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The Best of SXSWi 2016: Top Ten Things We Experienced in Austin

Five days, hundreds of sessions, dozens of unique brand activations and a lot of delicious TexMex and BBQ – this year’s SXSWi has wrapped but we’re still reeling from all the great things we experienced on the ground in Austin.

If you weren’t on the ground (or couldn’t get to everything while you were there), here’s our rundown on the best SXSWi had to offer attendees this year.Full team picture


“Most Inspiring Reason to Create and Innovate”
– President Obama’s Keynote Address: “The reason I’m here is to recruit all of you,” President Obama remarked. He called on SXSW attendees to collaborate on solutions for the country’s biggest problems addressing everything from updating obsolete federal networks to the debate over security versus privacy most recently ignited by the disputes between Apple and the FBI. If you were a lucky SXSW attendee to score a ticket to his address, you probably left Austin wondering how we can move innovation forward to improve our country for the better.


“Best Brand Experience”
– IBM Cognitive Experience: A mix of educational, aspirational, innovation and fun content, IBM created an engaging experience (in partnership with George P. Johnson, a Project WorldWide agenIBM.jpgcy) centered around IBM’s Watson. Upon entering the space, attendees were prompted to input details about th
eir mood and taste preferences, then given a wrist band and sent on their way to experience different stations tied to IBM’s latest innovations and partnerships, including The Weather Company’s latest innovations and Under Armour’s new offering in IoT. SXSW attendees could even play ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’ against an IBM robot who got smarter with every move. Or if you wanted to burn a few BBQ calories, you could try some virtual reality cycling. At the end of the experience, attendees were invited to enjoy a “cognitive drink” based on the data in your wristband. Robot bartenders are now a thing – this is the future!

“Best Place to Run into a Trekkie” – The Eyes of Robots and Murders Session: Legendary director/producer/screenwriter J.J. Abrams and his friend Andrew Jarecki, the writer/director of HBO’s The Jinx” spoke about how technology has changed filmmaking for the better and how it has democratized the creative process. Abrams was also quick to point out that technology should be invisible so that the consumer can have an experience that’s as effortless as possible. Ending with a bit of inspiration, Abrams and Jalecki asked that attendees leverage their talents and today’s technology to create: “There’s no excuse to not tell the story we want to tell.”

“Best Off the Track Event” – Brand Innovators Austin Summit: Brand Innovators brought a great mix of speakers and content to SXSW attendees. From Mark Cuban speaking about the future of sports and sharing his candid feelings about the U.S. elections, to leading marketers from Mondelez, Walmart, Coca-Cola, Visa and much more – the venue was packed as any room in the convention center. A particular favorite panel was one featuring Deep Focus CEO Ian Schafer moderating a panel with recording artist Kevin Jonas, actor Adrian Grenier, Johnson & Johnson’s Amy Pascal, and social media stars Monica Church and Shonduras. The lively discussion centered on how brands can best leverage celebrities to promote their brands on social media while still maintaining authenticity with millennials and other consumers.

MEC Job Fair

 

“Best Place to Find a New Gig” – MEC Job Fair: Our client MEC took a new approach to attracting talent at this year’s SXSW. The media agency transported its New York office culture to the event through three virtual reality films which gave prospective talent an immersive glimpse into what it’s like to work there. Using Google Cardboard, the first film focused on the agency’s digital teams, highlighting social media operations and some creative work they’ve made. Another showed off the agency’s culture, and the third film highlighted the agency’s creative moments.

 

“Coolest Executive” – a tie between Soulcycle Cofounders Elizabeth Cutler and Julie Rice, and Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank. Soulcycle’s cofounders just oozed cool, but they definitely had a lot to offer to SXSW attendees. With Fast Company moderating their fireside chat, they addressed the characteristics that make up their brand DNA and how they were able to innovate in the fitness space – (surprise!) it wasn’t with technology but by creating a community for their consumers. Our friends at Fast Company also interviewed Under Armour’s CEO, where he provided one of festival’s best soundbites: “Data is the new oil. The companies that do well are the companies that use math.”

