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SXSW: Day Two

Day two of SXSW has brought us another fun-filled, action-packed schedule. We heard speakers from Mother New York, kbs+ Ventures, Wired, Bullish, Buzzfeed, Western Union, Gatorade, Mazda and PopShorts.

Here's what they had to say.

Creative Capital: Why Agencies Are Investing

Speakers:

  • Christopher Roan – Director of Business Development, Mother New York
  • Jessica Peltz-Zatulove – Principal, kbs+ Ventures
  • Michael Duda – Founder and Managing Partner, Bullish
  • Liz Stinson (moderator) – Staff Writer, Wired
 

This panel threw us straight into the very exciting and unfamilar world of creative agencies who invest in venture capital. The panelists discussed a whole bunch of issues around the topic, but primarily the talk focussed on two questions: What it is it? And Why does it exist?

The answer is that the concept has been gaining momentum in the US as a way for agencies to keep ahead of the game and for clients to get the most out of their investors. The panel explained that when a creative agency is your venture capitalist they will invest partly cash and partly services, helping to build a business in a uniquely holistic way.

It's obviously a great deal for the client, but what are the agency getting out of this equation?

Christopher Roan outlined that for his agency, Mother, there were three criteria they measure their outcomes against:

  • Financial Success (they get a cut of profits or similar for their original investment)
  • Strategic Success (more of this from Jessica Peltz-Zatulove below)
  • Creative Success (because these are always brave new ideas)

He also went on to say later in the talk that it has a really positive side-effect on team culture as well. That generally, staff members truly bought into the ideas and very incredibly passionate about bringing them to life.

Jessica Peltz-Zatulove said that for kbs+ the biggest payoff was staying ahead of the competition. She estimated that the tech they were helping to bring to life was keeping them somewhere between 12 to 18 months ahead of the market in some cases.

Building Audiences Through Human Connection

Speaker: Frank Cooper - CMO, BuzzFeed

So at midday today, we arrived at one of SXSW's largest venues to hear Frank Cooper, CMO of Buzzfeed, talk about The Future of Media Companies. So we hopped in line with thousands of others, found a seat and settled in.

And in front of us all was a title slide that didn't quite reflect that topic - Building Audiences Through Human Connection. Hmm, weird - we're definitely in the right session because it's the right speaker. Maybe it will link back in? We decided to wait it out.

But no - Frank Cooper hijacked his scheduled SXSW session today to launch BuzzFeed's new cross-platform native advertising tool, Swarm.

It was still a good session - engaging and entertaining - but that hijack was not well-received by some.

So aside from the 'Swarm Hijack' Frank did actually present a great lecture on BuzzFeed - how they develop their content and even their platforms. Unsurprisingly It all comes back to testing and following the data. They develop and distribute the types of content that their audiences respond to, on the right platform at the right time. And if something doesn't perform, they move on.

He said that their success was directly attributed to a model which they labelled 'human connection at scale'. In this model, instead of trying to dictate what 'pop culture' should be (like traditonal publishers), that they simply followed their audience. Even if that meant taking content off their owned platforms and putting it back on to social media.

In fact Frank estimated that only one fifth of their content now sat on their owned assets and that their native content - think 'Tasty' - was becoming one of their most popular formats.

Which is where Swarm comes in. BuzzFeed launched this network yesterday to help advertisers gain acces to these off-platform oppotunities in a native format, which in Franks's words, could help them 'light up' BuzzFeed.

Content Now! Stop Advertising, Start Publishing

Speakers:

  • Kenny Mitchell – Senior Director of Consumer Engagement, Gatorade
  • Nidhi Gupta – Director of Marketing, Western Union
  • Russell Wager – Vice-President of Marketing, Mazda
  • Adam Gausepohl (moderator) – CEO/Head of Creative, PopShorts
 

In our final session for the day, we heard from three marketers whose teams had successfully built cross-platform content marketing strategies - Western Union, Mazda and Gatorade.

They each walked us through their processes for identifying moments, platforms and content that could be leveraged to engage consumers and why this was important, but we think Nidhi Gupta summed it up well, saying:

"Brands need to be publishers and storytellers. If you want to drive engagement, recall and trust,
you need to use storytelling".

Similar to the other talks we've attended on content marketing at SXSW, all the speakers agreed that the key to success in this arena was data - following consumers true interests and behaviours, not what you thought they should be doing. All content needed to be tailored to the platform and to the market segment.

Kenny Mitchell from Gatorade also introduced the concept of 'marketing in the moment,' something that his brand finds essential working with professional athletes and live sports events. The key to this was planning - not just shooting vertical videos in the production phase, but also having creative developed and pre-approved for various outcomes.

Overall, all presenters agreed that in creating great content, the key was having a clear and compelling story to tell.


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