On the Horizon: SXSW 2020

02/25/20
by Staff Writer

For nearly a decade, the Ogilvy Health family has sent a delegation of curious creatives, tech-hungry digital gurus, and forward-thinking strategists to Austin, Texas, for an annual pilgrimage of innovation and inspiration known as the South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference & Festivals. This is a weeklong blitz of thought-provoking speakers, meaningful networking, and mind-blowing technology on display. Our team returns home each year with a reinvigorated spirit to bring the cutting-edge news, information, and innovations back to our agency to inspire colleagues to approach client problems with a new way of thinking. With the 2020 SXSW conference right around the corner, we sat down with this year’s attendees to see what they are most excited to experience and take away from this hotbed of innovation.

Our Team:

  • Dan Chichester (Chief Experience Officer)
  • Ritesh Patel (Chief Digital Officer)
  • Beth Elkis (SVP, Creative Director)
  • Peter von Bartheld (VP, Customer Experience)
  • Lisa Green (VP, Medical Director)
  • Nick Bellomo (Lead Digital Developer)

As an upcoming attendee,
what are you most excited
to see at SXSW 2020?

Dan Chichester:
Anything that creates experience, engagement, and connections between people. That can be a dedicated panel discussing technique, but especially the pop-up moments along the streets and byways. South By is about remaining open to surprise and delight, and then being inspired to connect the dots back to brands and health.

Ritesh Patel:
I am looking forward to hearing about how the promise of artificial intelligence is changing the healthcare landscape. With last year being so voice-technology and augmented-reality– focused, I’m also keen to see what new technologies will break through at SXSW 2020.

Beth Elkis:
I am most excited to see the range of experiential pop-ups and environments that blend creativity and technology in unique ways. I hope to take many of these learnings back to the agency and infuse this new thinking into the world of healthcare and pharma.

Peter von Bartheld:
I’m curious by nature – I’m especially excited to see well-educated and provocative speakers from walks of life that I’ve never been exposed to present solutions I’ll be able to take back to the agency and apply to my client’s challenges.

Lisa Green:
I am looking forward to the sessions, but I’m most excited to experience innovative technologies that we can incorporate into our offering.

Nick Bellomo:
As someone who attends many medial conferences each year, I’m excited to see the contrast with this “festival”-like format. The fact that SXSW takes over the whole city of Austin is exciting. I’m hoping to bring some fresh ideas back after experiencing the “takeover” format. 

With so much happening, what makes for a standout idea among all the noise at SXSW?

Dan Chichester:
It’s the, “Damn, I wish I had thought of that!” moment. There’s no point in going to Austin looking for an echo chamber or validation of ideas you already have. When it’s something outside the norm, I know I have a great chance of being energized and challenged to up the game – or play an entirely new one.

Ritesh Patel:
The programming at the Energizing Health House and the downtown area. This is a new venue and there are some very interesting sessions going on as it relates to Social Determinants of Health.

Beth Elkis:
I am excited to hear about new avenues of immersive storytelling, as well as emerging trends. Sessions such as “Lessons of Storytelling from the Future” that combine experts from various fields such as futurology, brand strategy, social media, and advertising tech, all weighing in and giving their perspectives, is a standout for sure.

Peter von Bartheld:
A standout idea is less about a new and shiny thing – it’s more about solutions that get to the root of problems. I’ll know a good idea when I see it.

It’s our job as healthcare marketers to look at what’s happening across industries and determine how we can transform a more abstract idea into a concept that’s appropriate for our specific audiences. My plan is to attend a mix of sessions that focus on health and wellness, but also sessions outside of our immediate industry.

Lisa Green:
Ideas/topics that tap into larger movements and collective themes are standing out to me.

Nick Bellomo:
My schedule’s focus is on tomorrow’s user experiences and tech. I’m excited to see how speakers convey what’s new in the way of display and immersive technologies. My goal is to see how these technologies can directly impact how we convey stories for our brands. 