“Best Celebrity Panel” – New Rules of Social Stardom Session: Kerry Washington and InStyle Magazine hosted a discussion on the ever-evolving role that social media plays in the life of celebrities. Though she’s more of a private person, Washington talked about how she interacts with social herself versus when she taps a communications team, the types of content she likes to share (mainly fashion shots and causes she’s passionate about) and the value that lies in NOT reading the comment section: “It’s a tricky balance. For the most part, I stay away from comments, but Twitter is a conversation, so I do occasionally engage…but I’ve realized that comments are not about me. When someone comments, they are revealing something about themselves.”

“Best App Launch at Southby”Kodak – Kodak Moments: To launch its new visual storytelling app, Kodak Moments, Kodak Alaris (in partnership with Junior, a Project: WorldWide agency) created an activation that immersed attendees in their own memories – practically seeing, smelling and even hearing them – in a chamber it called the “Memory Observatory.” How did it work? Upon entering the chambers, participants saw whatever memory-specific image they chose to share projected on a grand scale within the activation, and the colors, smells and sounds corresponded to the emotion in something the brand called an “experience guide.” Robbie Whiting, co-founder of Junior, spoke with Adweek about why SXSW was the best place to launch the app: “SXSW is chaotic. We wanted to create a respite from the noise, a place for meaningful moments from the process of remembering a moment to the articulation of what makes that moment special to the communal experience of all our deconstructed memories, our own Kodak Moments.”

“Best Place to Go If You’re Craving San Fran Vibes” – Mashable House: From a Pied Piper Bar (shout out to fans of HBO’s “Silicon Valley”) and fun meme-inspired temporary tattoos to mingling with CEO Pete Cashmore. Upon entering this space, you were transported to the Bay City. Mashable had several parties and events at the space as well which put a spotlight on different brands and influencers – definitely making this a go-to place during the days and nights during Southby.

“Best Party at SXSWi” – GSD&M: Touted as one of SXSW’s must-attend events each year, we were lucky enough to get an invite and so glad we did. From unique art and live music to delicious food trucks and specialty cocktails – our last night in Austin was well spent on our GSD&M client’s compound.

 

Face-to-Face With Mobile’s Future

Mobile World Congress 2016

Day One has closed on the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, the largest conference in the world dedicated to the art and science of mobile technology. It’s a gathering of the greats who believe passionately in unlocking mobile’s untapped potential.

Mobile video was a headline theme of the day and the topic of a colorful debate in the “Mobile Video Explosion” panel discussion. It was an all-star line-up of the industry’s best mobile players – from Facebook to YouTube to Viacom to Netflix – each sharing their unique points of view.

Facebook’s Head of Global Tech & Telco Strategy, Jane Schachtel shared her views on how video is pushing the boundaries of innovation by creating immersive experiences for people and businesses. Facebook is seeing numerous brands seizing upon this opportunity and firmly believes that video is, “the” global medium that transcends language barriers and sparks great creativity. image1.jpeg

“We’re building a canvas for businesses,” said Schachtel. “If the content is relevant, people will create it and continue to discover it. The richness and relevance on your newsfeed is what’s helped drive such explosive video growth at Facebook.”

Alex Wellen, CNN’s chief product officer, explained how the app, CNNgo, is tracking every story in real time, each minute of the year, annotating real frames with every piece of live content that augments the story.

But there are challenges at the 24 hour news network. CNN “needs to be a technology and storytelling company at the same time, and it’s really tough to be famous for both,” mused Wellen.

There’s good news, though: “People are now binging on [Anthony] Bordain, when no one had consumed news programming like this in the past.”

David Benson, Director, Brand Strategy EMEA for YouTube, agreed about binge watching mobile video content, which he said is driving deep change in the market. Benson added that 400 hours of content are uploaded via YouTube every minute.

“The way in which we consume and connect has been rewritten by mobile,” Benson added. He posited there’s no more water cooler chatter and comparing notes about, “what you watched last night.” In its place, we have become a culture of spoiler alerts and binge-watching.
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“We’re having less sex as a result,” said Benson, who cordially invited us to chat with him after the panel for more info on the “sex” stat.

The consensus among all the panelists: Mobile is exploding and there’s an obligation to continue to make great content — via stellar storytelling — so that people will to want to engage.

In his day-one closing keynote, the one-and-only Mark Zuckerberg took the video discussion to the next level saying that video will have to get increasingly better for virtual reality; in particular, resolution will have to be very high.

Zuckerberg closed with something important to consider, “Video is just as big in 2016 as mobile was in 2012. Bandwidth opens up desire to make and consume videos, which makes the developers want more, which ultimately perpetuates demand.”

