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SXSW

MediaLink's Neil Carty on Why SXSW Is a Millennial Proving Ground for Brands

Attendees represent 'the most qualified focus group on the planet'

Neil Carty, MediaLink's vp of innovation strategy Photo: Elizabeth Lippman


Specs
Who Neil Carty
Current gig vp of innovation strategy, MediaLink
Previous gig partner, director of innovation, emerging technology, Mindshare
Twitter @NeilCarty
Age 37

What are some of the challenges brands face at SXSW as they try to find ways to reach millennials? 
CMOs and CEOs are faced with navigating a lot of choice. When we bring brands to SXSW, it's more about understanding the technologies that are unproven and the promises they provide.

What areas are we going to see the most development?
I'm really excited about health tech. SXSW was founded with the idea that you can harness the Internet for the better good. Something that's most relevant for brands is this idea of immersive content. I'm really excited about virtual reality and the larger applications that can go beyond gaming. There are technologies out there that are focusing on immersive journalism. Or, if you are afraid of heights, imagine if you could put yourself in a virtual environment and cure that.

What tech trends will become really meaningful this year?
We're probably going to see a lot of stuff around wearables, VR, fashion tech and drones. It's about understanding the data exhaust that is coming off those devices so we can apply it to the marketing disciplines.

What kind of marketing at SXSW works? 
SXSW is less about technology launches and more about how that technology can drive better storytelling, better creativity and deeper integrations into culture. Austin is a really exciting city, so things that have taken that cultural center into the activation work well. Last year, Vice did a series of concerts that integrated the bats that are underneath the Congress Avenue Bridge through a light show. Or, food truck culture—that's inherent to SXSW and Austin in particular.

What should experiential marketing be used for at SXSW?
A heavy amount of millennials are attending, but they are also the most qualified focus group on the planet. Larger brands should really think about testing there for larger campaign initiatives. If they prove a concept works, they can roll that out on a larger level.

Any last-minute advice? 
Take the people within your organization that are the most curious and passionate—that's often the youngest. When I was assembling SXSW teams in my agency days, I would ask for more junior-level people because they were so excited to be there in the first place, I knew I would get 10 times as much out of them.

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