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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.


Live at Cannes: The Purchase Journey – MEC Unveils Momentum

“What does Momentum tell us about the purchase journey?” Yesterday the DGC team attended a MEC press conference at MEC’s Cabana No. 5, for the global launch of Momentum — a proprietary global study that takes a new approach to understanding and measuring how consumers make purchase decisions today.

MEC’s Global Head of Analytics and Insights, Stephan Bruneau; Stuart Sullivan-Martin, Global Strategy Officer, MEC UK; and Damian Thompson, Head of Consumer Insight, MEC; walked us through what Momentum means for marketers.

The study examined purchase decisions of over 100,000 consumers across 12 categories and 11 markets. Momentum quantifies consumer bias in categories such as, CPG, retail, durable goods and electronics. The research defines the following stages of the decision-making process: Passive, Trigger, Active and Purchase.

More than half of us have a clear idea of what we will buy before we enter the buying process. This is called Passive Stage bias. People with Passive Stage Bias consider fewer brands and are less concerned with price when making their choice. Flat-screen TVs, for example, have the lowest passive stage bias with 25%. This new approach to understanding the purchase journey can help to develop better brand strategies and grow your brand.

MEC built on its client work in understanding the purchase journey and combined it with theories that have emerged over the last five years. Here’s how Stuart Sullivan-Martin, Global Strategy Officer, MEC UK, explains it:

The Momentum study closes gaps in understanding between what shoppers do during the purchase journey, how their perceptions of a brand influence their behavior, and how they use media and brand communication to make choices. Here’s a look at what Charles Courtier, Global CEO MEC, had to say about Momentum and its impact for MEC’s clients:

 Charles Courtier, Global CEO, MEC, discusses MEC’s groundbreaking study, “Momentum,” at the press launch held at MEC’s Cabana No. 5

Hit Board Feature Friday – PanelPicker for SXSW Interactive 2013 in Austin is here!

Our Friday Feature usually recaps some of our clients’ best media coverage of the previous week. This week, we want to draw attention to the good work our clients are planning at SXSW Interactive. In other words, the second most important voting event of 2012 is upon us: the SXSW PanelPicker 2013!

A number of our clients are vying for a spot on the stage at SXSW Interactive 2013, and even our very own DGC executive team has thrown their hats into the ring with two panel ideas.

The SXSW Festival has increasingly become one of the most popular events of the year among the advertising, music and film industries. The event uses a crowd-sourced format to populate the speaker sessions, along with input from the event’s advisory board and SXSW staff.

The process for voting is simple. First, you have to sign up for a SXSW account, if you don’t already have one. After you’ve signed up, search/vote for any and all of your favorite panel ideas by hitting “thumbs up!” Voting closes August 31 at 11:59pm CT. Take a look below at a roundup of a number of great sessions you definitely don’t want to miss.

DGC – Building Buzz for Your Company via PR & Social

In this session, learn the basic steps to create buzz among your target audience. Hear practical and actionable guidelines from Sam DiGennaro, communications strategist and founder of DiGennaro Communications, the leading PR agency serving the advertising, media, marketing and entertainment spaces. Sam has been an integral force in managing the public image and strategic messaging of well-known C-suites, in addition to serving as counselor to many independent companies on the road to acquisition.
Learn how to use PR & social media to get news coverage in today’s complex media marketplace, align PR strategy with new-biz goals, raise an exec’s profile, recruit A-list talent & establish category expertise.

DGC – How Your Personal Brand Makes Your Company Shine

It is critical today for business leaders to build and manage their personal brands. A CEO’s brand can add incredible value to an organization as a whole. In this age of social media and self-published content, smart business execs must position themselves as thought leaders for industry “street cred” and to raise their companies’ profiles. In this session, former Forbes Executive Editor Melanie Wells explains the value of developing a strong personal brand and shares “inside” tips on how to craft a compelling one.

MEC – Is Big Still Beautiful?

Can and how do big agencies and small agencies partner with start-ups effectively?

In today’s changing landscape, big and small tech and media companies equally have an opportunity to partner with big name brands to create transformative marketing programs for consumers and clients – but is that really true? Is that really happening?

RAPP – E-tymology. How Digital Decimated the Dictionary

OMG. OMG is an official word. Mankini is in the Oxford English Dictionary. FOMO, tablet, and occupy have been nominated for Word of the Year. In this session, we explore the dramatic changes in language over the last decade, unprecedented in human history. And we ask educators, anthropologists and linguists: WTF?

