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Your guide to SXSW 2019 through 10 key themes

SXSW has shifted quite remarkably in the past 10 years – from a launchpad for new technologies, to a reflection of much broader connected culture. During the Interactive portion of the festival, there remains an underpinning of innovation, but so too is there everything from politics to gender on the agenda.

The audience accordingly has widened from those looking for the latest tech trends or emerging startups, to those aiming to understand how societal shifts and digital consumer behaviors are impacting their businesses.

For 2019, that looks set to continue. For those headed down to Austin from the brand world therefore – from marketers to retail executives – it pays to be one step ahead in what to expect. Here are 10 themes to look out for during this year’s festival and the main events to head to in order to see them…

Entrepreneurship

There’s always a theme around entrepreneurship that pops up during SXSW, but this year’s line up looks particularly engaging. Top of the bill is Howard Schultz, former Starbucks Chairman and CEO, who will be talking about growing a global brand with an eye on humanity as well as profits. Meanwhile, Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger are taking to the stage for the first time since leaving their company, to talk about their entrepreneurial journey. Other highlights come from Esther Perel, who is applying her relationship therapy to workplace dynamics, and Brene Brown, who will explore showing up and speaking out.

Wellness

Wellness as a theme has been increasingly emerging at SXSW over the past few years, as digital health has evolved beyond fitness trackers, for instance, into mental health and mindfulness. That plays out in a few different ways this year, from the expo dedicated to wellness as a theme, to the house Lululemon has with programming focused on yoga and meditation, and a keynote from Gwyneth Paltrow talking all things Goop. Over at the Current Global’s Innovation Mansion, highlights lie in a keynote from meditation app Calm’s co-founder and co-CEO, Michael Acton Smith, alongside a guided meditation experience from the app in our pool house, and a game show dedicated to the wellness revolution.

Michael Acton Smith, Calm
Michael Acton Smith, Calm
Sustainability

Sustainability follows neatly after wellness as we think about not just ourselves but our planet. On that note, there’s a lot for the fashion industry to stew over this SXSW, including a session featuring the H&M Group and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition; another from Finery founders Brooklyn Decker and Whitney Casey, and one from SAP on a more sustainable supply chain. There’s also Rent the Runway talking about the sharing economy, Walmart looking at sustainable beauty, and a keynote at our Innovation Mansion? with the head of global product innovation at Levi’s.

Experiential

When it comes to retail, experience remains the buzzword du jour, and there’s a lot to learn at SXSW related to such a theme. From the large-scale activations taking place across the city, to those discussing how to do such things well. Giant Spoon is the agency behind last year’s winning Westworld experience at SXSW, and they’ll be on stage discussing how they do it. Also worth seeing is a session dedicated to how to ensure engagement, delight and success through experiential retail above and beyond the overdone ball-pit and photo-worthy backdrops. We’ll also be heading to Calvin Klein’s talk on how to humanize your brand experience in the robot era.

International Women’s Day

Gender and equality isn’t a new topic to SXSW, but International Women’s Day takes place on the first day of the festival, which provides an appropriate opportunity for a celebration of women this year.  Cue lots of events and talks dedicated to the subject, including a full set of programming from Bumble, a panel featuring the women building brands we’ve always wanted, such as Rachel Blumenthal’s Rockets of Awesome, and a session on the rise of feminists with fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff. Also look out for actress Zoe Saldana’s keynote on changing the narrative for millennial and Gen Z audiences.

Melinda Gates on stage at SXSW 2018
Melinda Gates on stage at SXSW 2018
Retail Tech

What’s interesting about this year’s SXSW schedule is seeing talks by the likes of Magic Leap distinctly pointing their focus towards the retail audience. They’ll be talking about AR in the digital shopping experience, while Walmart, Amazon and Kohl’s are (separately) discussing the future of shopping via computer vision, machine learning and AI. Also not to miss is a session featuring the Current Global’s CTO, Scott Emmons, formerly head of the Neiman Marcus Innovation Lab, diving into how retailers can leverage emerging technologies to thrive in a rapidly changing landscape.

Street Culture

If we’re talking culture today, there’s no escaping all things streetwear in terms of mass consumer spread. SXSW is reflecting that fact with various sessions dedicated to the topic. StockX’s Josh Luber has a keynote session talking about his online marketplace designed to work like the stock market. Meanwhile, I’ll be hosting a panel on stage with Levi’s, NTWORK and Johannes Leonardo – the agency that has worked with the likes of Alexander Wang and Adidas Originals – to discuss how streetwear turns hype into big revenue. That story will continue over at our Innovation Mansion with a business of streetwear-themed gameshow. One additional talk to try and get to is with Nike’s Tinker Hatfield, who’s known as a legend among sneakerheads.

The Nike PG 3 NASA on StockX
The Nike PG 3 NASA on StockX
Blockchain

With a new track dedicated to blockchain at SXSW this year, it’s almost cheating to add it as a key theme, but there’s no escaping the growing presence it’s had at the festival over the past few years. The most interesting sessions for 2019 include a keynote from Joseph Lubin, co-founder of the Ethereum blockchain and CEO of ConsenSys, the Winklevoss twins talking about the cryptocurrency revolution, and a session on radical transparency in the food supply chain. ConsenSys also has a house during the festival where blockchain trends happening across entertainment, fashion, media and more, will be discussed.