How do events like SXSW stimulate creativity for healthcare marketers?

Dan Chichester:
One of the best descriptions of SXSW, for me, is as a petri dish. It’s a science experiment, mixing technology and makers, the keep-it-weird spirit of Austin, and the hunger for what’s next. Leave “what is” behind and be open to the muse, and that combo can’t help but stimulate.

Ritesh Patel:
SXSW has always been the domain of innovators, disrupters, and creative thinkers. Just engaging with folks who are thinking differently about the healthcare industry sparks creative ideas. The sheer diversity of folks attending and the ability to engage in thoughtful discussion can spark something interesting to bring back to the office.

Beth Elkis:
Due to our highly regulated environment, healthcare marketing often needs to play in a “safer space” and lean to more conservative or expected tactics and channels. By being exposed to a wide variety of ideation, innovation, and experiences outside of the healthcare world, we can make connections we wouldn’t ordinarily make, optimally breaking out of the “sea of sameness” and uniquely bringing differentiation to our brands.

Nick Bellomo:
In the convention space, our clients are always looking for fresh ways to cut through the clutter and get their message across. I think the mix of new tech and learning about proven methods can translate directly into differences we can make with our clients. 

With so many areas of business represented, what other industries are you interested in learning from?

Dan Chichester:
Audio, games, artificial intelligence, and museums – look for me there, but I cannot guarantee I won’t be pulled into many other equally interesting areas.

Ritesh Patel:
I will be focused on social determinants of health and diversity and inclusion topics, particularly as they relate to entrepreneurs and founders of companies that want to disrupt healthcare, and the impact they have on our clients.

Beth Elkis:
The broader the range of industries outside of healthcare, the better: filmmaking, entertainment, consumer advertising, museum experience, fashion + tech, sports, and cannabis, to name a few.

Lisa Green:
For me, I’d like to see what the themes of climate, fashion, and storytelling have to offer.

Specifically, what exhibits are you most looking forward to at SXSW this year?

Ritesh Patel:
I always look forward to the country-specific booths exhibition hall, specifically the folks in Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand, who always have some amazing things they are working on. I am also looking forward to the HyperGiant AI event – taking place on Sunday. And then, of course, the energizing Health House.

Beth Elkis:
There are really too many to name, but these rise to the top of my list:

Lisa Green:
So many! From a more practical POV: Cancer Treatments for All, Aging Gracefully, Beyond the Burden: Disparities in End of Life Care, Plant-based Plastics, and The POP-UP PITCH.

Some more conceptual events include:Psychology of Sound Design in Film Making, Rituals in Science, Sustainable Fashion, Charting the Uncharted Universe.

And from a guilty pleasure standpoint, I must check out: Supernatural: 15 Years of Fandom and Be Water (Bruce Lee).

Health has evolved into a
main attraction at SXSW.
How do you see this
trend continuing?

Ritesh Patel:
Health and wellness will continue to gain strength and I envision a whole dedicated track of 2 days just for this category, like interactive, in 3 years’ time.

Beth Elkis:
As the population ages, health and wellness become even more important. Consumers are playing a bigger role in advocating for their health needs. It is no longer an HCP-initiated marketplace. Telemedicine, social media, and science and tech advances all offer up new opportunities and new challenges. Ideally, the innovation experts of Ogilvy Health can be defining, contributing, and in some cases, leading the charge in the years to come.

Peter von Bartheld:
Our health and wellness audiences are consumers, too. Consumers have high expectations when it comes to ease-ability, personalized attention, and speed of services. We can contribute to this trend by infusing these expectations into the healthcare experiences that we are designing via the evolving use of data and technology. That way, we are always innovating new ways to make the lives of patients better.

Lisa Green:
This will be my first experience of SXSW, and as Medical Director, I’m thrilled to be able to participate and bring my perspective on how we can utilize the learnings from SXSW to communicate science and data.