Jazmaree Dawson (lead image) is the marketplace associate manager at EssenceMediacom Sydney and recently won an internal competition to be EssenceMediacom’s Breakthrough Reporter during SXSW Sydney’s inaugural festival. Here, she shares her experience and some key insights across her week of ‘unexpected discovery’ at SXSW Sydney…
SXSW isn’t all about new ideas or life-changing innovations, it’s about diversifying pre-existing viewpoints within our industries. Breaking down that echo chamber of opinion and allowing opportunities for conversation. It’s a full-on commitment – but worth every second and you get out what you put in.
I spent the full week at SXSW Sydney, after winning a nationwide competition to be EssenceMediacom’s Breakthrough Reporter. My role was to turn off email notifications, fully immerse myself in all SXSW Sydney had to offer – and report it back to our teams
and clients. I came into the week-long conference with the motivation to learn, examine and relay information back to my agency. I appreciate I had a relatively unique experience as a SXSW attendee. Not everyone can commit the time and resource, but EssenceMediacom saw it as an investment in unearthing Breakthrough thinking. However, I honestly recommend this sort of immersive approach to anyone and everyone, as it allows you to enjoy all the brilliance of what SXSW Sydney has to offer.
In order to truly come out with new learnings and perspectives, you can’t have a dip-in-dip-out attitude. We’ve all been there. Sitting in a presentation or at an off-site wondering what we’re doing and slyly checking the growing email notifications on our phones. If you’re engaging in this attitude whilst attending the sessions on offer, you’re probably not going to leave feeling inspired or having discovered anything new.
For instance, understanding social media algorithms and the advancement of AI are well-charted territories within our line of work. However, considerations on the limitations of diversity of opinion aren’t explored quite as often.
Dr Zac Siedler, director of movember, unpacked his perspective on algorithmic radicalisation, in ‘Masculinity Reimagined’, where he highlighted that the vast majority of men who come into contact with controversial figures, such as Andrew Tate, aren’t enticed because of their misogynistic views. They come because of lifestyle traits, like wealth and respect, then leave with these added ideals due to constant algorithmic exposure and lack of perspective.
We can apply this to our own perceptions of what SXSW Sydney is all about. Come in with an open mind, be present during the sessions and reflect on what’s being discussed.
Prior preparation is your best friend
Every new event, especially of the scale and enormity of SXSW Sydney, is bound to have its growing pains.
Sydney is a sprawling city, not considering geographic factors on session locations, line-up requirements or walking time can have a big impact on the overall SXSW experience and how much you get to see. Pre-planning your week is one way to maximise your immersion to ensure you get to everything you’ve set your heart on. My ability to engage in as many sessions as possible did not rely solely on the SXSW app or website, but rather a self-made, colour-coded spreadsheet based on session location and walking distance allocation. It was my SXSW Sydney Bible.
An interesting call made by Charlie Brooker in his featured Keynote in conversation with Julia Zemiro was that technology companies should hire paranoid people to assess their products and the unintended consequences. When SXSW Sydney returns in 2024, I think the event would benefit from having some type-A personalities to check and recheck logistic layouts which might help in the planning and placement of sessions across the city, and the overall connectedness of the SXSW Sydney community.
On the flipside, the great thing about SXSW is, if you’re not able to attend a session due to walking distance or location, you’re bound to encounter another 4-5 sessions running at the same time that are equally as insightful. Your options are unlimited!
How to decide where to be
It’s important to acknowledge that everyone’s experience at SXSW Sydney is going to be different based on the sessions attended. For me personally, I navigated the labyrinth of opportunities, through reading the headlines and bios and then using my spreadsheet to map out how to attend the ones that intrigued me the most and would relate back to my day-to-day.
Nine times out of ten I got it right, and, I guess, even where I got it wrong, I still ended up discovering serendipitous breakthroughs. For instance, I usually wouldn’t find myself at a session focused on start-up tech industries, due to my personal interests. But Three Elephants in a Room: Sex, Money, and Power proved to be insightful for delving into the concepts of given and earned power, as well as a better understanding of the notion of ‘filtered authenticity’ in the workplace.
Don’t be afraid to deepen your knowledge by being brave and seizing the question time opportunities. It’s not every day you’ll have the opportunity to converse with highly regarded professionals during or after a session. I was fortunate to catch up with several role-models and pioneers across the week, such as GroupM AUNZ CEO Aimee Buchanan and Global CEO Christian Juhl.
That’s one of the reasons I loved my week at SXSW Sydney, there were so many unexpected opportunities to learn from.
That’s one of the reasons I loved my week at SXSW Sydney, there were so many unexpected opportunities to learn from.
The ‘red flags’ of SXSW:
Speaking of Elephants in the Room, for all the great learnings and experiences SXSW brought to Sydney, it’s important to acknowledge where we can improve in the coming years.