Privacy

If blockchain is a key topic, then setting the stage for that, has to be trust. The past couple of years at SXSW have been heavily navigated towards fake news, but after a year of big data protection busts, 2019 orientates itself towards tech ethics and privacy above all else. There’s a not-to-miss session from the founder of Foursquare on location privacy, a couple of deep dives on user privacy in a post Cambridge Analytica and GDPR world, and a look at trust in the era of data.

Looking to the future

Rounding out our themes is the required nod to the future that SXSW has always brought. Malcolm Gladwell is in town to discuss self-driving cars, Publicis is going to explore invention in the age of creativity and the Current Global’s CEO, Liz Bacelar, will dive into the future of beauty with L’Oréal. We’re also looking forward to the Serpentine Galleries’ Hans Ulrich Obrist exploring the possibilities that AI presents for the creation of new art forms, and for those still in town by Wednesday, Bruce Sterling’s always enlightening annual closing remarks.

How are you thinking about retail innovation? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. The Current Global is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Retail technology

Mall of America launches elf hologram concierge to help guide gifting

Mall of America has launched an interactive hologram called “Ellie the Elf”,  which acts as a concierge and helps advise customers on which gifts to buy their loved ones this holiday season.

Activated via voice command, customers can interact with the hologram, which lives on a screen in the shopping center, by standing next to a small control board, and speaking into a microphone. 

The experience operates much like a chatbot, going down the route of a decision tree to get to suggestions for users. When users ask “Ellie, I’m looking for a gift for my mom”, for instance, it then responds by asking further questions to determine the perfect gift.

The aim of the experience, which was created in partnership with VNTANA, is to both ease the shopping journey for customers, and create a fun interaction.

“At our core, Mall of America is an experiential retail destination,” said Sarah Townes, VP of marketing at the company. “VNTANA’s hologram technology is a great way to capitalize on our multi-channel chatbot we launched last year and provides yet another interaction for guests to experience that not only offers a fun interaction but also assistance to those searching for gift ideas this holiday season.”

When approaching the hologram, customers are also invited to find gifts via different categories of suggestions. These are broken down into women, men, teens, kids and babies, for instance, after which new categories emerge such as “tech” or “experience”. 

The concierge can then also show customers where they can find the specific items they are looking for, by explaining on which level and area of the mall they are located.

How are you thinking about interactive retail experiences? We’re all about finding you the perfect partners to do so. TheCurrent is a consultancy transforming how fashion, beauty and consumer retail brands intersect with technology. We deliver innovative integrations and experiences, powered by a network of top technologies and startups. Get in touch to learn more.

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Events technology

TheCurrent’s essential guide to SXSW Interactive 2018

TheCurrent at SXSW

For both first timers and longstanding attendees, SXSW Interactive is one of the most exhilarating, educational, insightful and inspiring events at the intersection of tech, culture and design. That said, it’s also one of the most overwhelming and exhausting, with hundreds of panel sessions, keynote talks, meet- ups, happy hours, parties and more to make your way to.

Not sure what to do when The Terminator is on stage, but there are tacos calling your name? Never fear, TheCurrent’s Essential Guide to SXSW Interactive 2018 sums up the best of everything you need to attend, and provides a handy guide for the week ahead in the process.

From the best sessions to head down to (ranging from artificial intelligence to blockchain, experiential marketing and beyond), to the FOMO-inducing activations that should be top of your list, we have it all covered.

We’re also on site ourselves, with two speaking slots on the main stage:

The first will see our founder Liz Bacelar hosting a big interview with none other than Farfetch CEO José Neves, discussing how disruptive innovation and technology is redefining the industry and the future of luxury retail.

The second will focus on biotech’s impact on the future of fashion with our chief intelligence officer Rachel Arthur in conversation with Bolt Threads, Modern Meadow and the H&M Foundation.

And join us at our meetup specific to fashion, luxury and retail, for an opportunity to meet the team, explore what’s pushing the industry forward & chat about the untraditional partnerships at the forefront of innovation.

Download our SXSW guide for more info, and do drop us a note if you’ll be in town. We look forward to seeing you!

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Comment Editor's pick Events

Cannes Lions 2016: a content guide for the fashion industry

Christopher_Bailey_Cannes_Lions
Burberry’s Christopher Bailey is one of the headline speakers at this year’s Cannes Lions

Work in (or with) the fashion industry and heading to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this year? Then we’ve done you a solid… Here’s a list of all the relevant sessions you should attend directly related to this industry, from Anna Wintour and Christopher Bailey in conversation, to exciting start-ups including MikMak and Wearable Experiments, not to mention keynotes from Kevin Plank of Under Armour, and John C Jay from Uniqlo.

We’ve also outlined a few bonus must-see talks from other verticals each day in order to get your creative juices flowing.

And don’t forget to check out our tips and tricks for spending the week in Cannes too, from how to keep up with all the content to the best rosé to drink. Do look us up if you’re in town…

Sunday, June 19

10.45am: Digital Darwinism: From the Makers of Monty the Penguin
The creative team at MPC will be sharing the process behind the CG character work they do, exploring the science behind ‘Monty the Penguin’ for John Lewis.

5pm: Want Brand Fans? Create a Movement
Sports performance clothing manufacturer SKINS is teaming up with BBD Perfect Storm for a conversation around building fans by challenging what harms the sports industry: corruption and cheating.

Sunday’s bonus content – 11am: Can Good User Experience Change the World?
If you want any insight into what works in China, this is the session to attend – a deep dive into how one app – WeChat, owned by Tencent – has become an essential part of everyday life by focusing on the user experience.