RAPP – Graphic Design: Data Is The New Vector

Data has become the new fodder for design. As we become a more mobile focused on the go consumer of data, interface design is taking a back seat to data design. My discussion will focus on how to design around data, for data and with data as a means to influence interface design. Harnessing the power of data and being creative with the types of data that is available can be one of the most creative endeavors one can undertake. Designers now must think beyond just the aesthetic and move into the realm of big data and creative ways to design with it.

Organic –The Endless Aisle

The future of retail lies in the intersection of online, mobile and in-store behaviors and experiences — what we call “the endless aisle.” Think real-world purchase experiences that build off real-time data and stores that know you. Future retailers will suggest products that may best fit personal styles, or even help navigate through stores better. Consumers have become more educated than ever before, with the ability to check prices on the fly. This session will give a glimpse into the store of the future, and spell out the big opportunity for brands and emerging technologies in the retail space.

Organic – Kiss Cash Goodbye

Rumors of cash’s death are very real. Consumers have made clear their interest in going cashless — with major marketers beginning to reap the rewards. But there are still barriers to entry. The mobile payment space is highly fragmented and consumer trust in new technologies must still be established. This panel will give an overview of the mobile payment landscape –from major players to emerging companies — and insights about consumers’ behavior around mobile payment. It will outline the big opportunity for brands in mobile payments, and show how going cashless will go from mere concept to reality.

Wing – El Nuevo Gringo: Quantifying the Latino Influence

Latino influence on American culture is hard to miss. From food to fashion to entertainment, Americans are embracing Latino culture like never before. But evidence of that influence has always been solely anecdotal — until now. In this panel, Wing and Experian Simmons will reveal the results of a first-ever study quantifying this phenomenon, The Latino Influence Project. Panelists will demonstrate how non-Hispanics are taking on more and more traditionally Hispanic attitudes and behavior when it comes to food, travel, technology use, and media consumption. Attendees will walk away with stats about the changing consumer landscape and ideas for engaging Hispanic and non-Hispanic audiences alike.

Hyper Marketing Inc. – Mind Space, Digital Space, Shelf Space

Connecting with your audience is one part art, one part science. It begins with understanding your customers’ behavior (which reflects their needs and wants), sparking consideration for your product or service, and then converting that progression from mind space to digital space to shelf space to a sale and ultimately back again. That’s what it takes for marketers to win today.

Carbone Smolan – Video That Connects

No matter the product you’re launching or service you’re selling, it’s your goal to spark the interest of customers and inspire action. You need to connect with your audience, whether its buyers, recruits, internal teams or investors. What’s the best way to do this? Storytelling through video.

Cole & Weber – Project Butterfly: Escaping the Net to Be Sociable

Just being in social media and accumulating “likes” doesn’t make brands sociable.
So we set out to understand how sociable people interact in the real world, and apply that learning to help brands behave differently. Project Butterfly is a multi-city, online and offline project that merges social psychology, digital anthropology and cutting edge ethnography to dissect the DNA of highly sociable people, how they behave both on and offline, and how they differ from “hyperconnectors” – people who are extremely active on social media.

Ad Age Media Buzz Competition at MEC

Ad Age is hosting an ongoing, interactive competition titled “Ad Age Media Buzz” amongst various top media agencies this month in an effort to unite the different companies with a little friendly competition. On Thursday, August 9, 2012, reporters, sponsors, employees, and executives gathered at MEC’s New York office location to witness the trivia-style showdown, where teams of MEC employees competed against each other internally to see who knew the most about ad industry knowledge.

After a warm welcome from Marla Kaplowitz, CEO of MEC North America, a handful of MEC teams congregated around their designated team tables while Ad Age’s Editor-In-Chief Abbey Klaassen and Media Editor Nat Ives proposed industry-based questions to the teams throughout a total of 4 rounds, ultimately revealing the MEC team to possess the most knowledge of the advertising industry. In between rounds, employees socialized, ate, drank, and overall appeared to be enjoying the competition as a nice break from their typical workdays.

The winning team from Thursday’s rounds will move on to compete against reigning teams from other agencies in an ultimate showdown showcasing which agency’s employees are most seasoned with industry knowledge. Outside of promoting friendly competition, the goal of the Ad Age Media Buzz competition is to encourage industry professionals to increase their time spent reading up on current industry information available through various publications and outlets.

DGC was lucky enough to interview Jamie Ciamillo, a Senior Digital Planner for MEC. In her brief interview, Jamie talked to DGC about how the Ad Age Media Buzz competition amalgamated employees across all different departments within the agency, something she found to be a stimulating and opportune experience for socializing with people who she doesn’t typically get to see on a conventional workday.