 A great finish to a great opening day.

 I am looking forward to a week of seeing and hearing about the technology and creativity that is going to reshape our world.

 More soon.  #MWC16 #MWCVID

 

 

From Bathing Suit to Business Casual, Let Your Co-Workers Get to Know the True You

It’s 11891894_10154162984313079_1388583280605041189_ovirtually inevitable – work long enough with certain people and you’re bound to run into them at a restaurant. Or at the gym.  Or at a company outing in the Hamptons laying out at the pool (more on this in a moment).  These are the moments when your co-workers become “people” or even potentially “friends.”  They are also instrumental to building the type of the congenial, collaborative, transparent work experience so many companies strive to attain.

In a recent article in Fast Company on the cultures at Facebook, Ideo and Virgin Airlines,  a theme of blending the personal with professional at the companies featured runs throughout the story.  “Bring your authentic self to work,” says Facebook.  Virgin Atlantic looks to hire people with a “comfort in sharing their personalities.”  Clark Scheffy, Managing Director at IDEO, implores employees to “bring their whole selves to the workplace.”  The days of putting on a corporate guise every time you walk through the office doors apparently is a relic.  More than ever before, authenticity is the cornerstone of a transparent company culture.

DiGennaro Communications took that to heart during our recent summer outing in the Hamptons – where many of us saw each other in a new light – sunlight!  There’s a moment of authenticity that comes when you’re standing next to a coworker in a bathing suit in a pool rather than sitting next to that same person in a business suit at your desk.

The most effective company cultures are the ones that stress that we present our true selves to our co-workers and feel comfortable with one another.  That’s as true in the conference room as it is in the pool.  I speak from experience when I say there’s nothing quite like watching your co-worker float by in a massive inflatable pink flamingo while shooting everyone with a water gun.

By: Scott Berwitz

Bruce Jenner:  A Person and a Dialogue in Transition  

There’s much the corporate world could learn from Bruce Jenner about public relations and how to take control of a difficult and potentially embarrassing situation.

For months, media speculation on what was really going on with him since his break up with Kris Jenner, the grand doyenne of the Kardashian media/business/gossip dynasty, was on overload – most of it trivial.  “Bruce Jenner Gets French Manicure, Wears Diamond Earrings on Outing,” said one headline.  Another publication photo-shopped lipstick, curled hair and a silk scarf on a picture of him.  Bruce’s story was something deep-rooted and real – not just for him but for many others who identified with his struggles.  Yet, the media portrayed his changing appearance as little more than a simple gossip item…no different than any number of small, unimportant nuggets emanating from the family’s reality empire.

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Rather than remain silent, Jenner took control of his narrative and granted a two-hour interview with ABC’s Diane Sawyer that aired on national television and was seen by more than 20 million viewers.   He talked of his personal struggles with gender identity in genuine and raw terms and in so doing he shifted the dialogue away from the sophomoric gossip that filled the tabloids for months into an adult conversation.  The national discussion was now about transgender issues that the mainstream media covered with thoughtful pieces on Jenner’s personal journey and its broader implication for others facing similar challenges.  His family came out in support of him.  He quashed speculation of this being a publicity stunt.  Even the rest of the Kardashian clan – typically known for empty, brain-candy nonsense – came out looking sympathetic, progressive and supportive.  That’s no mean feat.

Through honest, direct dialogue, Jenner changed his media narrative in a single interview.  He did it by being honest and transparent and answering tough questions truthfully and sincerely.  The business world would do well to take heed and act accordingly.

DGC Plays Host to Rue La La and NY1 for NY Fashion Week

NY1 was in DGC’s Manhattan office doing a story about our client, Rue La La. The online fashion retailer was all over Fashion Week, looking for trends. The company’s Fashion Director, Jackie Nasser, said that what’s on the runway can be simplified into four personal every day and inspirational styles for women.

  • Turtlenecks
  • 70s
  • Lipstick red
  • Fabulous outerwear

 

To get a fuller description of each, go to the Rue La La site. A subscription is free.

‘Perspectives’ on Work/Life Balance from DiGennaro’s CEO

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown,” Shakespeare wrote.