Monday, June 20

3pm: Adobe Experience
There are a series of speakers in this session, but the one to look out for is Billie Whitehouse, CEO of Wearable Experiments who will be demonstrating how physical, digital and emotional connections are shaping our future and culture (and yes, through clothing).

3.15pm: Creativity Under Pressure
In the world of sporting performance, innovation and new technologies operate at speed, so to remain relevant without sacrificing authenticity, a brand has to continually innovate both products and creativity. Adidas global CMO Eric Liedtke is in the hotseat for this one, exploring co-creating the brand with its consumers.

4pm: Capturing Short Attention Spans: Custom Video Creative for Social Media
If you want insights on video content, hearing from Adaptly and Refinery29 is a good place to start – this session will explore research around short attention spans through to the evolution of long-form media.

Monday’s bonus content – 1pm: Brian Chesky in Conversation with Joanna Coles
Cosmo’s editor-in-chief sits down with Airbnb’s CEO to discuss the vision for his company and the current state of today’s sharing economy. This is a not to miss session as one of the world’s hottest start-ups. Other Monday highlights include Samsung’s virtual reality experience at 12pm, NASA in IPG Mediabrand’s session at 4pm and Mattel in 360i’s reimagining of play at 5pm.

Tuesday, June 21

10am: Anna Wintour in Conversation with Christopher Bailey
For those in the fashion industry, this is one of the most-anticipated sessions of the week, Condé Nast’s infamous artistic director starting off talking about breaking through the noise with an authoritative editorial voice, followed by a conversation about creativity with Burberry’s chief creative and executive officer. Never have the obstacles to true innovation been so real, Wintour explains – but never have the opportunities been as great.

12.15pm: From Roman Emperors to Roman Orgies
Strictly speaking this is a talk about the world of agency and client relationships, but the fact United Colors of Benetton and its history of creative campaigns is the subject makes it a worthwhile one to attend. The brand’s chief product and marketing officer, John Mollanger, will be in conversation with 180 Amsterdam.

12.30pm: Invisible UI – Transforming the Way We Think About Wearables
Another wearable technology conversation takes place courtesy of Fjord (part of Accenture Interactive) during Lions Innovation, this time focusing on moving beyond wrists stacked with smart watches and fitness trackers to integrating tech seamlessly into what we already have and do.

1pm: The Gang of Four
As part of Lions Innovation, L2 Inc’s Scott Galloway will explain the race to grab share in the retail and media industries between Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google – outlining who will thrive and who will die in the digital age. Knowing Galloway’s style of presenting, this will be a fast-paced delivery of data and insights, meaning it’s rich in information even if your head is left spinning.

Tuesday’s bonus content – 5pm: The Art of (Brand) Seduction
There’s Will Smith at 11am and Usher at 2pm, but the session we don’t want to miss is rather from FCB in conversation with the chief scientific advisor for Match.com. In a complex life, building enduring connections is difficult – whether you’re shopping or looking for life partners. The hypothesis here is there’s a lot for brands to learn from the social science behind how the world of dating has changed.

Kevin Plank Under Armour
Kevin Plank, CEO and founder of Under Armour

Wednesday, June 22

1pm: Stephen Sackur Interviews Gwyneth Paltrow
This year’s BBC Hardtalk session – a live on-stage recording for TV – is with award winning actress Gwyneth Paltrow. For industry folk, it’s her role as the driving force behind health and wellness platform Goop that will likely be of most interest though.

5pm: Inside the Innovator’s Mindset
Forbes has pulled together two entrepreneurs for its session at Lions Innovation this year – exploring what innovation and creativity means to them as game-changers. One of them is the co-founder and CPO of smart jewellery brand, Bellabeat; the other the founder and CEO of mobile video shopping network, MikMak. Both are well worth a listen.

Wednesday’s bonus content – 1pm: Wired’s Kevin Kelly on Where We Are All Heading
Today’s must-see: It clashes with Gwyneth Paltrow, but if you’re happy to “consciously uncouple” yourself from her, head over to Wired co-founder Kevin Kelly’s conversation with PHD Worldwide instead. The session will explore 12 inevitable technological forces that will revolutionise the way we buy, work, learn and communicate. Failing that, you’ve also got Simon Pegg at 10am, Unilever’s Keith Weed at 11am and Iggy Pop at 3pm.

Thursday, June 23

12pm: Kevin Plank and David Droga: from Underdogs to Challengers
Another big highlight of the week comes in the form of this conversation between the founder of Under Armour and the founder of Droga5 – a duo who have both built successful, innovative companies with authenticity at the core. Hot on the heels of his talk at SXSW, Plank particularly is one not to miss.

5pm: Spike Jonze & Shane Smith: Making Content We Care About
How do we make content that young people genuinely care about? A key question for brands today, and who better to share key insights than Oscar winning director Spike Jonze and Vice founder Shane Smith. The discussion will be a broad one, but there should be lots of applicable snippets to learn in this session.

Thursday’s bonus content – 10am: Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors’ Showcase
On the off-chance the pace of Cannes has started to catch up with you, there’s nothing better than Thursday morning’s New Directors’ Showcase for a spot of recovery. It’s a good excuse to sit in the dark for an hour and a quarter on the one hand, and on the other a flood of inspiration from some of the best new global creative talent. If that doesn’t take your fancy for the day, you’ve also got Oscar winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu at 2pm, plus a view on cracking China from Nils Andersson at 11am.

