The handwringing has begun. No sooner were we all a twitter over marketers taking over SXSW (myself included), that the backlash has gone into full swing.
Several years ago (maybe 2010) when I saw Pepsi erect that gigantic playground and CNN take over that restaurant, I knew the quaint geek-fest days of SXSW were over and we were in for a very different experience. But even then, SXSW was still an orgasm of epic digital awesomeness.
Having attended the event long enough to know what it was like before the brands and agencies invaded, I see this as a bubble. And bubbles don’t last forever. Like every thing else in the ad business, every cool, new thing is chased. Every single one. Longer than any sane person would or should chase anything.
But even insane, trend-chasing ad agencies wake up one day and realize, “Oh yea, this shit isn’t making a dime for us” and they move on to the next cool thing. This will be the fourth year of the SXSW Agency Invasion, and while I’m sure that next year will be just as big, I’d have to agree with this mystery Digiday writer: we’re going to see a decline in attendance by agencies from this point on.
It won’t be a complete exodus, because agencies should always be present in any environment where new ideas and innovation are at the forefront of the conversation. And SXSW is, indeed, that place.
That said, it’s been a great past few years in one respect. Prior to the Agency Invasion, one had to pay for everything one’s self. Now everything is sponsored. It’s entirely possible to stay in Austin for five days and never spend a dime on food or drink.
So thanks for that, Madison Avenue.
Image credit: CC by betsyweber