You can keep your Cannes, I’m off to SxSW

In this guest post, Ogilvy’s Damian Damjanovski argues that SxSW, not Cannes, is where creatives should be looking

Ever since joining the advertising industry, I’ve heard people tell stories of Cannes. The glamour, the parties, the awards, the mingling with other ad folk the very pinnacle of AdLand – and all to the backdrop of the beautiful French Riviera.

Yet despite all the stories, I’ve not been able to bring myself to want to go to Cannes with the same passion and vigour that seems to drive so many others.

However there are four letters that inspire in me the same kind of passionate drive to pack my bags and haul-ass half-way across the world, and they are SxSW.

In case you don’t know what SxSW (South by Southwest) is – it’s quite simply a festival of music, film and interactive. It’s beyond anything you may have seen at any conference, seminar or expo you’ve been to before – it’s neither centred around a glitzy award ceremony, nor is it about walking through tens of kilometres of show-room expos. Rather, it’s about people who are passionate about movies, music or digital sharing that passion with others in a relatively informal but extremely intense forum.

This is the place where some of the most intelligent, most motivated, and most creative people in the world make their pilgrimage every year in order to connect with each other, learn from each other, and build things – whether websites, rock bands, or soon to be multi-billion dollar enterprises.

SxSW has been a sort of “proving ground” for start ups hoping to make it big.

Some of its recent success stories include Twitter and Foursquare, both of which were essentially unknown until they hit SxSW. The ability for the festival to blast a start-up into mass-adoption fame has brought even more entrepreneurial spirits to Austin with their wares in the hopes of attaining the approval of the early-adopter crowd.

At any given hour during the five days of the festival, there are over 12 concurrent sessions happening (and that’s just the more formal planned ones, many more happen ad-hoc), so choosing where to go and who to see are of the utmost importance.

So why are Ogilvy sending me and two of my advertising brethren across to this festival?

Quite simply, there is no better place to get information from the horse’s mouth. See, SxSW is one of those festivals where the true thought leaders get up and talk about what they’ve been doing. Not case studies, not examples they found on other people’s blogs, but their actual own workings – and allow it to be dissected, picked apart, and discussed.

I would happily argue that there is more potential to learn from the 800+ speakers at SxSW, than in every other event on the annual digital calendar combined.

Perhaps the reason that Droga5 (http://mumbrella.com.au/droga-5-advertising-happywhatever-fun-37505) isn’t having fun in this industry anymore, isn’t due to a lack of long lunches and long shoots, or even the anonymous comments but because those “ideas worth fighting for” are fewer and farther between.

Perhaps truly great ideas, not just ‘advertising ideas’ come about more frequently when you expose yourself to those with knowledge far outlying from your own.

Of the current 15,000+ registered attendees for SxSW, there are dozens and dozens of the most creative and inspiring agencies in the world represented.

Of which, there are two represented from Australia, with Ogilvy being one of them.

So you can keep the party in France. I’m off to experience one of the most epic weeks of intense learning, meeting, and sharing currently on offer.

  • Damian Damjanovski is innovation director – strategy at Ogilvy. Along with creative director Barrie Seppings and innovation director – creative Brian Merrifield, he will be writing about his experiences at SxSW on Ogilvy’s dedicated site for the event.

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