Friday, June 24

11am Beyond the Big Screen: The Future of Storytelling in Hollywood
The relationship between entertainment and advertising is increasingly a fine one when storytelling comes in. At a time when multiple industries, fashion included, are looking to nail how they create engaging content, who better to learn from in this space than one of Hollywood’s most-awarded storytellers and visionaries, Harvey Weinstein. He’ll join Maurice Levy, chairman and CEO of Publicis Groupe.

12.30pm Future Five: The Next Five Fashion Influencers
As part of Lions Entertainment, StyleHaul has curated a video presentation of five key influencers to know about in the fashion space. This content will be followed by a discussion about who they are and what you need to know.

2.15pm Isobar Presents ‘Icons Of Creativity’ with Uniqlo’s John C Jay
It’s a rarity to have someone from Uniqlo talking, let alone its president of global creative, John C Jay. He believes the world today is experiencing a creative revolution, changing culture and business simultaneously, and will be discussing how his organisation works to maintain its creative edge and relevancy in this fast changing, brand commerce era.

Friday’s bonus content – 3.15pm: How to Do Terrible Work
Wrapping up your Friday, how about a view on how not to win, how to be maliciously obedient and how to kill things? That’s the crux of the session between the global CMO of Mars and worldwide CCO of BBDO. Also don’t miss the Lion of St Mark interview, this year with Marcello Serpa at 4.15pm, and the Cannes Debate with Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, at 12pm.

Saturday, June 25

11am: The Future is Rebellion
For those making it all the way through to Saturday, there’s a session hosted by DigitasLBi featuring two rebel heroes of the internet: Ari Seth Cohen, founder of Advanced Style, and Amani Al- Khatachtbeh, founder of MuslimGirl, that’s definitely worth listening to. “These rebels have one thing in common: they saw an accepted wisdom and faced it down with technology and content,” reads the write-up.

Saturday’s bonus content – 3.30pm: Out With a Bang
And last but not least, be sure to head to the closing session of the 2016 Cannes Lions programme. This year’s guest is yet to be announced, but in the past, this slot has featured Heston Blumenthal, Bono and Johnny Ive. Stay tuned.

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Comment Editor's pick Events

From the archive: Tips and tricks for surviving Cannes Lions

In no place is the saying ‘burning the candle at both ends’ truer than at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Especially if you’re a first timer.

With a week full of back-to-back meetings, endless high profile speakers, multiple Oscar-worthy award ceremonies, and enough parties, networking opportunities and bottles of rosé to sink any one of the hundreds of glamorous super yachts you will likely not be able to get on, the eternal quest for sleep is a futile one…

But why exactly would we want to do that anyway and risk missing the very best of this century’s Mad Men in their finest hour? Yes, you can expect to see ad land behaving badly, but so too will you feel you’ve just learnt, absorbed and experienced the very best of it all within the space of a week, not to mention in the luscious surrounds of the French Riviera.

By the end you’ll never be happier to go home again, but you’ll probably also want to come back next year. So here are some tips and tricks to help you get through it…

Cannes Lions 2015
Cannes Lions 2015

Take your prep with a pinch of salt

You’ll want to make a plan before you arrive. Know what’s ahead of you, whether it be seminars to attend or meetings to book. Figure out your game plan, RSVP to what you need to (bear in mind there are a lot of additional bits of content going on all day everyday up and down La Croisette, and nearly every hotel beachfront has a sponsored party each night), but don’t expect to keep to everything.

There’s a lot to be said at this type of event for getting swept up with a crowd and going with the flow. It often ends up just as fortuitous. Word of warning however: be careful trying to sneak around the front of a party by way of the ocean – a guard dog or two might be there to greet you. I learnt that the hard way.

It’s ok to be the keen one

One of the enormous benefits of Cannes Lions is that the content each day is of such curated high quality. With big name speakers like Will Smith, Anna Wintour and Harvey Weinstein this year however, you’re not going to be alone in wanting to attend, so ensure you get there early. It’s even worth arriving for the session before to be safe.

Believe me, some of the experiences you gain you’ll speak about for life (anyone else remember Yoko Ono in 2010?), so these are the plans you should stick to, even if the sun is gloriously shining (let’s hope) and calling you back outside. Take some snacks and sit it out. Seriously, do take snacks, and a sweater to fend against the air conditioning.

Network on rosé

Once all is said and done each day, there are happy hours galore to choose from. If you’re not into rosé however, you might want to think again about heading to Cannes. Then again, if you have never tasted the rosé in Cannes, I guarantee you it tastes better than any other you’ve ever tried. I’ve heard people wax lyrical in the past about something to do with temperature, locality and the size of the bottle they order (it’s not unusual to see ones the size of small children paraded about with sparklers coming out the top), though I’m pretty sure it’s far more a product of the situation. Either way, you’ll quickly learn to accept it.

Similarly you’ll need to accept that the place to drink it is on the Carlton Terrace. It might be a mess pit of hundreds of people, making it feel like a slightly more formal version of a fresher’s party, but it’s the only place to head. The masses flock thereafter just around the corner to the Gutter Bar. Expect lots of advertising guys flaunting their Lions around like it gives them dating prowess, and yes more rosé on tap, but the best networking of my life was also here post 2am. Safe to say, it’s almost impossible to be the last one standing, though everyone gives it a good try.

Cannes Lions Gutter Bar
The infamous Cannes Lions Gutter Bar

Suck up the long hours

Given how busy every location is and how late each night gets, expect to be on your feet for a lot of it. Ladies, don’t even bother packing any heels. In fact, unless you’re fortunate enough to be staying in one of the hotels along La Croisette, don’t assume you’ll get to go home from the moment you leave your accommodation each morning (or afternoon). You’ll be a sweaty mess by nightfall, but no one will judge you for it.

