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A Night of Inspiration at Nat Geo’s Further Front

Upfronts are about celebrity and entertainment – and rightfully so. Media buyers are roused to make investments based on innovative television programming and big name talent that the networks trot out in a show of what’s to come next season.

Traditionally, upfront season is packed with (predictably) great parties and good business but last night, National Geographic’s Further Front raised the bar and took the typical upfront, well, further than we’ve ever seen before.

Stationed throughout Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Appel Room was breathtaking photography of mountains and oceans, of climbers and divers. Morgan Freeman, Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, Katie Couric, Harvey Weinstein and scores of other celebrities walked the yellow carpet – It was an elegant, beautiful, star-studded event. But it was the evening’s programming – celebrating the explorers, photographers and geniuses that grace the pages and the programs of National Geographic that inspired all attendees in a way no other upfront DGC has ever attended has – or could – before.

Further is all about pushing ourselves. To achieve. To learn. To go outside the borders we place on ourselves – both literally/physically and figuratively/mentally. The day’s programming reflected that – with presentations from Morgan Freeman who explores how our beliefs connect us all in The Story of God, as well as Jane Lynch who will host Earth Live, a two-hour live broadcast that is described as the “Super Bowl” of the natural world.  The Further Front wasn’t simply about celebrities and pictures, it was about celebrating those who were pushing themselves to do more, not just for themselves, but for the world. It’s a mantra that is woven throughout the culture and reverence of National Geographic and always has been. Through the National Geographic Society, 27% of all proceeds are used to support any number of good causes, including the fight against climate change and wildlife preservation.  It was simply impossible to walk away from last night without wanting to do, see and achieve more.

A key tenant of the Further ethos is that there’s an explorer inside all of us. The message was loud and clear last night – and a rallying cry to brands that are always seeking ways to forge authentic connections with their audiences. Tap into the explorer inside, and go further together.

Live at SXSW – Weekend Recap

The DGC team hit the ground running on Saturday morning at SXSWi with a quick stop at and an 11 a.m. deep-dive into how data will build high-performing humans. The panel featured New York Giants star wide receiver Victor Cruz and Equinox President Sarah Robb O’Hagan, joined by Michael Gervais and Mashable’s Haile Owens. We were fascinated with the panel’s discussion on how data can make even the highest achieving athletes more powerful on and off the field. One nugget we took away from the session was data and tools are great, but don’t forget about your body’s biggest source of information: your brain.

cruz After a quick selfie with the man of the hour, our team dispersed to other sessions before gathering to prep for DGC’s first-ever #SXSWi happy hour. The team set up shop at the JW Marriott to entertain clients and friends of DGC over margaritas, chips and guacamole, and the best darn jalapeño cornbread Austin has to offer.

 

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Day three saw us checking out some of the week’s best brand activations and experiences. We swung by Samsung’s Studio Experience, where our colleague, Sara Ajemian, made a DGC t-shirt in its design studio. While the A&E network offered up nightly stays at a faux Bates Motel to promote its series of the same name, neighboring station National Geographic took it to the extreme with a challenge to promote its new season of “Life Below Zero.” We dared to see if we had what it takes to Escape the Cold, as the promo was called, encouraged players to find clues to get out of the room in twenty minutes working with teams of 6. It was tough going – we didn’t find the key. Brands should take note for 2016 as this was an incredible way to bridge the gap between brand experience and user interaction. It tied to “life below zero” which is a show about people living in isolation in Alaska

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Other panels we checked out:

– Argonaut, an agency that’s part of Project Worldwide, had two executives on a panel: Robbie Whiting, Creative Technologist, and Garrick Schmitt, digital advisor,  who spoke to a packed house about “Malevolent Marketing.” Recap the conversation on Twitter with #letsbeevil.

– Deep Focus CMO Jamie Gutfreund cracked the code on Millennials at the Pandora Lounge, encouraging marketers to be smart about their consumer and audience. She was later joined on stage by Nana Menya, AVP of Investment Strategy of GE, whose talk on the mindset of music was equally intriguing.

– DDB’s Global Business Director Marina Zuber discussed art, tigers and an #EndangeredSong with the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and on-the-rise band Portugal the Man.

Stay tuned for more!

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