Tag Archives: SXSW 2010

My Behind-the-Scenes Observations at SXSW

I have finally been able to catch my breath from the SXSW trip enough to reflect on everything I observed and share it here.  First of all, my perspective of SXSW is different than any other conference I’ve attended, just from the standpoint of how much work I was doing to make things happen for our client.  It was, by far, the most intense, condensed (if that makes sense) working situation that I’ve been in with an agency.  I liken it to my time working on films – in many respects it felt like film production.  Late nights, early mornings, always on the run (and I emphasize run), going from one thing to the other so quickly that you’re just reacting.  I like that kind of work, that kind of pace, that kind of “doing,” but it’s not something I could sustain at this time in my life.  Short periods? Sure.  Every day?  No way.  Anyway, my involvement at that level “behind the scenes” prohibited me from experiencing the conference in a way that I am accustom to.  I didn’t go to any panels, I didn’t go to any parties, I didn’t spend time networking at length with people.  It really was strictly business on behalf of FH & Chevy, not Mike or The 11th Screen.  That said, I was involved enough in what was going on, specifically around the convention center, to come away with some good, pretty fair observations.

1.  Value, value, value – it really does work.  Brands can accomplish a lot and shift perceptions by providing value to people.  To me, this is all about relevance.  How are you, as a brand, communicating & engaging with your audience(s)?  Are you engaging in a meaningful way?  Is it mutually beneficial?  Does it provide value?

2.  Don’t talk to, talk with – it’s all about 2-way communication.  Listen first.  Then, talk.  It’s so simple.  It’s what we do in our normal, everyday, real-world lives.  At least what we should be doing.  Effective communication and engagement is not about talking to people, it’s about talking with people.  Try this with your spouse, with your kids, with your co-workers, family members, friends – just talk with them.  It’s a dialogue.  A give and take.  When you do this, you can both have productive, fulfilling conversations.  Brands who do this, particularly in the social space, create advocates and build trust.  Advocacy and trust are sustainable and those types of relationships don’t go away easy.

3.  It’s not what you know, it’s who you know – people are smart.  And people have connections.  In an ideal situation, the best people to know are smart and connected.  I say this because if you talk to the right people (smart + connected) in the right way (2-way communication), they will talk about you.  You as a person and/or you as a brand.  And when they talk, many people listen.  I could rephrase this observation to “it’s not how many people you know, it’s how many right people you know.”

4.  QR codes & LBS are a ways away from mass adoption – I think SXSW majorly failed at their attempt to introduce QR codes to the masses.  They had a prime audience, one who could actually warm to the use of them, yet they failed to educate and create an easy experience with them.  Their codes virtually went unused.  By the time attendees came to our booth, no one knew what QR code reader to load on their phone and/or exactly what to expect from them.  I think QR codes, specifically SXSW’s use of them, was the most overrated technological story that came out of the conference.  Again, this is from my limited point of view.  (I heard that Twitter’s announcement of their @Anywhere feature was less than stellar.)  I just had such high hopes for the QR code story.  But QR codes aren’t the only emerging technology that is still immature over here.  LBS, like Gowalla and/or FourSquare, are used consistently by such a small segment of people.  But there is a huge group who have no idea what “LBS” stands for in this context, much less how to use them on their phone.  There was a vast difference between the interactive attendee usage of Gowalla and the music attendee usage of Gowalla.  I think a lot of this is attributed to the penetration (or lack thereof) of smart phones still in the US.  The opportunity here is to continue to push these types of technologies – because I believe that they still have a life – and experiment with them in various ways.  We’ve really only scratched the surface in how we can use them in relevant, meaningful ways on behalf of brands.

5.  Last but certainly not least, I work with some amazing people.  We were a relatively small team, but we are like family.  Matt, Valerie, Cindy, Jodi, Marc, Herb, Rob, Miker, Jessica, Penny, Sarah B., Sarah F., Lane, Chris, Chrissie, Brad, Warren, Christian, designer Jessica, Matt W – you guys rock.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on SXSW.  Shout back.

QR Codes Here, There and Everywhere

(Full Disclosure – I’ll be at SXSW as part of the Chevrolet SXSW team.)

It’s been cool to see people interacting with the QR codes on the Cruze over the past few days.  We’ve seen some good interaction and gotten some good feedback.  It seems (and sounds) like people really enjoy interacting with the car in this way.  From my perspective – it feels right.  These codes, while I think there are too many for people to interact with here, generate a level of interest to an otherwise static, “blank” display, which is important because it adds another element to the car to compel people to actually stop and look.  But more than that, the engagement that they enable has been very interesting to watch.  People like doing anything on their mobile phone, and we’ve seen that here (especially with the “geek” factor at SXSW) in the booth – they like the immediacy and intimacy of the experience.  They like the comfort of their phone.  They’re not intimidated by it.  As long as they know how to use it, they’re willing to try it.  But I’ll say it again – the payoff has to be there on the other end, though.  The experience needs to be completed.  And here, I feel like we did a good job of completing the experience.  Again, I think we could have dialed down the number of codes that we gave people to interact with.  I also think we could have done a better job of letting the people know the difference in all of the codes.  Upon first look, I’m sure it appeared that they were all the same (except the “Fan-us-on-Facebook” codes), so we could have differentiated them better. 

All in all, I’m proud of the experience – I think we did a good job of using the spaces around us (car in a tradeshow) to create a personalized experience through the use of enabling technologies (mobile + QR codes).  This is what I look for whenever I observe any OOH/”ambient media”/DOOH implementation – does the experience drive deeper than what the user sees on the surface?  