On a plus note, all the bathrooms are beautiful in Cannes (apart from some of the beach ones) so it’s easy to freshen up if you throw some bits in your bag. Men, that goes for you too.

Don’t book early appointments

Seriously, just don’t. No one ever shows up other than perhaps on their first day, and cancellations over and over again get tiresome. Let’s face it, you’d rather be in bed too. Anything post 3pm is probably safest.

Bring the corporate card

That rosé I keep mentioning is in endless supply in Cannes, but needless to say so therefore are the credit card expenses. You will spend a lot of money while you’re there – it’s not unusual for a bottle of water to set you back 14 euros at the Gutter Bar and a slice of pizza in the region of 20 euros (honestly it’s often cheaper just to get the rose!)

If you’ve got a limit, eat and drink before you get there. Or better yet, buddy up with someone else with slightly looser purse strings. Rumour has it the ad industry is pretty good at that sort of thing.

If all else fails…

If you’ve gone hard, but you haven’t got as much content as you needed to and your boss back home is expecting a rundown of what was what, keep an eye both on here for daily coverage related to our industries, and on Twitter for live updates. I’m also going to be offering a series of seminars once back in London and a live event in early July (2016) that will cover highlights from the festival as well as insights into what they mean for the broader creative communications space over the year ahead. Stay tuned for more about that soon, or do shoot me a note if you’re interested ahead of time.

A version of this post first appeared on The Drum in 2015

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Comment Editor's pick social media Startups technology

Comment counts: How to survive SXSW. Warning! This post contains Kanye GIFs

As a bit of a SXSW Interactive veteran, Olly Rzysko of Primark, felt a responsibility to share information with festival newbies on how to make the most of the week. Cue Kanye West…

KanyeWest

I have been attending SXSW Interactive for four years now. Every year the experience improves and I learn more about navigating it in order to come back to the UK feeling motivated and more informed. I wish someone had helped me on my first visit as it was an intimidating and daunting experience, where I, like many, had travelled solo due to cost constraints.

I now feel the responsibility to share some info with other newcomers with the capable assistance of Kanye. We work in a world where success relies hugely on collaboration and this is my little contribution. This is nothing crazy or life changing but I hope it helps a few newbies.

giphy_kanye

Keep it comfy

Austin is casual, this ain’t no fashion show. You’re going to be on your feet all day, sometimes walking 30-40 minutes between venues. Invest in some real comfy trainers for those crazy days. It gets hot most years and you may end up leaving the hotel at 9am and not coming back until gone midnight. Packing is everything.These are also a VERY good idea.

giphy (6)

Stay powered up

Funnily enough, SXSW Interactive involved a lot of WiFi and battery draining demos, not to mention note taking. Pack some spare batteries for your phone. If you can buy two, leave one charging in the hotel while you take one out with you. You can pick these up at a little place called Primark. This one is only £8 / $10 and you can also pick up a multi connecting USB for around £2.50 / $3.00. Shameless plug over.

giphy (5)

RSVP, RSVP & RSVP

My biggest mistake on year one. I didn’t RSVP to things such as parties and events, in America you HAVE to do this to make sure you are on the list. Nobody likes an embarrassing wait to get into an event. Using http://rsvpster.com/ is really smart along with a few other sites such as http://do512.com/ andwww.eventbrite.com

giphy (3)

If you didn’t #, it didn’t happen

Hashtags drive the conversation and Twitter is the most important channel for gaining some insight. During the talks and events you should tweet along, track the hashtag and follow the conversation. This is great for note taking too. Screengrab the best tweets and add into your notes. I take all my notes using Evernote, which is quite handy as it keeps everything central and you can move from device to device as your battery life dies on each one.

Kanye tweet

Save the map

SXSW is a drain on your data and this makes navigating the hundreds of venues difficult. A little trick: save your area on Google Maps. Here’s a little guide on how to do that to save your data, your battery life and your mind. You’re gonna need this map from dusk til dawn. Alternatively, kick it old school and take a paper one from the hotel.

giphy (4)

Plan ahead (but not too much)

You can plan ahead by getting the app and starring all the talks and sessions you want to attend. You won’t make all of them, just be honest with yourself, not least for the fact you could be looking at a very long line when you arrive for that one key talk about the “Gamification of Hamster Wheels Using Augmented Reality in 9 Easy Steps”. So don’t get caught out; if it’s important to see a talk (i.e. Barack Obama), arrive early, get in the room and wait for your panel. Remember not to fall for click baiting talk titles like “The Best Social Media Strategy Ever” too, as some of these can often be a 15 minute sales pitch from an agency.

giphy (7)

It’s OK to have a bad day

It happens to the best of us but if you are there for a week, you will hit a brick wall where you go to three panels in a row that are awful and get a mental block. My advice is go for a walk and take a few hours off so you can clear your head. This event isn’t competition about who can go to the most events. FOMO is very 2015.

giphy (8)

It’s not all about the convention centre

Get out of central downtown Austin to see what the city is really like. The people in Austin are really friendly and welcoming considering 35,000 of us descend on them and take over every bar, public space and transport system for two weeks. So, try shopping and eating with the local businesses and not with the big chains. I recommend visiting:

  • South Congress, which is a really nice space and strip of stores and eateries south of the main city
  • Rainey Street although central is quite hidden away. This is where the party is at most nights
  • Talk to some locals and get their advice on where is good

giphy (2)

It DOES rain

They don’t tell you this. Pack a jacket, umbrella, mac whatever. Don’t be fooled by the weather reports.

kanye_disappointed

And finally, enjoy yourself

You’ve worked hard to get there, you’ve worked hard all week. Make sure you get to parties, talk to new people and make some new friends.

