SXSW 2019 Learnings From The ADVERTISING Club of New York’s i’mPART Fellows

Thoughts from Sindhuri Bhimavarapu, Strategy Supervisor, OMD…

1. In one word, how would you describe your experience at SXSW this year?sb

Inspirational.

2. What’s the hottest/most prominent topic being discussed at SXSW this year?

It seems like VR was a common theme across SXSW this year, but personally I thought the topic of mental wellness in the workplace (and mental health overall) took center stage. This is so important in this day and age, and I think SXSW did a great job giving people an opportunity to bring awareness to this, and providing a space to discuss this subject. 

3. What was the coolest activation you experienced on the ground?

The Amazon Prime activation! Walking into this activation was like walking into another world. From the characters walking around to the individual sections with different themes in the area, everything was awesome.

4. Was diversity reflected throughout your SXSW experience?

Yes, definitely. There were so many people of color and from different backgrounds on the panels, as keynote speakers, and in the workshops. I attended a panel specifically on mental wellness in diverse communities, so there was definitely diversity. 


Thoughts from Kai Lawson, Associate Operations Director, Essence…

1. In one word, how would you describe your experience at SXSW this year?

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Overwhelming.

2. What’s the hottest/most prominent topic being discussed at SXSW this year? What did you learn about it?

Of the numerous topics being discussed during SXSW, one topic that stood out was the commercialization of cannabis and how it relates to the existing prison industrial complex.

3. What was the coolest activation that you experienced on the ground?

I didn’t make it to an activation, but Game of Thrones seemed to be a hit.

4. How was diversity reflected at SXSW this year?

I found there was a lot of conversation around diversity. However, I didn’t find many conversations that offered a unique perspective on the topic, nor did I find any that offered solutions.


Thoughts from Karinna Schultz, Project Manager, Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness…ks

1. In one word, how would you describe your experience at SXSW this year?

Educational.

2. What’s the hottest/most prominent topic being discussed at SXSW this year? What did you learn about it?

Definitely mental wellness and knowing how to connect all of our interests in our own career.

3. What was the coolest activation that you experienced on the ground?

Casa Mexico, it reflected all facets of Mexico and Mexican culture.

4. How was diversity reflected at SXSW this year?

There were panelists who were forthcoming about the diversity and inclusion topic. However, most discussions were surface-level conversations.


Thoughts from Jessalin Lam, Learning & Development Manager, American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s)…jessalinlam

1. In one word, how would you describe your experience at SXSW this year?

Self-reflection. The experience helped remind me of who I am and who I am yet to become after listening-in on some of the interesting sessions from the “Future Workplace” track.

2. What’s the hottest/most prominent topic being discussed at SXSW this year? What did you learn about it?

I think the most prominent topic may depend on the type of sessions one attended. I joined most of the “Future Workplace” sessions, where discussions were heavily focused on purpose and impact. For example, one of the sessions focused on how some employers are starting to amend their employee offerings as they are seeing a need to change and support their employees in order for them to show up as their best selves. I was inspired by the “No Hard Feelings: Emotions at Work” session highlighting how emotions affect our professional lives and how we need to learn to navigate emotions at work.

3. What was the coolest activation that you experienced on the ground?

I personally enjoyed Accenture Interactive’s “Moments That Matter” activation. The experience allowed one to demo a pair of tech-fueled sunglasses through a buying experience using Accenture’s augmented reality application. At the end of the activation, visitors were gifted with the sunglasses in real life. I know this type of technology exists, but I had never had a chance to experience it before. It definitely changes the retail shopping experience — making it more fun, interactive, and convenient.

4. Was diversity reflected throughout your SXSW experience?

Diversity was not reflected throughout my SXSW experience across attendees and speakers. As an Asian American female, it is something I observe when I walk into a room, and I purposely chose specific sessions to attend where I saw a diversity of speakers. I am grateful I was able to experience SXSW through The AD Club of NY’s Fellowship Program as many of the Fellows and I proudly reflect and champion diversity.


Thoughts from Patricia Alonzo, AD Club Fellow…patricia

1. In one word, how would you describe your experience at SXSW this year?

Glorious.

2. What’s the hottest/most prominent topic being discussed at SXSW this year? What did you learn about it?

In my experience, there wasn’t a single prominent topic at SXSW, but several common threads. Discussions about dignity, authenticity, tenacity and blockchain were the undercurrents of the talks, films and music performances I attended. Seeing most of these discussion topics as hot topics served as affirmations and confirmation of my current path. Regarding blockchain, I learned about all of the possible applications of the technology and how it could shape our lives in five to ten years.

3. What was the coolest activation that you experienced on the ground? 

The most interesting installation for me was the “Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library” produced by The Daily Show. The team curated an amazing experience set in a quintessential antebellum south ballroom. The juxtaposition of the prim and proper decor against the less than savory or intelligent tweets of President 45 really highlighted the ridiculousness of our current times. It also served as a reminder that the bigoted ways of yore are still very prevalent today and have been passed on through the generations.

4. Was diversity reflected throughout your SXSW experience? 

Diversity at SXSW was extremely limited from a socio-economic, racial, gender and ability point of view. First, the barrier to entry is very high and excludes those unable to afford the four-figure price tag. That barrier feeds into the racial composition of the attendees which skewed overwhelmingly white. In the tech talks, you could count the number of women in the audience, and for women on panels, the men often spoke over them. With regards to attendees with disabilities, while ASL interpreters were present for the major keynotes and featured sessions, the option didn’t exist for the smaller sessions which make up the majority of talks.


Thoughts from Resa Edwards, Senior Producer, Integrated Production, Publicis North America…

1. In one word, how would you describe your experience at SXSW this year?resa

Activating.

2. What’s the hottest/most prominent topic being discussed at SXSW this year? What did you learn about it?

I attended the future workplace track and the hottest topic was inclusion. Not just inclusion related to race or gender, but also disabilities. 1:2 people will become disabled in their lifetime. Not only because people are living longer, but because more and more disabled people are coming forward and acknowledging the taboo topic. How the world will include these people will be inspiring. Whenever I think about that I get chills of excitement!

3. What was the coolest activation that you experienced on the ground?

I didn’t attend many activations, but I did enjoy some of the featured speakers sessions. Listening to Zoe Saldana discuss gender neutrality in the home was eye-opening. Most think of gender neutrality and think of policies, but listening to her ask her husband not to refer to her as “the boss” (“ask your mom she’s the boss”) proved how this goes beyond policies. She wants to be the fun parent, to be dominate or passive depending on topics, and somehow be free with the role she plays in the household. I enjoyed thinking of gender neutrality in a more localized way. I enjoyed applying that to the way I described myself.

4. How was diversity reflected at SXSW this year?

I haven’t attended SXSW before, but I felt that the track I attended this year was pretty diverse male-to-female, as well as racially.

*Please Note: All statements are the opinion of the author and may not necessarily represent the views of The ADVERTISING Club of New York.


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