There’s chatter around the industry that the allure of SXSW has disminished over the years, that there aren’t the same product launches and the real tech chat has gone elsewhere. At the same time Publicis Groupe ignited a backlash against Cannes as a money grabbing escapade on the French riveriera. So in a fight to the death, why should we support cowboy hats over rosè Lions? Asks Ben Shaw, Head of Strategy at BBH London.

99 things you should know about SXSW 2018

Whilst Cannes does a great job of highlighting brilliant ideas from around the world, it’s the ad industry talking to itself. Equally SXSW’s headlines are no longer boasting of launching mobile apps like Twitter, Foursquare and Meerkat. But there is strategic difference between the two, the future of our industry will be impacted more by seeking outside inspiration and collaboration than aggrandisement and peer recognition.

SXSW 2018 was dominated by conversations that went beyond marketing and product launches to themes shaping the entire direction of the human race – A.I., diversity, equality, climate change and of course, blockchain. These are the subjects that need the worlds best creative and technologically gifted minds focusing on – for all our own sakes and for our industry’s sake to continue to stay relevant.

Yes, Fortnite wasn’t launched at SXSW and The Next Web conference has some great Silicon Valley brainpower in attendance, but SXSW manages to bring together an eclectic mix of people, topics and creativity all in one space. Nowhere else on earth do gamers, movie buffs, marketers, makers, creators, developers, politicians, designers, teachers and tech geeks all come together for a big ten day love in. It’s become a festival of creativity, not just the Interactive, Film and Music of old. Those few days in Austin concoct a cross fertilisation of ideas across disciplines, over talks, tacos and terrible brand activations.

As with most investments, you get out what you put in. I try to suck as much out of it as I can, carefully vetting and planning a schedule, treating the talks like a 9-5 university degree. I’ve met others who prefer to treat it like the Catalina mixer, a networking opportunity to meet the world’s most interesting people. Equally a simple wander round the trade show and a gander at a NASA keynote on the latest search for our next home is equally inspiring. Everyone I know who has been has come back richer in thought, stuffed full of references and slightly fatter because, BBQ. That’s the beauty of SXSW, take from it what you will, Texas always gives back.

If you agree, you can help me get back there by voting for my talk; ‘Media is killing social media’ on the PanelPicker and sharing this post. And if you don’t believe me, have a read of my 99 highlights from SXSW18 above and steal the slides.

See you in Austin. Hopefully.