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.
Ad executives are headed back to Austin, Texas after a two-year hiatus. But SXSW will certainly have some new elements to it, both in-person and virtually. A big draw this year comes from the hype around Web3, NFTs, and cryptocurrency. Oh, and Dolly Parton.
Taking SXSW’s temperature
It’s 39 degrees and overcast at SXSW, and hoodies are hot merch at the Austin Convention Center on Day One of the festival, Garett Sloane writes from on the ground. SXSW returned to an in-person show for the first time in two years, and so far crowds appear constrained. By 11 a.m. CT, as Scott Galloway, the professor and tech commentator, was about to present one of the first major talks at SXSW, the line to get in was non-existent. The talk was set to start at 11:30 a.m., and the seats were half empty.
Those in attendance, like Jay Goodwin, a brand strategist at Atlanta-based ad agency Iris, don’t seem to mind. “I kind of like it,” Goodwin said, ahead of Galloway’s talk. “There’s more breathing room” and “less need to hustle from event to event.” This was Goodwin’s first time attending SXSW, but he was with colleagues who marveled at the smaller crowds. The colleagues compared pictures from the same vantage points looking down on the convention center floor high from an escalator—this year was noticeably sparser.
As of Friday morning, the streets were mostly empty except for the usual work crews erecting plazas for food trucks and areas for SXSW registrants to congregate. North Sixth Street was cold and quiet early in the day. Trina Bruchman, a producer with experiential agency Revolution, was outside the convention center setting up hydration stations for Origin Water. Bruchman said it’s still early. “The vibe here is let’s get back to life,” Bruchman said of SXSW attendees, at least for the people who are here, so far.
Anti-advice advice for burned-out creators
COVID was a catalyst for a lot of things, including a time for folks to explore their creativity. Apps like TikTok made it easy to start making content as a way to pass the time and fight boredom. Now, as some of those people have become full-time creators, the constant need for content has started taking its toll and even experienced creators are feeling burned out. During his SXSW talk, a very hyped Jack Conte, CEO of Patreon, a platform for content creators, gave a look at how he has balanced output for Patreon, and his two bands, and various YouTube channels. He started the talk with a caveat that he hates advice, and encouraged the audience to yell, “Fuck you, Jack” whenever he said, “You should [insert advice here.]”
Some tools from Conte included writing down where stress is coming from, what works well, what tasks could be delegated, and using problem statements to home in on what needs solving. He also encouraged “subtracting” commitments or processes that took away from larger goals, pointing to the time his band canceled the rest of its live shows because they were tired of the same work for fewer ticket sales. They also stopped their TikTok posts, which, though short, were draining to think up.
Feeling stuck? Conte advised finding ways to generate inspiration. Write down what led to a creative idea, and see if you can recreate that when you need new content. For Conte, inspiration comes from watching Gary Vee YouTube videos, or Ben Zander’s Ted Talk on classical music.
Scott Galloway is not impressed
The NYU marketing professor had some strong thoughts on the metaverse, starting with Facebook’s rebrand to Meta. But he’s bullish on Apple, pointing to the company’s app store as a kind of metaverse already. He’s also a fan of NFTs, predicting that NFT marketplace OpenSea will double in valuation.
Future of TV
Andrew Wallenstein, president of Variety’s subscription data service, and VIP senior media analyst Gavin Bridge talked shop on how the media and entertainment business will change in the near future, especially for streaming and linear TV. “We see it as one converged industry,” Wallenstein said.
The carmaker made its first appearance at SXSW with a pop-up activation on Congress Street in Austin. The area is typically a high-traffic one at any SXSW, but the first day of the show was a little subdued. That didn’t mean Porsche couldn’t draw some people to its event, which offered a showcase of cars as if they were models on a designer’s desk. The showroom was filled with oversized pencils and watches, to create a miniature feel. The exhibit was called Porsche Unseen, and one of the cars was based on the 2002 character Sally, a Porsche 911 Carrera from Disney Pixar’s “Cars.” Porsche also displayed its Formula 1 Vision Gran Turismo sportscar.
Banksy art show
Banksy’s artwork was an early draw at SXSW, with streaming video media company Atmosphere hosting an exhibit of the street artist. There was no sign of the elusive artist, but the company hosting the event was a big fan and had some authentic prints on display. Atmosphere is a streaming video company, which runs out-of-home media programs, and it’s ad-supported. The Austin-based company operates screens in 20,000 venues.
One attendee, Tanaira Cullens, an environmental scientist, was naturally drawn to a Banksy print called “Greenpeace: Save or Delete,” a popular work that depicts Winnie the Pooh characters in an environmental hostage situation.
What to attend this weekend
All About Games. Data, Trends, and What’s Next. Video games got a popularity boost from COVID. Now, brands are looking for how they can connect with the next generation.
The Future for NFTs Beyond Art and Collectibles. Hear from panelists on how else brands could be tapping into NFTs.
Lizzo keynote. The pop star’s “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” is a new unscripted series premiering this spring on Prime Video.
BEEPLE will be a featured speaker on Sunday. The artist became well known after his NFT sold for $69 million at Christie’s.
What Makes TikTok Tick. Jorge Ruiz, head of marketing science at TikTok, and Pranav Yadav, CEO Neuro-Insight, share the findings of the first-ever independent neuro analysis of the world’s hottest platform.