If you like the sound of a cocktail or taco ideated by a robot, or a ride on the Mr. Robot ferris wheel, or an exclusive test drive of foldable vehicles, or getting your hair styled by the best local barbers while sipping on a fresh beverage – SXSW Interactive is the place to be! This week, more than 35,000 people have descended upon Austin, Texas, all in the search for the latest and greatest from brands and the tech elite.

SHIFT Austin had the opportunity to check out the events and thought leadership SXSW Interactive had to offer the last 5 days, as well as the best branding and social players making waves on and offline!

Content Overtime
Each year at the Interactive festival, a few themes stand out as the hottest, most buzzed about topics. For 2016 programming, clear winners are the Internet of Things, digital media and the news cycle, self-driving/connected cars and drones. And in light of the upcoming election, the FBI vs. Apple debate and President Obama’s latest $19 billion cybersecurity plan, the privacy and security conversations were not only more prominent and frequent on the program docket, but also more heated and controversial than ever. With newer tracks such as #SXsports, #SXstyle and the med tech focus, there’s an even broader spotlight on the sports, fashion/ecommerce and health innovation trends.

For the lucky few who received a golden ticket to President Obama’s kickoff keynote on Friday, it was a rare chance to get a glimpse of a sitting president’s perspective on a lot of the most critical conversations happening now and throughout their presidency. First Lady Michelle Obama is scheduled to speak on Wednesday with the hopes of shedding more light on the Let Gets Learn initiative, which aims to break down the education barriers 62 million girls face globally.

Tech Pubs Leaving Their Mark:
MashableHouse: Mashable made its way back to SXSW promising to take attendees to the future – the Internet of Future. The site wrapped up with the Mashbash event, free with RSVP. TechCrunch’s SXSW Party: If you were looking to get your startup in front of a top tech reporter, TechCrunch’s SXSW party was the place to be. The publication offered the opportunity to mix and mingle with staff writers at Deloitte Digital’s Interplay Lab. Bonus – attendees heard a free performance by Robert DeLong. Tech.Co SXSW Startup Night: Tech.Co celebrated startups Sunday night during its SXSW Startup Night where several startups had the opportunity to pitch their product during a private showcase. During the public event, attendees visited the highlighted startups booths while enjoying good music and drinks at historic 6th Street’s Maggie Mae’s.

Mashable House

The International Effect
Every year, SXSW welcomes thousands of attendees from all over the world, and this year event goers had a chance to get a sense and sounds of various countries’ contributions to the tech, music and business world. In its inaugural year, Casa Mexico (March 11 – 14) showcased the best in technology and business the country has to offer. Throughout the four days of the event, attendees were welcomed with live music, food, cerveza and various sessions and panels that took a dive into the other side of Mexico that is not commonly heard about.

Other cultural events spotted around town include:

  • Great Britain House, where the UK takes over an E. 4th Street yoga studio to showcase why Britain is leading the world when it comes to technology.
  • German Haus hosted presentations and networking opportunities focusing on the development of smart cities and technology while catching tunes and drinks.
  • -The Japan House showcased the future of technology developments aimed to enhance the possibilities of humanity.

Got Swag?
Austin-based social media management platform Spredfast rolled out the red carpet in sweet swag (and not just because of their abundant snack table) during SXSW’s interactive portion of the festival. From breakfast mimosas and Bloody Mary’s to help cure the fun from the night before, to free manicures and haircuts (courtesy of Birds Barbershop), massages and (our favorite) free Swell water bottles and flash tattoos, Spredfast’s Social Suite was the place to be. The best part? Every Spredfast volunteer was a company employee who greeted you with a friendly smile. No doubt, #soSpredfast did it right. The social-savvy company closed out the weekend with its free Spredfast Social Stage party featuring Chromeo at the iconic ACL Live Moody Theater.

Branding Winners
#MrRobotSXSW, the hottest hacker show on TV, impressed us all with their dedication to a full-on ferris wheel setup and mini carnival scene, feeding fan hunger right in the heart of downtown Austin on Congress Avenue.

IBM Waston, our favorite machine learning friend, rebranded Austin-local Vince Young Steakhouse, mixing up custom cocktails based on a person’s hobbies and personality and cooking perfectly paired tacos using the molecular makeup of various ingredients. Don’t forget to play rock paper scissors with the mini-robot so reassure yourself humans are still in fact superior… right?

With a history of making waves with attendees at SXSW, Samsung has done it again with its C-Lab – a showcase of “secret” products like Hum On!, which transcribes hummed melodies into musical scores; Waffle, an internally generated social media network that supports cross-departmental content collaboration; and Entrim 4D, a VR accessory letting the wearer feel the effects of on-screen movements and actions.

Whether it’s a session on securing the connected products and cars across the world, changing the way media interacts with sports stars and celebrities or predicting what fashion trends we can see in the next 6 months, SXSW Interactive provides attendees and visitors the rare opportunity to explore new and fresh technology changing our world. Now that the techies are leaving town, the music scene can take over Austin as a playground all their own.

Sara Lasseter
Senior Account Executive

Paola Arias
Account Coordinator

Keep in Touch

Want fresh perspective on communications trends & strategy? Sign up for the SHIFT/ahead newsletter.

Ready to shift ahead?

Let's talk