On the Horizon: SXSW 2019

02/26/19
by Staff Writer

Posted by Staff Writer from Ogilvy Health North America on February 26, 2019

For the last 6 years, the Ogilvy Health family has sent a delegation of curious creatives, tech-hungry digital gurus, forward-thinking strategists, and more to Austin, Texas, for an annual pilgrimage of innovation and inspiration known as the South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference & Festivals. This is a week-long blitz of thought-provoking speakers, meaningful networking, and mind-blowing technology on display. Our team returns annually with a reinvigorated spirit to bring the cutting edge back to our agency to inspire colleagues to approach client problems with a new way of thinking. With the 2019 SXSW festival right around the corner, we sat down with this year’s attendees (including one brilliant colleague who will be taking the stage as a speaker) to see what they are most excited to experience and take away from this hotbed of innovation.

Our Team:

  • Samantha Dolin (Chief Creative Officer)
  • Johanna Skilling (Head of Planning)
  • Gene Fitzpatrick (SVP Engagement, Digital Strategy)
  • Lisa Fritts (SVP, Planning)
  • Christopher Jankoski (Corporate Digital Strategist)

As an upcoming attendee, what are you most excited to see at SXSW 2019?

Lisa Fritts:

I’m looking forward to being inspired—whether it’s from a celebrity speaker, like Brené BrownTrevor Noah, or Howard Schultz, or simply a session that has nothing to do with health care but can translate as it shares compelling human truths or stories.

Chris Jankoski:

I was fortunate enough to attend SXSW last year, so I’m most excited to see trends (especially in the health track) that have longevity to them. Last year was such a whirlwind experience. This year, I want to see beyond the flashy technology to the ideas that stand the test of time and progress made in those arenas. Moving beyond hype can validate the schools of thought and innovation that can provide tangible impacts for our clients’ business.

Gene Fitzpatrick:

I’m most excited to see the more intimate workshops that focus on health, wellness, and how AI/automation are poised to disrupt our industry.

Sam Dolin:

There’s so much amazing content this year. The continued theme around the evolution of AI and machine-based learning is always fascinating—from its influence on health care to government regulation to real-time brand building—the role is significant and its full impact is still largely undetermined.

I’m also excited to see several presentations focused on the reshaping of creativity in a data-driven, machine-built, and information-saturated landscape. Leveraging data to elevate creative solutions and ideas has been dear to me for a while now, but it has only become a topic in the forefront of our industry in recent years. So happy to see a number of sessions discussing the critical importance of this intersection, especially the panel session How Data Helps Unleash Creativity in Mediaand Nick Law’s Creativity in the Age of Invention.

And lastly, transformative storytelling approaches, immersive experiences, and the reemergence of long-form content in this current age of bite-size overload and misinformation are particularly interesting as well. To me it seems to indicate a longing for meaningful, authentic, and lasting experiences that have an impact for more than the handful of seconds we’ve become accustomed to through social media. To that end, I’m looking forward to sessions like PopUps: Designing for Emotional ExperiencesImmersive Storytelling: Breaking the Fourth Wall, and Entering the Multiverse: Crafting Immersive Stories.

Johanna Skilling:

As a first-timer, I’m looking forward to the energy I imagine will be created by thousands of creative-minded, tech-savvy pros all congregating in Austin, that outpost of cool.

Specifically, what exhibits/presentations are you most looking forward to this year?

Lisa Fritts:

I’ve starred anything that says story—the how-to’s of telling one and sharing really interesting perspectives. There are also sessions centered around cause and purpose, how it can be scaled, which sound compelling. As someone who works on a skincare brand, I’m also interested in anything beauty; my animal health brands, unfortunately don’t seem to be represented—dogs and cats and the human animal bond seem like a miss, hmm…maybe next year we can offer up a furry-friend–related session!

Chris Jankoski:

Of course, I must give a special shout-out to Johanna Skilling and her upcoming presentation as part of Designing the World at Ignite® SXSW. She’s been an industry leader around the ideas of human touch/empathy as technology becomes increasingly embedded in our health and lives. I can’t wait to watch her share this with the wider SXSW family.

Sam Dolin:

As a creative, of course many of the art installations and interactive experiences are high on my list, most notably the immersive Virtual Cinema experience, the Future Art and Culture Art Innovation Lab, as well as Blooming by Lisa Park.

Additionally, there seem to be several tracks that are focused on expanding innovation, creativity, and curiosity in the workplace to reinvigorate innovation, most notably Elliott Hedman’s The Death of Curiosity and Innovation, John Cohn’s Prioritizing Play in an Automated Age, and the panel discussion Corporations Are Failing to Innovate, or Are They?.

And lastly, it’s always a great opportunity to hear from the futurists in our industry who are spotting emerging trends and markets—in this case, I look forward to seeing Amy Webb’s Featured Session: 2019 Emerging Tech Trends Report, as well as Rohit Bhargava’s 7 Non-Obvious Trends Changing the Future in 2019.

Johanna Skilling:

The range of options is dizzying, but I’m looking forward to hearing from friends and colleagues like Eugene Yee of CMI/Compas, meeting health tech innovators with Ritesh Patel of Ogilvy Consulting, learning about new technologies like CRISPR … and dipping into the political, music and movie tracks. And of course, I’m excited to offer my own talk on Engineering Empathy.

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

Gene Fitzpatrick:

While health and wellness have increased at SXSW, there are still areas of health that are exponentially growing markets and could be topics for standout sessions, such as animal health, genetics, and more.

Sam Dolin:

I think the answer to that is highly personalized. It’s all about knowing what topics are of interest to you and spending the time to research, plan, and schedule the sessions that will deliver the greatest personal value. That’s the beauty of this event—there is truly something for everyone.

How do events like SXSW stimulate creativity for health care marketers?

Lisa Fritts:

One word: passion. Anyone who gets up in front of an audience and shares their story, talks about what matters most to them? That’s passion. And that infectious energy level is something that I’d love to bottle up and bring back from Texas to sprinkle on everyone because we do really cool stuff, with really smart people, and have access to so many resources. I feel so lucky that I get to attend SXSW to fuel my own curiosity, my own mojo, and to pay it forward to others!

Chris Jankoski:

I left SXSW 2018 with so many new friends, ideas, and inspirations from diverse walks of life (whether it be from different industries, geographic locations, or backgrounds). The one-on-one exposure to a brilliant network stimulates creativity by widening our bag of tools to apply what others are doing to our daily work as health care marketers. SXSW packs a year’s worth of inspiration into a week of events—being able to bring that energy back to your colleagues is key to raising the standard of excellence and creative thinking for your entire company.

Gene Fitzpatrick:

While there are more health-focused sessions, the non–health-focused ones are just as important. The political sessions, films, technology sessions, and other events can all greatly influence health care marketers by highlighting trends, inspiring ways to tell stories, informing on future innovations, and more.