 'Walter,' a Pop-Up Agency for Startups at SXSW

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Agencies flock to SXSW to scout for tech trends. Startups go to sell themselves to the world. JWT sees an opportunity it's calling "Walter," a pop-up agency that will focus on developing marketing programs for fledgling tech ventures at the festival.

The 'agency' as it were, will exist for a mere 5 days, running from March 8th through the 12th, and in that span meet with 25 start-ups, narrow that pool down the most promising candidates, which will culminate in one or two finalists. Walter's team, comprised of JWT-ers from New York, Atlanta, London and Brazil, will build a marketing and media strategy for the winning ventures.

JWT has partnered with startup accelerator Techstars to source participants, and made an open call for submissions at Calluswalter.com.

Why are they doing this? Namely to scout for and build a relationship with the startup they see as a contender for the coveted next Instagram or Twitter or any number of other consumer services that have blown up at past festivals. Along the way, they'd like to connect this venture early-on with JWT's clients.

The project is being spearheaded by Perry Fair, Chief Creative Officer at JWT's Atlanta Office, after he noticed a gap between the startup and agency communities at least year's SXSW festival. The concept resonated with JWT's North American CEO, David Eastman.

"Walter is meant to be a reciprocal thing – we'd learn from them (the startups), where technology is going culturally, and they'd learn from us and could be partners for our clients," Mr. Eastman said. "It's a value exchange. We get exposure to new tech and startups and those people would get exposed to the brands and the creative thinking that they wouldn't necessarily have access to."

The pop-up shop is also a departure from the way agencies typically operate at SXSW. "The big agencies have parties and people go but beyond that, I'm not sure what they were doing. What I like about Perry's idea is that its realizing the SXSW is a marketplace for venture capitalists and startups, people with ideas looking for partners. All the components of that ecosystem are there except for the agencies, who are there, but aren't there as an agency," Mr. Eastman said.

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