As CEO of the 35-person NY based agency, with outposts/partnerships in Los Angeles, London, Mumbai and Sydney — DiGennaro still manages a healthy balance between her work and her personal life. Sam founded her namesake PR firm, DiGennaro Communications (DGC), in 2006.

Sam DiGennaro on Perspectives “I just haven’t given up the things I love,” DiGennaro said of about her personal life in a seaside interview at the 2014 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity this past June. She told Katie Kempner, EVP/Chief Communications Officer at Cripsin Porter + Bogusky, and host of Perspectives with Katie Kempner. “I have sacred rituals and I don’t let anything get in the way of them. It keeps me centered and calm as the work week unfolds.”

DiGennaro talked about how she encourages a supportive, collegial atmosphere at her agency in which employees can spread their wings and embrace an entrepreneurial spirit.

Perspectives with Katie Kempner in an inspirational online series featuring conversations with women in business and how they balance business with their personal lives given today’s “always-on” mentality.

You can check out the full interview here.

New Year, New Us: DGC Gets Its Juice On!

With the new year comes health resolutions and, here at DGC, we embarked on an agency-wide juice cleanse last week.  

While we all had different motivations – to kick start healthy eating habits, rid our bodies of toxins (yes, maybe one too many eggnogs), or even just to try something new – we were in it together. The cleanse consisted of six juices ranging from green juice filled with kale, apple, ginger, spinach and cucumber, to a lemon drink with cayenne, and then everyone’s favorite, cashew milk with vanilla, cinnamon and agave. For those who needed a bite to eat, avocado, celery and cucumber topped the “safe cheat food” list.

I can’t say we were all in good spirits for the three days, but we’re all certainly feeling refreshed now and ready to take on 2014.

And aren’t we glowing?

Check out some of our reactions to the juice cleanse here with pictures to follow.

Megan McIlroy, VP, Group Account Director
I experienced a wide range of emotions during the cleanse, including alternating bouts of clarity, hunger, euphoria and what I think were mild hallucinations at one point. While I won’t be juicing again anytime in the foreseeable future, this was definitely a good exercise in clean eating – or clean drinking I guess – and a great start to the new year.

Patrick Wentling, Account Executive
After eating terribly over the break, I needed a good reason to start fresh in the new year, and this was the perfect opportunity. This was my first cleanse ever, and I was a little nervous about surviving for three days on just juice but endured the experience just fine. I don’t think I could have done it without our “juice support thread” which had us sending positive emails to each other each day and well into the night to not give in to eating solids. I’m not sure I’ll do it again, but I’ll never forget it.

Erin Donahue, VP, Group Account Director
This was my third juice cleanse, but by far my most fun. I have never cleansed with a group before so coming into work each day to commiserate with seven co-workers experiencing the same headaches, dizziness and straight-up hunger was a lot easier than going it alone. While my goal of the cleanse wasn’t to lose weight, it was more about clearing out the bad stuff to make room for the good stuff in 2014, losing four pounds was a nice side effect. I am most impressed by my colleague Pat and his dedication to the mission. The sole male in the group, Pat not only kicked our arses in weight loss (boys have it so easy), he barely complained and cheered the rest of us on as we suffered through the highs and lows. If I’m going to cleanse again in the future, I hope it’s with my co-workers at DGC!

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‘Tis the Season!

It’s hard to believe another year has come and nearly gone. Earlier this week the annual DiGennaro Communications holiday festivities commenced and, once again, it was a huge success.

Before the festivities, however, we still had some business to take care of as DGC executives presented the State of the Agency, recapping highlights of 2013 and vision for 2014, reminiscing about all the fun we have had and giving some special shout-outs and honors to our awesome team.

The first-ever “DGC MVP” honors went to Account Director Claire Eisenberg and Senior Account Executive Chrissy Perez-O’Rourke for their hard work, dedication and true embodiment of the DGC spirit in all they do. We also inducted our inaugural members into the “DGC Hall of Fame”— General Manager/Director of Development Kendra Peavy and VP/Group Account Director Erin Donahue. The Hall of Fame is reserved for our top talents who consistently work to make DGC a better place for three or more years.

Additionally, we announced the winner of the second annual Rising Star program with our sister agency Eulogy! in London. Amidst some tough competition, Account Director Soraya Eltomey was selected to represent DGC for a week next year at Eulogy!, where she’ll get to know our partners and learn about how PR is practiced in the U.K. And a special shout-out to Senior Account Director Marielena Santana and Account Director Lee Lubarsky for their fantastic contribution to the program’s entry process.

