48 Hours at SXSW 2017

Austin, 16th March 2017: Joe Biden, Charlize Theron and iProspect walk into a bar. Okay, not quite a bar – but SXSW, one of the most diverse festivals in the media calendar. Last week, across the span of 12 days, 30,000 people descended on Austin, Texas, to showcase the leading stars and developments in all facets of tech, art, film and music. Across the course of 48 hours I heard how in the future, our dreams will all be for sale, how we now trust our phones more than we trust our doctors, and that in todays ever challenging global socio-political landscape brands, tech and innovators can no longer turn a blind eye to the new role they have now taken on.


Joe Biden, now that he's no longer the VP, spoke on his work with the Biden foundation, and its fight against cancer, while challenging the innovators in the room to realize that the work they do now has "a gigantic impact". Charlize Theron was there to promote her stylish new action film, Atomic Blonde. And iProspect was tackling the diversity and female empowerment conversation head on, with our session #hearhervoice. As I said, this festival doesn't lose any points for its variety.

 Across the trade floor at SXSW, over 200 vendors showcased all forms of tech that they've decided will make our lives easier; from the innocuous, such as a baseball cap that collects solar power charge your phone, to the future-facing, like exoskeletons designed to reduce human fatigue.


 Brands of all kinds realized that their leaders are in a new way, the latest kind of political spearhead. Tinder CEO, Sean Rad, spoke on how they have updated their platform to embrace the transgender community. David Karp, Founder of Tumblr, launched a new movement called #techstandswithPP, alongside Planned Parenthood's president, Cecile Richards. At iProspect, we are more than aware that the advertising community, as Karp said, "now has the power to influence public debate, mobilize communities". And this is just one of the reasons why Ruth Stubbs, iProspect's global president, took to the stage to make sure that the world is ready to #hearhervoice. 


Ruth was joined on stage by Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, CEO and Founder of drawbridge, and Joanna Catalano, President of Female Founders, and CEO of iProspect APAC, as they discussed the new age of female entrepreneur. They debated the numerous social and economical barriers women face today, along with the internal and external bias all women entering todays modern global workplace encounter. Couple this with the fact that $12 trillion dollars could be added to the global economy if women were paid the average national salary for basic work, it was clear that the launch of the Female Foundry by iProspect couldn't be more timely. Building on our research conducted in 2015 and 2016, we found that that women from emerging markets are now more motivated than ever to do what they can to benefit their families and communities. And with a growing percentage of these women selling products exclusively online, and using tech to move away from expected traditional roles, it is clear that the industry needs to take note.

One of the biggest barriers to success is a clear understanding of how to turn entrepreneurship into success, and that is why the Female Foundry was launched, to provide access to the right relationships and mentors. The Female Foundry now has 8 women enrolled in South-East Asia, with 6 internal mentors and partners with 5 venture capitalist firms, including Dentsu Ventures. With plans to take the research across LATAM and Sub-Saharan Africa this year, I am beyond excited to see the voyage of #hearhervoice progress.


In terms of the more valuable tech that brands and advertisers need to be taking note of included Levi's commuter jacket. Born from Google's Advanced Technology and Products group, the jacket seems to make the closest step to wearable but functional tech. Set to retail in the fall at $350, the jacket uses Google's Jacquard technology to turn its denim fabric into a true gesture-controlled canvas. A small connected area in the left sleeve, allows you to control a connected mobile device to find out what time it is, swipe to play, pause or skip a track while you're listening to music.


E-commerce and search giants need to take note of Dallas based company, RewardStyle, which could revolutionize traditional online shopping behavior. The app makes social media-based shopping easier by allowing users to buy clothing after only taking a screenshot from their smartphone. The app is also platform agnostic, meaning it is irrelevant whether you're screen-shotting a brand website, Facebook, Instagram or any other social platform. With product links then being sent through notifications, apps like this could see the traditional consumer path-to-purchase journeys being shattered.

Health and Beauty brands should take note of Tokyo-based giant, Shiseido. The make-up monolith ventured into digital, with a software prototype that gets users ready for a FaceTime call by virtually applying live makeup through a devices front-facing camera. Although the app is not yet available, the implications for the beauty industry could be huge.

VR was ubiquitous, but the multiplicity came from the array of ways the tech was being used. RIFF.TVR from IMEX (Immersive Music Experiences) is an HTC Vive experience that allows users to play an array of instruments virtually - which might help save some costly purchases as you go on the arduous journey of learning an instrument. And on the other end of the spectrum, came Birdly. Listed as a "full body virtual reality flight simulator," the simulator allows participants to feel like they are flying as they soar over cities in Oculus Rift – and the experience is heightened by movement, wind and olfactory feedback.

 I had to leave Austin just as SXSW: MUSIC was gearing into full force, but there was no denying that SXSW, now in its 31st year, offered a much different perspective on the landscape as opposed to some of the more inward looking advertising festivals that tent-pole all of our calendars. Austin, I'll see you again next year, and keep it weird.


About iProspect

iProspect is a global business performance agency – buying media and driving business performance for brands. The iProspect global team works across the network of 3,200 employees spread over 84 offices in 52 countries. 

Founded in 1996, iProspect has since become part of the Dentsu Aegis Network, and now drives business performance for some of the world’s leading advertisers including Adidas, Reebok, American Express, Burberry, General Motors, Hilton, Nokia and Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts. In terms of market, market coverage, and office count, it is the world’s largest digital media agency and 2015 turnover exceeded £1bn.

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PR contact

Nate Nicely 

Global Communications and Brand Strategy Manager, iProspect 

DL: +001 917 683-7456