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Start Your Engines: A Sneak Peek at SXSW 2014

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Richard L. Tso  |

ADOTAS – If you love music, advertising and digital tech, you must be pretty jazzed this week. The highly anticipated South by Southwest (SXSW) Festival 2014 kicks of this Friday, featuring over 2000 musical acts, thousands of digital creatives and swarms of technology companies, set to descent upon laid-back Austin, Texas. If you aren’t able to attend in-person, NPR has even curated a playlist of hot tracks to listen to while at work, reading about the festivities from your trusty work computer.

SXSW Interactive will play host to more than 75 official parties and evening events from networking events to geeky video game meet-ups and glitzy ad industry gatherings. 2014 marks the 21st annual SXSW Interactive Festital that will run from Friday, March 7 through Tuesday, March 11. A hotbed of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity, the 2014 event features compelling presentations and panels from the brightest minds in emerging technology.

In order to help attendees stay on top of the sessions and personalize their Austin experience, Cox Media’s Austin American-Statesman newspaper and Janrain just launched the Austin360 mobile app for first-time SXSW visitors. It’s both a personalized event and nightlife guide for those who want to curate their time in Austin.

“The Austin360 app harnesses the writing, editing and curating work of our editorial staff through the use of Zvents event and venue listings,” said Steve Dorsey, VP of Innovation and Planning, Austin American- Statesman. “We offer locally customized categories based on expert reviews and fun must-sees, as well as comprehensive listings. SXSW brings a slew of people to town, as well as some very tech savvy users, many of whom enjoy Austin’s charms. We figured this was a prime to debut the app and also to learn from early users to quickly make it even better.”

Just last month, SXSW announced the finalists of its sixth annual Accelerator competition presented by Oracle, which will take place during the first weekend of the Festival. Of the hundreds of applications received, only 48 were selected across six categories including: Enterprise and Big Data Technologies, Entertainment and Content Technologies, Health Technologies, Innovative World Technologies, Social Technologies and Wearable Tech. Selected companies will pitch their ideas in front of a live audience for awards and feedback from industry executives.

Here is a list of upcoming sessions at Interactive that you simply cannot miss:

FRIDAY, MARCH 7

The hilarious tweets written by funny people Megan Amram @meganamram, Jenny Johnson @JennyJohnsonHi5 and Josh Hara @yoyoha have not only attracted hundreds of thousands of followers, they’ve also landed these social media savants legit employment in television, publishing and marketing. In this session, Mashable Editorial Director Matt Silverman will lead a fun (and funny) discussion on how these three social media celebrities were able to showcase their talents through Twitter, create impressive followings that make “real” celebs jealous, earn the praise of major media outlets like Time, The Wall Street Journal and Rolling Stone, and ultimately land dream jobs that embrace their 140-character humor and charm.

Palmer Events Center, 8-11 p.m.

Amazing networking opportunities with digital creatives from across the United States and around the world make SXSW Interactive such an incredible event to attend. Get to Austin early because one of the best opportunities to make valuable new connections comes on the very first day of the event.

SATURDAY, MARCH 8

Apparently, humans send 52,000 text messages per second. I believe this stat, although to be honest I probably get a total of 10 texts a day. Whatever. This panel will discuss the evolution/devolution of written communication, from cave-wall hieroglyphics to modern alphabets back to digital hieroglyphics.

Dazed and confused, consumers and brands alike are trippin’ on hashtags. As one of the most iconic social symbols of our time, media campaigns are increasingly laced with hashtags to increase engagement while also inspiring branded social content. Outside of the obvious signs of being ‘under the influence,’ the act of hashtagging gleans invaluable data for brands to leverage in their advertising campaigns. Helping to identify and target interested audiences in real time, hashtags have helped major brands like Hyundai capitalize on social mentions, increase campaign performance and raise brand visibility. Eric Bader, CMO of RadiumOne and Scot Fischler, founder of The Hashtag Game will present.

Famed “Saturday Night Live” head writer and anchor of the show’s wildly popular “Weekend Update,” Seth Meyers is host of NBC’s “Late Night,” where he brings his signature wit, jokes and satire to the weeknight scene. Join Seth, producer Mike Shoemaker and head writer Alex Baze for an entertaining and behind-the-scenes discussion of “Late Night with Seth Meyers”, moderated by Olivia Munn.

SUNDAY, MARCH 9

In creating social messaging, marketers often depend on some purported truths in communication. Focus on short-form content. Write in your audiences’ native language. Such maxims assume that our communities have rigid and immutable communication preferences. In this session, we’ll flip this assumption on its head. A growing body of empirical evidence — from the realms of psychology, linguistics, and social marketing — has shown that different kinds of social technology are themselves changing (and in some cases upending) language and communication norms and preferences across the world.

AP chief photographer David Guttenfelder and TIME director of photography Kira Pollack are going to discuss how social media has disrupted multimedia news and professional photography. I am hoping that this panel will teach me how to take really appealing Instagram photos of tacos and cake.

MONDAY, MARCH 10

We’ve grown accustomed to ads as part of our lives. But what if they could do more? What if they served a purpose, through form AND function? Several ads have been making waves for responding to their environments and viewers. The ANAR Foundation, a child-advocacy organization, used lenticular printing to tailor one message to adults and a different message to children via a single outdoor advertisement. Beats By Dre showcased the new Beats headphones in a Times Square takeover. People had their photo taken wearing the headphones and were featured throughout the famous landmark via multiple digital billboards. These ads are more than just good ideas; they are part of the new frontier of place-based and digital advertising. Organizations and agencies can now use physical design elements to demonstrate and produce the results they are advocating. Likewise, digital ads can use mobile tracking to transform the kinds of messages consumers see. The sky may not be the limit, after all.






Richard L. Tso is a reporter for Adotas and an avid writer covering the intersection of technology and advertising, fashion and music. With over 12 years of experience in the Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations industries, Richard has held executive positions at global agencies and technology companies and is founder of the interactive communications firm Pseudosound Consulting LLC. A classical cellist and painter, he believes that sometimes sound carries more weight than words. He is a graduate of Stanford University.

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