I’ll be at SXSW from March 10 through 16, as will Fashion & Mash editor, Rachel Arthur, who is hosting a #FashMash kick off mixer in collaboration with Decoded Fashion. If you’re interesting (and not trying too hard to sell something), we look forward to seeing you there.

kanye_gif

Olly Rzysko is head of digital communications at retail Primark. 

Comment Counts is a series of opinion pieces from experts within the industry. Do you have something to say? Get in touch via info@fashionandmash.com

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From the archive: Digital do’s and don’ts for fashion weeks

cara__BurberrySS16

Fashion weeks may be undergoing a period of significant change at present, but for now, the same fundamental rules for marketers during New York, London, Milan and Paris, exist. How do you showcase your new collection to a digital audience in a way that stands out from the noise and resonates with relevant customers at the same time? And how do you keep their interest long enough that one day, they might actually go out and buy what they see?

Here then, is a look back at a piece that first appeared from us in Campaign US a year ago: a list of 11 do’s and don’ts to help you:

Don’t post weak visuals. This is rule No. 1 for fashion week, a time when Instagram and Twitter are overwhelmed with blurry photos and videos of models as they walk past the front row. No one cares about mere proof that you were there; but they do care about Fashion Week more broadly, so give them something they can’t otherwise see. If you want engagement, think more like Dolce & Gabbana instead: a brand that consistently delivers beautiful still and motion imagery, real time or otherwise. With today’s devices, there’s no excuse for anything but. The more candid, docu-style assets belong (and work) on SnapChat, so put them there.

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Do think beyond the “like.” What are you actually trying to achieve during Fashion Week? This is one of the noisiest times of the year in this industry, so be prepared to put the legwork in to be able to get the sort of numbers you want out. Your first challenge, therefore, is figuring out exactly what your objectives are, and accepting the fact they may be different from what you usually push for. Are you looking to build awareness? Drive traffic? Increase brand affinity? Or actually influence conversions? Apply your answer to the channels you use.

Do determine the channels most suited to your brand. Just because it’s a noisy time of year, don’t feel like you have to jump on every channel because you can, and whatever you do don’t just blind spray the same content across them all. Facebook needs to be different from Pinterest, which needs to be different from Instagram, and as already mentioned, really different again from Snapchat. And you’ll need to consider video, too. If resources are limited, use them wisely by prioritising which of the big platforms are right for your consumers. Who are you trying to reach, and where are they? It’s worth remembering much of the online Fashion Week crowd won’t be your current customers, but they could be your future ones; targeting them could be quite a different move, so think through how best to capture their attention.

Don’t be scared to experiment. As much as it’s sensible to have a strong base strategy going into Fashion Week, it’s also a time ripe for experimentation. Take risks by trying out new channels and thinking about what you could do on some of the more niche ones. In the past, Fashion Week has seen some great campaign work on the likes of Spotify by Zac Posen, Skype by Victoria Beckham, and WeChat by Burberry. Expect Snapchat to continue as the platform making the greatest splash this season. But if something just doesn’t work for you, step away from it. The beauty of digital is being forgiven and forgotten very quickly — so cut your losses and refocus your efforts elsewhere.

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Do think about what will stand out. Snapchat will of course only get you so far. If brand awareness is your goal, then press coverage is key. If you’ve got the resources, go big by considering true innovation. Sometimes it might be seen as a gimmick, but it works. Fendi is a strong example. In February 2014 it introduced drones flying above its Milan Fashion Week show, recording the models as they walked out and beaming that footage back in real time to fans watching at home. The quality was terrible, but every major press outlet reported on it.

Do take advantage of organic content about your brand. If you’re directly involved with Fashion Week, it’s quite likely a lot of content will be generated on your behalf. Use it! Chanel has frequently been one of the most hashtagged fashion brands on Instagram, which helped it generate an enormous 2.4 million followers via @chanelofficial before it even posted any of its of its own content on there. (It finally did for the first time in October 2014.) Retweet or regram your influencers, integrate their posts into your own digital assets, and strive to push that advocacy further.

Don’t forget to interact with your fans. Social media is not a one-way channel, but it’s still very much considered so by many designer brands. Fashion Week is an ideal time to break that code and interact more regularly with existing and aspiring consumers. Rebecca Minkoff is a great brand to look at for inspiration. It took the idea of direct engagement a step further in 2014 by involving Instagram fans in a critical decision related to the show: which of two looks would walk the runway. It was an incredibly simple post featuring two shots side by side with the opportunity for followers to vote. It worked.

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Do partner with influencers. Beyond the reposts and the interactions, think about setting up more strategic relationships with influencers in the space. They don’t have to be bloggers; perhaps they’re Instagram artists or Pinterest stars. Tommy Hilfiger in September 2014 introduced what it referred to as its “First Timers” campaign, giving access to a group of digital influencers from outside the fashion industry. Experts from the worlds of music, art, floristry, travel and architecture were all invited. This season, it’s introduing an “Instapit” for Instagram users. Tumblr also runs a scheme every season that sees up-and-coming artists and photographers on its channel, taken on tour throughout Fashion Week; they hit some of the big shows, meet the designers and enhance their own networks. Open up your space to influential outsiders.