SXSW Sydney is still finding its feet and as the first event, it has done a fantastic job of breathing innovation, excitement and interest across Sydney. But, to better strengthen the proposition in the coming years, it needs to find its own values. We don’t need to be like Austin. Realistically our city’s geography limits our ability to mimic the city anyway. Where we can advance is understanding where best to place value.
Across the week there were some variances in the quality and deliverance of sessions simply based on the technology and venue location. Some locations were not accessible to all, and some sessions lacked microphones or Auslan interpreters. We can carve Sydney out as the leader in accessibility by making further considerations for next year. It’s an easy way to elevate what is already an overall great experience.
One of the most insightful sessions I attended across the week, The Forever Reef Project, A Living Backup For The Biodiversity of Coral Reefs, was out at UTS with limited attendees considering the significance of the content discussed.
Dr Charlie John Veron highlighted in his keynote, two-weeks of clear sunny skies and warm waters might be a dream for holiday goers, but it might also be the end of the largest coral reef system in the world, with coral reef bleaching predicted to be worse than the devastation of 2016.
The same is true of other sessions in some of the further locations which undermined the importance of the speakers and the topics. With so many concurrent sessions sprawled across the ICC, Powerhouse Museum, UTS and other Sydney venues understanding the value-point of SXSW Sydney might better determine which sessions are showcased, and where they take place, resulting in the week-long festival being even more impactful and memorable.
I am very grateful for my experience at SXSW Sydney. I feel like I’ve been exposed to months of learnings and breakthroughs in the span of a single week, which I guess is what makes this event so exciting to be held in our city. For those considering attending next year, I say go with an open mind, an empty notebook, your full attention, and of course a colour coded spreadsheet! It’s well worth it.
Marc Collister (pictured) of P2 Content Creators spills the beans on his 2024 predictions drawing from two decades of experience in the advertising, film and television industry. I’m certain it will come as no surprise that in 2024, we can expect our industry to move at breakneck speed again. With even more rapid shifts in […]
Reddit’s annual Recap report has revealed the issues and moments that captured Australia’s collective mind over 2023 with, naturally, the Matildas featuring high on the list. The inaugural Australia-hosted Women’s World Cup saw Aussies glued to the footy (or, indeed soccer) with one enterprising user capturing the moment that Cortnee Vine scored the winner against […]
Zeno Australia has announced expanded creative design capabilities and the appointment of Jim Michell (lead image) to its senior leadership team. The new moves support strong growth in the region. Zeno Australia’s clients, including Abano Healthcare, Motorola and Yorkshire Tea, can now tap into a suite of creative design services to augment the agency’s work […]
Spikes Asia, APAC’s most prestigious and sought-after Award for creativity and marketing effectiveness, has revealed its 2024 Jury line-up today. The 93 industry experts from across 18 markets represent APAC’s leading talent from a diverse range of disciplines. 2024 sees the highest representation from brands, including Budweiser, Procter & Gamble, Unilever and, for the first […]
Assembled Media, is drawing upon the creative power of TikTok Creator Marketplace to help generate unique, impactful content for iconic stationery brand, BIC. The social activation campaign titled ‘A Pen for Every Side of You’ promotes the flexibility of BIC’s 4 Colours pen and is active nationwide on the BIC Stationery TikTok account. The campaign […]
Pinterest reckons jellyfish & moody cowboys will be big in 2024. Refused to be drawn on the return of shoulder pads.
IAB Australia has launched ‘Evolution in Market Mix Modelling’, the fourth module in its Marketing Measurement Innovation Series, which has been developed by IAB Australia’s Ad Effectiveness Council. The module explores what is driving the increased use of MMM and how the technique is evolving with advances in computing power and machine learning to provide […]
Scope3, the collaborative sustainability platform leading the decarbonisation of media and advertising, announced the addition of digital out-of-home (DOOH) to its emissions measurement. With DOOH ad spending predicted to grow from $17B in 2023 to nearly $24B by 2028, measuring this channel brings us one step closer to understanding the total impact of digital advertising […]
NRF 2024: Retail’s Big Show Asia Pacific, is now open for online registrations for the main conference. Jointly organized by the National Retail Federation and Comexposium, Retail’s Big Show Asia Pacific will take place from 11 – 13 June, 2024 at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Singapore and is expected to draw thousands […]
Following a period of significant client growth, leading auto marketing agency, DBC2 has appointed Jason Fisher (lead image) to the newly created role of CEO. The appointment is part of DBC2’s long term growth strategy ahead of the agency announcing a brand refresh and expanded proposition in early-2024. As a new shareholder of the business, […]
Don’t treat regional media as a charity, but a real growth opportunity: That’s the message from Boomtown’s final masterclass of 2023, attended by almost 100 media industry representatives from across the nation. The masterclass was part of a series of educational sessions, delivered by Boomtown, the media collective championing advertising in regional Australia. The sessions […]