SXSW 2016 – Day 1

Registration opened at 9:00 a.m. and we were in line with roughly 400+ people eager to kick off the first day of the festival. We were anxious but were well informed to not try to do everything within the first day. “South by” is a marathon, not a sprint. We have five days here and we knew we needed to pace ourselves. We discussed our aggressive schedule for the next few days and prepared a strategy. Focus on highlights that we can use: account relevance, digital amplification, creative inspiration and then squeeze in the “that would be cool” in between time. We grabbed our badges and raced a few blocks to the JW Marriott (not because we were pressed for time, but because it was pouring outside).


The first conference was “Designing for the Real World” by Talin Wadsworth, apparently an Adobe genius that built the programs and UX that most designers use today and into the future. The room held about 250 people and it appeared to be filled with close to 300. The presentation was based mostly around mobile app design but there were a few key learnings that resonated: (1) Make the design, (2) Show the design, and (3) Learn from the design (rinse and repeat). The overarching moral was to remind the designer that they are not the user. Every design, be it digital or otherwise, needs to resonate with an audience outside of yourself and you need to disconnect yourself for criticism. Noted! We moved on.

McD Pitch Competition

Stop two was “McDonald’s Pitch Event: The internet of Things,” a conference where McDonald’s digital executives judged accelerated start up business to work with the world famous brand (Shark Tank style). We’ve worked with McDonald’s for years now and we are always anxious to see the next move. This just might be our chance to get a glimpse at the future. Who knows? There were three companies that were chosen from an extensive list and got the opportunity. (1) CURB; a company that has the ability to put energy use on the web. They can create a “Smart Business System” that will allow a real time monitoring of energy use for residential and business. Possibly shut off equipment at low business hours and maintain an efficient conservative use of energy across the millions of stores. Think about the potential energy savings on that concept. (2) PRIMAL SENSORS; a company that efficiently tracks equipment and resources on a construction site. We learned that loss of equipment and resources plagues millions of businesses. We’re marketers. This is news to us! Regardless, the company uses tagging of both equipment and resources (workers included) to track location and efficiency through iBeacon technologies. Interesting. (3) NEWAER; a company that was so futuristic it’s even hard to explain. Basically, they can tap into the existing technology that we all use to identify us wherever we may land. The reference to the sci-fi film “Minority Report” came up more than once. Imagine this: you walk into the airport and a display screen identifies you by the phone in your pocket and displays your flight gate and departure time. How about this: you walk into your McDonald’s and a display screen identifies you, your last order, and makes a recommendation. What? Too “Big Brother”esque? Well, that’s the idea. Now, McDonald’s ranked these pitches in the exact order presented here as the best with CURB leading the charge. Maybe, just maybe, we’ll see McDonald’s leading the way with smart business energy use.

McD lunch

We had a small gap before the next conference and took advantage of the time by visiting the McDonald’s loft for a custom burger, referred to as the “experience of the future.” We used a digital kiosk to craft our lunch to be delivered to us table-side. The quality of the food was superior. We get it. This approach works.


Later that afternoon, we went to a lengthy health care conference. MassMedia has been able to support a number of health care clients over the years and we take great pride in our industry knowledge as it evolves and we position ourselves as “growth agents” for the heavily regulated trade. This particular conference titled “You can’t because of HIPAA and other stupid stuff” included a panel of professionals in the field from the private sector to the White House. Oddly, it took over 45 minutes to actually talk about HIPAA and the restriction it has on marketers. A majority of the time the conversation revolved around the acknowledgement that there is a gap between providers and technology today and patients are embracing it at a far more rapid rate. We knew that. So what about HIPAA? Well, the White House is placing clear guidelines on what we (as marketers) can use when it comes to patient data as this is a civil rights issue. They have allowed an open forum online to discuss our uncertainty on marketing but rarely hear any concerns but acknowledge there are grey areas. They pushed the burden of accountability on to providers to attract patients through comprehensive quality care, instead of marketers. We thought this was a completely separate issue but appreciated the effort to tie them together. We attend a conference tomorrow on that model and will withhold judgment until then on marketing efforts. The ending comment: “It’s all very difficult.” Well, we agree. Thanks for that! Until tomorrow.

Casey Floyd – Exec. Digital Director
Tommy DiGioia – Exec. Creative Director

sign off

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