I have to commend the client for getting behind this.  Without forward-thinking clients, this type of work will only trickle out into the industry and take a much longer time to gain traction than needed.  We need a constant flow that turns into a flood.

What do you guys think of the experience?’  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

SXSW….with a little more IOOH

(Full Disclosure – I’ll be at SXSW as part of the Chevrolet SXSW Team.  Chevrolet is an official sponsor this year of SXSW.)

So, the road trip came to an end last night.  All of the teams made it to Austin safe and sound.  They generated tons of great content.  It was fun to watch.  I think the IOOH experiment was successful.  (A few people told me last night that they really enjoyed the interaction.)  I greatly underestimated the logistical component of those clues, though.  We had to ship and coordinate with ~16 different hotels, all different days to be delivered, and different times to check-in.  There were many variables that made this particular component challenging.  That’s to be expected, though, when using a guerilla-like approach.  We couldn’t do much – this isn’t a sophisticated use of OOH – but the point was to try to be as innovative as we could with this element of the experience.

To me, this is an interesting, very realistic way to give people more information/engagement with something as simple and as ubiquitous as post cards.  If I were in charge of a city/state branding initiative, where we were responsible for doing the “standards”, like post cards, I would immediately print the cards with some sort of tags/codes like QR codes/MS tags.  There would be so many opportunities for deeper, more dynamic engagement and content.  You could drive to videos of city/state leaders, citizens, even b-roll-type footage. Even fun facts about the city/state.  Even a website (which I know is not preferred, but could be tailored to the content on the card.) Or if you wanted to get a little more creative, you could drive people from a card of say, The Statue of Liberty, to The Empire State building, just the way we did with the scavenger-hunt post cards.  It could actually add a refreshing element to these otherwise novel (at best) objects.  I suppose in this scenario, these wouldn’t necessarily be true IOOH because the user would, in most cases, end up owning the card, but it’s still a vehicle to enable deeper engagement through an emerging technology.

And yes, I think QR codes are an emerging technology in the US.  I don’t know if they’ll catch on here, but SXSW is doing their part to introduce them to a large, influential audience.  I’ve said it before, but I think one of the top stories coming out of SXSW is going to be QR codes.  They’re on the badges, they’re posted around the convention center, and we’re contributing by using them in various ways.  We’ve placed them on all of the ride & drive Chevy vehicles so that people can learn more about each vehicle that they’re riding in or seeing out in the open spaces around the convention center.  And we’re placing them on a new car – the Cruze – as a way for people to interact with it because here, they can’t drive it or even get inside it.  All of the codes are placed on the car in locations that are specific to the content that they’ll receive.  So, if someone wants to learn about the Cruze’s engine, they’ll take a picture of the code on the hood of the car.

The content behind the codes, though, is really going to be key to make these things compelling and show their potential in how they can benefit the user.  We’re incorporating Chevy-in-pop-culture facts centered around film & music with the ride & drive vehicles, as well as special product content.  With the Cruze, we’re incorporating quizzes and exclusive video content that people can only experience in this way – through these QR codes at SXSW.  The payoff has to equal, or preferably, outweigh the buildup.  Otherwise, it just makes for a bad experience and bad experiences are, well….bad.

I’m confident in ours. Tomorrow, we’ll find out.

Example of our QR codes on the Cruze:

QR Codes, Chevy Cruze

More to come tomorrow, after the booth opens and the Cruze is covered in codes.  Farewell for the night from Austin!

SXSW….with a little IOOH

(Full Disclosure – I’ll be at SXSW as part of the Chevrolet SXSW TeamChevrolet is an official sponsor this year of SXSW.)

Wow.  I have been buried in work, specifically gearing up for SXSW – the premier interactive, film and music festival in the nation.  Yes, I am a little partial because I’m from Austin (where it’s held) but anyone who’s anyone, particularly in the interactive world, attends.  With its heavy technology focus, “trends” tend to appear here before they go mainstream.

We have spent the last few months planning a huge integrated program for one of our clients, Chevy.  And honestly, I couldn’t be more proud of everything we’ve done and are doing.  Chevy has been great to work with and it is our expectation that we will enhance the SXSW experience for everyone.  I won’t get much into all of our program right now, but suffice it to say, we have developed a heavy social + mobile + OOH program.  Here, it’s the OOH program that I really want to focus on.

Yesterday, 8 teams of roadtrippers from across the nation (influential SM-types) set off, all in Chevy vehicles, en route to Austin, where they will all arrive on Thursday 3/11.  Along the way, they are accomplishing “tasks” (which have been crowdsourced over the past month) and broadcasting them across the world wide web.  In addition, they’re receiving clues that lead them from destination to destination. (It’s like the Amazing Race 2.0.)  This is where we’ve introduced one of the OOH components.  We’ve made postcards with QR Codes and MS Tags that have been/are being delivered to the teams’ various hotels.  When they check-in at their hotels, they receive a package that contains these postcards, and when they interact with the postcards, they receive their next clue. Each team gets 1 QR Code postcard (that leads them to a Twitter account) and 1 MS Tag postcard (that generates an SMS).

Since this is such a technology-rich conference, we really wanted to introduce these roadtrippers to different types of emerging technologies (they also receive a clue via “checking in” with Gowalla) before they arrived in Austin.  We felt that it was the perfect way to set the stage for everything that they will experience in the days to come.

One of our QR Code post cards: 

QR Code

One of our MS Tag post cards:

Microsoft Tag

More to come as we get closer to SXSW.  If you’re interested, follow all of the action, from Chevy’s perspective here.