After many rounds of applause, Secret Santa presents for all (complete with an appearance from “Mr. and Mrs. Claus”), and a champagne toast with some snacks – it was time to get the party started.

At The Library inside the Public Theater, we proceeded to stuff ourselves with delicious food, enjoy signature cocktails and dance the night away in the gorgeous space. Nothing gets this team up and moving like a little Beyoncé or Britney.

A great time was had by all, as you can see from the photos. Already excited for next year!

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Game Time: DGC Makes a “Play” at Philanthropy for Jewish Home Lifecare’s Casino Day

Coming off of a successful day of philanthropy just a few weeks ago at Educational Alliance’s Head Start Program, DGC took to Casino Day at Jewish Home Lifecare, a nursing and rehabilitation facility for elders in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. In fact, the afternoon marked our fourth holiday philanthropy effort, having cleaned up the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and participated in a weekly food delivery campaign through God’s Love We Deliver in 2011. We also participated this year in New York Cares’ Coat Drive where we were able to not only donate our own coats but in fact a number of others from various businesses in our office building.

Before volunteering, I sought out the advice of an expert – both in card playing and in interacting with the elderly. My 92-year old grandmother. “Smile. Engage them in conversation. And when you’re playing cards, show a little ruchmunis – a little mercy.”

Needless to say, we didn’t need to show any mercy as these residents truly had a knack for these games! When we arrived, we were eagerly greeted by the residents – many of whom were anticipating Casino Day all week. And the volunteers from DGC were joined by those from UJA-Federation New York, the organization that provides volunteer services and nearly $200 million in annual funding to organizations like the Jewish Home Lifecare.

We arrived for orientation and were assigned to different tasks and groups. Those that manned casino games like poker dealer extraordinaire Howie “Aces High” Schacter and blackjack dealers Michael Isaacson and Jackie Berté found themselves on the front lines, while other DGC’ers like Soraya Eltomey and Melanie Mackey helped to escort the residents from their rooms and between games. Not to be forgotten were those of us that manned the prize room where the big winners of the day traded their vouchers for gifts such as stunning holiday scarves. Click here for photos of the day’s activities.

The takeaway from the day was clear, and my grandmother’s advice served as more of a theme. The residents were eager to have conversations with us – one gentleman even sought out Jackie to help him set up his Twitter account! And the smiles were in abundance – from the participants, the facility workers, and the volunteers. In fact, some of us have committed to coming back as volunteers on a regular basis.

We’d like to again thank our friends at UJA for what was yet another positive experience – a feeling I’m sure we will take with us into the New Year. Giving back to the community is incredibly important to us at DGC, and we look forward to continuing our volunteer efforts throughout the entire year of 2014. 

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Play Date: DGC Participates in Day of Philanthropy at Educational Alliance’s Head Start Program

DGC kicked off the holiday season with a morning of philanthropy at the Educational Alliance Head Start program, a pre-school program for children ages 3-5 located on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan. This morning marked our third annual holiday philanthropy effort, having cleaned up the Rockaways after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and participated in a weekly food delivery campaign through God’s Love We Deliver in 2011.

Upon arrival this morning, we attended a brief mini-orientation where we learned all about the Educational Alliance, it’s programming and the wonderful work it does in the New York community. The Educational Alliance is a non-profit organization that helps break the cycle of poverty for low-income children and families through preschool, after school programs and college prep programs. Children in the Head Start and Day Care programs learn, explore, socialize and grow, and families receive help with employment and social services.

After orientation, we broke into groups and headed off to individual classrooms for a morning of play and activities ranging from arts & crafts and cooking class to reading and yes, even recess! We had a blast hanging out with the kids, and more importantly, it was an amazing opportunity for us to give back to our local community, a major tenet of DGC’s company culture. Click here for pics of the day’s activities.

DGC @ Head Start

A big thank you to our friends at UJA-Federation New York for not only making a wonderful experience possible, but also for helping Educational Alliance run its wonderful programming as one of the organization’s biggest annual donors.

Next up on the DGC Philanthropy docket – Casino Day on December 11 at Jewish Home Lifecare, a nursing and rehabilitation facility for elders in northern Manhattan!

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