Do back all of this with budget. Free only goes so far these days. Partnerships take money. Content takes money. Most important: If you really want to target specific sets of customers, boosting your presence with real media spend is what makes all the difference. Think about doing so in real time, reacting to what is working and getting behind it to push it further.

Do think beyond the moment. It’s easy to get carried away during Fashion Week in a bid to keep up with what everyone else is doing. The amount of incredible visual assets at your disposal certainly helps, but don’t forget about what that means for your digital profile the rest of the year. Brands that enjoy the best engagement are the ones that maintain the quality, volume and velocity of Fashion Week long after the live stream. Look to Victoria’s Secret for inspiration: Its annual show has become an entertainment property in its own right, and the content it surrounds it with is equally commendable.

Or maybe… Don’t bother. If you’re not already an integral part of Fashion Week — set up with a scheduled slot for your show or presentation — consider how necessary it is to bid for relevance. Yes, there are opportunities for digital engagement, but it’s even easier to just get lost in the noise entirely. If you have something to launch, truly consider a different time of year before you use up valuable resource — not only might your consumers pay more attention, but so will others in the industry.

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Comment Editor's pick

Tips and tricks for surviving #CannesLions

In no place is the saying ‘burning the candle at both ends’ truer than at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. Especially if you’re a first timer.

With a week full of back-to-back meetings, endless high profile speakers, multiple Oscar-worthy award ceremonies, and enough parties, networking opportunities and bottles of rosé to sink any one of the hundreds of glamorous super yachts you will likely not be able to get on, the eternal quest for sleep is a futile one…

But why exactly would we want to do that anyway and risk missing the very best of this century’s Mad Men in their finest hour? Yes, you can expect to see ad land behaving badly, but so too will you feel you’ve just learnt, absorbed and experienced the very best of it all within the space of a week, not to mention in the luscious surrounds of the French Riviera.

By the end you’ll never be happier to go home again, but you’ll probably also want to come back next year. So here are some tips and tricks to help you get through it.

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Take your prep with a pinch of salt

You’ll want to make a plan before you arrive. Know what’s ahead of you, whether it be seminars to attend or meetings to book. Figure out your game plan, RSVP to what you need to (bear in mind there are a lot of additional bits of content going on all day everyday up and down La Croisette, and nearly every hotel beachfront has a sponsored party each night), but don’t expect to keep to everything.

There’s a lot to be said at this type of event for getting swept up with a crowd and going with the flow. It often ends up just as fortuitous. Word of warning however: be careful trying to sneak around the front of a party by way of the ocean – a guard dog or two might be there to greet you. I learnt that the hard way.

It’s ok to be the keen one

One of the enormous benefits of Cannes Lions is that the content each day is of such curated high quality. With big name speakers like Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Pharrell Williams however, you’re not going to be alone in wanting to attend, so ensure you get there early. It’s even worth arriving for the session before to be safe.

Believe me, some of the experiences you gain you’ll speak about for life (anyone else remember Yoko Ono in 2010?), so these are the plans you should stick to, even if the sun is gloriously shining (let’s hope) and calling you back outside. Take some snacks and sit it out. Seriously, do take snacks, and a sweater to fend against the air conditioning.

Network on rosé

Once all is said and done each day, there are happy hours galore to choose from. If you’re not into rosé however, you might want to think again about heading to Cannes.

Then again, if you have never tasted the rosé in Cannes, I guarantee you it tastes better than any other you’ve ever tried. I’ve heard people wax lyrical in the past about something to do with temperature, locality and the size of the bottle they order (it’s not unusual to see ones the size of small children paraded about with sparklers coming out the top), though I’m pretty sure it’s far more a product of the situation. Either way, you’ll quickly learn to accept it.

Similarly you’ll need to accept that the place to drink it is on the Carlton Terrace. It might be a mess pit of hundreds of people, making it feel like a slightly more formal version of a fresher’s party, but it’s the only place to head.

The masses flock thereafter just around the corner to the Gutter Bar. Expect lots of advertising guys flaunting their Lions around like it gives them dating prowess, and yes more rosé on tap, but the best networking of my life was also here post 2am. Safe to say, it’s almost impossible to be the last one standing, though everyone gives it a good try.

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Suck up the long hours

Given how busy every location is and how late each night gets, expect to be on your feet for a lot of it. Ladies, don’t even bother packing any heels. In fact, unless you’re fortunate enough to be staying in one of the hotels along La Croisette, don’t assume you’ll get to go home from the moment you leave your accommodation each morning (or afternoon). You’ll be a sweaty mess by nightfall, but no one will judge you for it.

On a plus note, all the bathrooms are beautiful in Cannes (apart from some of the beach ones) so it’s easy to freshen up if you throw some bits in your bag. Men, that goes for you too.

Don’t book early appointments

Seriously, just don’t. No one ever shows up other than perhaps on their first day, and cancellations over and over again get tiresome. Let’s face it, you’d rather be in bed too. Anything post 3pm is probably safest.

Bring the corporate card

That rosé I keep mentioning is in endless supply in Cannes, but needless to say so therefore are the credit card expenses. You will spend a lot of money while you’re there – it’s not unusual for a bottle of water to set you back 14 euros at the Gutter Bar and a slice of pizza in the region of 20 euros (honestly it’s often cheaper just to get the rose!)

If you’ve got a limit, eat and drink before you get there. Or better yet, buddy up with someone else with slightly looser purse strings. Rumour has it the ad industry is pretty good at that sort of thing.