Thursday’s Ad Age Media Buzz competition at MEC served as an exciting way to network with industry professionals as well as a chance for all ends of the advertising community to come together.

Senior Digital Planner, Jamie Ciamillo, MEC, shares her experience at the Ad Age Media Buzz competition.

DiGennaro Communications Forms Partnership with London-based Eulogy

DiGennaro opened its doors in Manhattan some six years ago, methodically building a practice that makes us the go-to B2B PR shop among advertising and marketing firms. This week, we took a leap across the pond, solidifying our strategic partnership with London-based PR shop Eulogy to offer best-in-class communications for the ad-marketing space, as PRWeek reported. The full announcement can be viewed here.

WPP companies MEC and The Brand Union are the foundation for this expansion because both are multinational marketing agencies with a London presence. We just want say thank you to all of our clients and to the dedicated staff on both sides of the Atlantic, who made this possible.

Mobile Web or Mobile App? Which Comes First?

In a recent video interview with mobiThinking, Chet Fenster, Managing Partner, MEC Entertainment discusses why it’s essential for brands to have a mobile strategy. Chet explains that people spend more time on their phone than they do in front of the television, at work or even with their families. He also mentions that many don’t even turn off their phone at night! He feels that in the future, most people will access the web on the go.

The Silicon Valley – Madison Avenue Divide

On October 5, MEC’s Managing Director of Digital Trading Rich Astley joined GroupM CEO Rob Norman, Head of MEC’s Team AT&T Dennis Donlin, Myxer‘s Mike Carson and Google’s Torrence Boone for a free-wheeling discussion on  the Silicon Valley and Madison Avenue divide during Advertising Week 2011. Presented by MEC, the panelists took an in-depth look at the disconnect between future thinking digital companies’ frustrations with agencies who are too slow in their world, and the agency frustration with the latest craze that doesn’t actually move the needle on client metrics.

We caught up with Rich quickly after he finished the panel and here, he reflects on his experience and the takeaways for bridging this buzzed-about divide.

Advertising Week Special Report: Mobile

Two DGC clients engage in a free-wheeling discussion on the challenges and opportunities of mobile.

Today we attended a very engaging Advertising Week ( panel on mobile, featuring two of our clients – Marla Kaplowitz, President of Client Services, MEC North America (, and Marita Scarfi, CEO of Organic ( Sponsored and moderated by the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), the panel took an in-depth look at how agencies are keeping pace with the ever-changing mobile landscape, and how they’re meeting the demands of their clients in terms of innovation, technology and strategy.

Below are a few keys points that our two rock-star (female) clients made on this ever-important subject:

Marla Kaplowitz, President of Client Services, MEC North America

  • From a consumer standpoint, it’s really all about mobility. People wake up with their cell phones; people go to the bathroom with their cell phones. It’s gotten to the point where your phone goes with you almost everywhere, and the phone has become an extension of who you are. As marketers, we need to not simply focus on what we can do with mobile, but what our consumers WANT to do with their devices – and see how we can help make this shift relevant.
  • To continue to be strategic partners to our clients, we need to show our clients where we’re going and what the opportunities are. We constantly need to push them to take advantage of mobile and educate them on what’s out there in the space.
  • Mobile has given us the “virtual water cooler,” which allows us to continually ask the question and gather information on what the consumer wants.
  • A challenge from a media agency perspective is to make the ad unit we’re buying relevant and engaging, and not static. It’s an area where we continue to improve and one which needs focus for us to move forward.

Marita Scarfi, CEO of Organic

  • Marketing budgets should be less siloed, and focus more on consumer behavior and data. We should focus more on where our target consumers are and how to use media (including mobile) to best engage them.
  • Likening mobile budgets to a Swiss army knife, Marita said the size of marketing spend on mobile is less important than efficiency. She encouraged marketers to focus on how to get the best possible ROI for mobile spend.
  • From a business standpoint we need to look at three areas of framework strategy/content/technology.
  • Mobile is growing exponentially, even if the data in mobile is not as robust.
  • Brands should make mobile part of the user experience, which will in turn make life easier for all parties.

Picture Perfect at the Cannes Lions

Vodpod videos no longer available.

It wasn’t all rendezvous and rosé at Cannes this past June despite the joie de vivre captured in these photos. DGC’s Sam DiGennaro was one of the hardest working women in “show biz” (er, PR) that week. She strategized with some of her clients from The Brand Union and MEC and mingled with international journalists and old chums from JWT.

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