The 2012 South By Southwest Interactive Conference is over, and I would have to say that this year stands out as one of the better SXSW conferences that I’ve attended. The team at Brunner has spent the last five days immersed in information, creativity and inspiration which we are all excited to share with our agency and our clients, as well as weave into our work in the coming months. And that is really the reason that I’ve come here over the years - to find inspiration.
This year, as every year, a number of key messages have been echoed again and again by the speakers, panelists and attendees of the conference. So here are a few of the main ideas that I’m leaving Austin with in 2012:
Business as usual has ended: there is a New World Order.
I heard Billy Corgan of the Smashing Pumpkins say it about music, Anthony Bourdain say it about TV, and a number of smart advertisers saying it about advertising and marketing: the legacy business models that shape the media world are dead. As Bourdain put it, “Everyone knows it. The body is dead but the brain keeps kicking, refusing to recognize it.” We, and the brands we represent, keep doing the same things today that we did in the past and wonder why we don’t get better results. It’s time to change not only the things we do but the way we do them to remain relevant to consumers.
Digital isn’t a medium, it’s age in which we live.
This is one of the primary themes that was present in just about every talk that I attended. Digital is not a channel in which to run adds. It is a way of thinking, and a state of being, that pervades all of our lives. Brian Solis called today’s generation Generation C - Generation Connected, and it encompasses the majority of us, regardless of age. So much of our lives have been affected by digital connectivity and we have discovered so much control in the messages we receive, the media we consume and the media we create that we have largely begun to reject anything that doesn’t fit into this culture of connectedness and consumer control.
Just go make things.
This was repeated again and again, panel after panel at SXSW this year. With so many possibilities in front of us to connect with consumers these days, we as an industry of communicators seem to freeze up and struggle to communicate. And when we finally work up the courage to produce something, it’s often a retreat back to what we are comfortable with: print ads, TV spots, banners and landing pages. It’s time to be more agile, to stop talking ourselves out of action and just go make this that aren’t necessarily ads. Make apps, make prototypes, try new ideas in social and mobile. Make products. We will never know what works unless we pick up the tools, make things and put them in front of people to get a reaction. If it works, invest more there. If it doesn’t, move on. The age of planning a campaign for 18 months is over. The age of failing fast in order to succeed is here, and we need to embrace it.
Combining these three key points and a new model for the advertising and marketing industry begins to emerge. Our old way of doing business has ended, and we need to recognize it and stop trying to do things the way they were even 5 years ago. The connectivity and control granted to society through the growth of digital technology has fundamentally changed the way people live, and has altered their relationships with media and brands forever. So advertiser and their agencies must become more agile, try more things more quickly, and make things that people want rather than try to make people want things.
It’s the way things are, and SXSW is not the first place that it has been said. But our industry, and our brands, will need to stop talking about this new world order it and actually start living up to it in order to truly move things forward.