YoungShand’s SXSW Diary: Final Wrap

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YoungShand’s SXSW Diary: Final Wrap

Duncan Shand, Jesse Kelly and Kat Cox from YoungShand attended SXSW 2019 in Austin, Texas. They’ve been reporting on the latest trends from the conference exclusively for Campaign Brief, and this is their final wrap up. If you’re just joining in, find their report on Day 1, here or Day 2 here.


Now that SXSW has wrapped for another year, we head back to NZ empowered by our takeaways from the experience – namely, that we’re on the right track.

80,000 people from all around the world attend SXSW each year, and the questions they ask are the same ones we are currently debating over here. The work NZ is doing, our strategic approach and the tech we’re using match anything we saw in Austin. Yes, the scale is different and, of course, we saw some incredible new uses of tech, but all of that is accessible from anywhere. In short, we should all be proud of the collective work that we do here in NZ.

Now for the other key takeaways.

Jesse Kelly, strategy director:


On one level this isn’t new. However, this was one of the strongest themes at SXSW. Rather than the brand purpose, this is about a brands ​social ​purpose and what impact it can have in the world.

We’re living in challenging times, and people don’t believe that governments can make the necessary changes fast enough. So they’re looking to companies to do more, and they will move their purchasing behaviour to brands that match their beliefs.

As an example, Howard Schecule the Founder of Starbucks gave a presentation on how they have created a socially driven business that has paid for healthcare and college fees and given ownership to every employee. Things that didn’t make sense from a strictly financial point of view, but have helped grow the culture, brand and loyalty of their customers.

Kat Cox, executive digital producer:


While at the conference, I noticed three big tech trends; Voice, Data and VR/MR.


Voice is rapidly becoming a new interface. This was clear by the number of new voice-activated devices we saw (like Amazon’s Alexa-powered Microwave). It proved to me that as an industry, we have to start thinking about a voice/audio-based interface.


We need to continue to improve how we create data-driven experiences. In a world that is continually creating new data, brands that harness this most effectively will produce the most
significant impact. We do need to balance this with real concerns around data security – there is another trend rebelling against the new surveillance society that we are in.

VR and MR

Virtual Reality and Mixed Reality applications and films will continue to develop. People from many industries are rushing to explore the immersive experiences these technologies offer.

Duncan Shand, managing director:

Creative leadership

For me, the biggest thing that I will take away from the conference is around leadership. Yes, we know we’re in a new digital world, and new tech is an opportunity for innovations. We’re all excited about this, but we also need to focus on the core of what we do — solving real problems with a clear strategic solution.

At the end of the day, we’re here to build strong brands, and we do that by making real connections with our customers — built from understanding their lives. Therefore, we need to ensure the work we’re doing supports our clients and makes a real impact.

We need to think about our creative process, too. If we are going to create great solutions, we have to involve developers, technologists, UX thinkers and media planners early in the creative process.

So, there you have it – SXSW done and dusted. It was an intense six days, but the best conference any of us have been to. We’re coming away excited and energised for what the future has in store. If you have the opportunity to go, we recommend you jump at the chance.

YoungShand’s SXSW Diary: Final Wrap