Welcome to Ad Age’s SXSW 2022 newsletter. We’ll be sharing a daily roundup of events, interviews and sessions from Austin. You can sign up here to get updates delivered to your inbox.
SXSW Day 3: Mark Cuban, Lizzo, and Nicolas Cage
Mark Cuban wants you to get a crypto wallet
During a SXSW panel on Monday, Mark Cuban shared his thoughts on Web3. The “Shark Tank” investor is skeptical of the future of virtual land, saying that just because a brand buys a plot on The Sandbox or Decentraland doesn’t mean people will come. But Cuban is more bullish on NFTs and he encouraged everyone to sign up for a crypto wallet. Read more of Cuban’s predictions here.
A line swarmed out the door with SXSW attendees eager to hear TikTok’s head of measurement Jorge Ruiz. The unassuming data expert wouldn’t seem like a TikTok star, but after his talk on creative advertising tips, people were waiting to get pictures with Ruiz. The exec said he was surprised people would care to snap a photo with him as though he were a TikTok celebrity.
But given the topic of conversation—how the TikTok ads platform works, and some best practices for brands—it’s no surprise SXSW goers wanted to pick his brain. One piece of insight Ruiz provided was how brands can use TV ads to help with performance on TikTok. TikTok ads were a “good attention breaker” for people watching TV, Ruiz said. It was all part of a new analysis called “TikTok drives greater audience engagement,” revealed at SXSW.
Beto O’Rourke talk
The Texas gubernatorial candidate took the stage to a full room at SXSW to discuss his Democratic campaign. O’Rourke answered some questions about one of his most hot takes from the 2020 election cycle when he advocated banning AR-15 rifles, a sensitive subject in Second Amendment-friendly Texas. O’Rourke explained he still thinks the weapons should be off the streets, but that it would require broad consensus.
The candidate also blasted his opponent's energy policies, comparing the current governor’s relationships with Texas oil and gas companies as similar to enabling an oligarchy, like the kind that is currently being sanctioned in Russia, over the invasion of Ukraine.
O’Rourke also touched on the controversial voting laws enacted in Texas, which have been criticized by civil rights groups for disenfranchising minorities. In the recent primary, thousands of mail-in ballots were disqualified. O’Rourke was one of the bigger political draws of the week.
Just took a SXSW test
Lizzo, the popular singer, spoke on Sunday at SXSW, and had some fans in formation outside the convention center. The singer raised important issues for women and the LGBTQ+ community in her keynote speech. Lizzo took aim at Texas’ recent anti-abortion law and anti-trans rights legislation, calling them “atrocious.”
Lizzo was also in town as part of a collaboration with Amazon Prime Video, which has a new program starring Lizzo called “Watch Out For The Big Girls.” Amazon has a house on Rainey Street with a Lizzo-themed juice bar. There’s also an activation for fans of the show “The Boys.”
It appears “The Boys” part had to be modified slightly to remove an image of The Homelander, played by Antony Starr, who was recently arrested in Spain for assaulting a chef. Not good timing for a SXSW homage.
GSD&M under the stars
It had been three years and three days since the last time GSD&M held its usual annual SXSW party; Duff Stewart, CEO of GSD&M, has been counting. GSD&M’s party, a fixture at SXSW, had the atmosphere of an outdoor music festival at the agency’s fortress in its hometown Austin. Country singer Charley Crockett headlined, drawing thousands of people from the worlds of advertising and media.
Susto Mezcal doled out free samples of its artisan Oaxacan mezcal with a chaser choice of smoked salt or dark chocolate. Crockett played for more than an hour. But first, Me Nd Adam, a local band fronted by Adam Walker, who is Stewart’s son, performed. So, it was very much a family affair.
After the party, Stewart said he was grateful that SXSW was back live after the COVID-19-induced hiatus. GSD&M views its party as the true kick-off of the event, and Stewart described the party as being what SXSW is really about. His agency is there all year; the rest are “just pop-ups,” passing through, Stewart said.
The GSD&M party continues on Tuesday with another outdoor concert, this one a fundraiser for HAAM—Health Alliance for Austin Musicians.
Get me Nicolas Cage
With all the films shown at SXSW, it’s not remarkable to spot a celebrity or catch a red carpet premiere, but someone in Austin this week really wants to meet Nicolas Cage. Most wanted posters with a mugshot of Cage have been posted around town, beckoning the actor to give a call to the number provided. Over the weekend, a group of filmmakers in town for the film fest portion of SXSW huddled around one of the Cage signs, intrigued to see if it was real. They texted, and received a response within minutes. “Is this Nicolas Cage,” the reply asked. Nope, sorry.
Other people may have spotted Cage mascots around town because there were three of them, in oversized felt costumes, that vaguely resembled the “Face Off” star. There was a reason for all the interest—the actor was in town promoting a new movie, “The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent.” This being SXSW, he even learned a bit about NFTs and crypto.
Hotel Saint Cecilia, a tucked-away boutique hotel in Austin, was the scene of a sprawling dinner party for iHeartMedia on Sunday. Laurie Santos, a Yale professor and host of the “Happiness Lab” podcast, spoke before dinner. After that, the band AJR performed an intimate show on a small outdoor stage surrounded by pillows and benches for seating.
iHeartMedia took over the famed hotel for the weekend, redubbing it “the podcast hotel,” and it held talks with a series of podcasters from its roster. Gayle Troberman, iHeart’s chief marketing officer, was there too holding court.
What to attend tomorrow
What’s in a Metaverse? Executives from Epic Games, Second Life and Ready Player Me will discuss the definition and technology needs of a metaverse.
Sebastien Borget, chief operating officer of The Sandbox, outlines five considerations for brands getting into the metaverse.
Former Global Head of Digital Marketing at Nike, Swan Sit, talks about how Web3 is changing marketing.