Recap: South by Southwest 2017

Frances Blout

As South by Southwest 2018 applications have opened up, we’re taking a quick look back at our time at SXSW 2017. It was mid-March, and - always up for an adventure - Julie and I decided at t-minus one day to take the South By plunge and book our trip. It was our first time going to the festival, and we really didn’t know what to expect. The details were hammered out that night, and we took the 9 AM Sunday morning flight out of Nashville. We landed in Austin and our SXSW experience officially began when we found ourselves in a taxi, stuck in traffic, and 250 people in their underwear ran by us. Keep Austin Weird, right? (For the record, the naked people were apart of one of many outlandish activations promoting new Netflix and HBO shows)

After checking into our hotel, we booked it to the convention center to get our Interactive Passes and to really get our day started. After a quick pitstop for margs and tacos (gotta love Texas!), we were off to the races and began exploring the city. Without a plan, a guide, or even a single clue of what was really happening, the first day was pretty overwhelming. Luckily, everyone around town was incredibly friendly and helpful in giving us tips and tricks of how to navigate the festival. In fact, no one even laughed at me when I asked why there was no Southwest Air branding anywhere - they kindly explained that the festival, which has been around since 1987, was named as a play on the Alfred Hitchcock classic North by Northwest and had nothing to do with SWA.

After a few short hours, we were already calling it “South By”, checking out the “houses”, and judging the “activations.” Just call us locals! Later that night, we went to a happy hour thrown by The Founders Organization - props to our friend Anoop Kansupada for a fabulous event. Food was delicious, The Hard Truth was playing great music, and the drinks were on point (we quickly realized that SXSW was just as much about the food & drinks as it was about the music, film, and interactive expos).

After the Founders meetup, Jules and I hit up the “unofficial South By” parties including the Twitter House, the Mashable House, and finally the Snapchat House, where we eagerly ordered two pairs of spectacles from the vending machine. We would not let this week go undocumented!

Over the next few days, as we got into the groove of the festival (pun totally intended), we had a packed schedule. We met up with old friends, made new ones, listened to great music, and explored the future of the interactive world. We did all of this on foot - next year we are definitely packing more comfortable shoes! Highlights include checking out the booths at the expo, such as the one from our friends at Oliso and Bevi, doing meetings and shows with the wonderful Kelleigh Bannen, and attending thought-provoking panels. One of our favorites was the one about the future of cannabis; Elizabeth from Willie’s Reserve and Elise from Kind Courier provided amazing insight into possible changes for music festivals and the music industry as the legality of cannabis changes as well. We even got to sneak off to Rodeo Austin to see Marbaloo client Cole Swindell steal the show.

Some of the most valuable information came from exploring the interactive expositions from companies like Shazam, National Geographic, Google, and more. We learned that augmented reality is the future, and that the future is now. We were so excited to experience all of the new AR developments that as soon as our plane landed back in Nashville, we came up with a game plan for how to begin implementing augmented reality into future client campaigns.

Our biggest takeaway from the festival was that amazing things can happen when you combine the best and brightest in entertainment, science, technology and innovation together in one city for one week. When Julie and I ventured to South By for the first time this past March, we both didn’t know what we were getting into but it’s safe to say we were blown away. Our time in Austin was so amazing - we had clients to see and hear, made so many great new connections, and - most importantly - ate (and drank) our way through the best of Texas. We’re so excited to start booking hotel rooms and flights for next year’s SXSW - will we see you there?