If all else fails…

If you’ve gone hard, but you haven’t got as much content as you needed to and your boss back home is expecting a rundown of what was what, hotfoot it to my daily sundowner sessions on the beach. I’ll be chatting highlights from the festival at 5pm Sunday-Thursday (4pm on Monday) with David Davies, managing director of content at Lions Festivals, hosted by Time Inc CEO Joe Ripp. We’ll cover all the action from each day, the key talking points and the emerging common themes.

In short, you can consider this your Cannes cheat sheet. Needless to say, feel free to stick around for a rosé with me after too…

This post first appeared on The Drum

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Editor's pick technology

SXSW: our tips, tricks and must-attend sessions for 2015

This post first appeared on WGSN.com/blogs

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SXSW Interactive has steadily become a must-attend for fashion industry folk playing in the digital and technology space. But with over 30,000 people in town, and hundreds of talks, panels, exhibitions, meet-ups and parties to attend over the space of five days, navigating it is no easy feat.

Fortunately, we’re now somewhat veterans. So here are our three fast rules, and a highlight panel pick from each day so that you at least have one talking point at drinks each evening!

1. Think outside the box. Don’t just go to the fashion sessions because you’re in the fashion industry – you’ll find more inspiration from other categories (as we’ve almost entirely suggested with our picks below).

2. Accept that you can’t get to everything. There are over 1,000 things in total so it’s impossible. Be ruthless with what you stick with therefore – if a panel you’re in is weak or you just don’t get in, leave and make speed to another. Worst case scenario you’ll stumble upon a spur-of-the-moment gathering elsewhere that will serve you far better anyway.

3. Make a plan, but don’t expect to keep to it. There’s a lot to be said at SXSW for getting swept up with a crowd and going with the flow. It’s much more relaxing, plus usually just as fortuitous.

Top 5 sessions:

Our selection of not-to-miss sessions are based on themes we’re picking up on so far including wearables, women in tech and virtual reality, as well as some broader talks that will hopefully make for inspirational listening:

FRIDAY: The Emperor’s New Wearables
This is about as ‘fashion’ as we’re recommending this year. There’s no escaping wearable technology at the moment, and especially not in Austin this year. It’s an interesting cross-section of speakers including Intel, Fossil and law firm Hertz Lichtenstein & Young LLP, which should make for a good conversation around what’s happening in partnerships between consumer brands and technology companies particularly.

SATURDAY: Princess Reema’s Mission to Empower Saudi Women
This is one of this year’s keynote sessions and up there as something we’re looking forward to the most. Princess Reema is the CEO of Saudi Arabian luxury retailer Alfa, Intl. Her focus on employing (and empowering) Saudi women fits within a wider theme across the festival of the role of women in technology and in business.

SUNDAY: Oculus Effect: How VR Will Change TV and Retail
Virtual reality is something we’ve been tracking in a big way, from interactive campaigns to the promise of immersive fashion week experiences. Oculus has a big presence at SXSW this year, but this session with Saatchi & Saatchi promises to dive into VR’s application for the likes of retail. The fact there are hands-on demonstrations is another win in our eyes.

MONDAY: How Innovation Happens
It’s the speakers that have wooed us for this one: Megan Smith, chief technology officer of the United States and Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google. Their aim is to discuss how great ideas become technologies that truly transform business, government and culture.

TUESDAY: Moonshots and Reality
If like us you’ve been lucky enough to see Astro Teller, captain of moonshots at Google[X] (real name, real job title), speak before, you’ll know to add this one to your list immediately. This is the guy responsible for making ideas that sound like science fiction a reality, from Project Loon to the self-driving car. From the write-up there’ll be a good focus on failing fast and trying again, which is a pretty great way to end the week.

Be sure to check out Fashion’s Collective’s Survival Guide for many more top picks from WGSN throughout the week. And head to their Fashion Brain Bar on Monday where, as sponsors, our team will be congregating.

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social media

Asos social media expert releases #TwitterLOLs book

twitterlols_sedgebeswick Sedge Beswick, global social media manager at Asos, has released a guide to nailing your approach to social with a book called 140 Ultimate Twitter LOLs.

Aimed at students and first-time jobbers, the short manual pulls out 140 (for obvious reasons) of the biggest characters and most hilarious things that have happened on Twitter, using them to highlight the lessons that can be learnt as a result.

From @JamesBlunt’s unique way of tackling trolls through to @Big_Ben_Clock’s hilarious hourly tweets that only consist of “BONG BONG BONG BONG BONG”, this is a fast-paced rundown of those smashing it in the space.

“Whether you’re a Twitter novice looking to grab more followers, or an aspiring social media pro, this book will teach you everything I wish I’d known when I started out,” says Beswick.

“I go back to a number of universities in Europe and host social sessions and guest lecture, and it surprises me to see how many people still think that a job in social media is just sitting on the reactive side of social channels responding to customers. Whilst that is immensely important, there are obviously a few other roles. Today, whether you’re in legal, marketing, buying, editorial, it all involves a level of social, so this was more a starter for ten, a light-hearted kick off to understanding how to build a community and really engage your base.”

The #TwitterLOLs book, as Beswick has hashtagged it, highlights brands, parody accounts and individuals, and breaks down into four key sections: nailing the basics, general LOLs, media and trolling. The intention, says Beswick, was to provide something that people can learn from as well as laugh along with as they go.

You can buy the book via Lulu.com here, as well as on Amazon and soon Asos too.