Why do people go to SXSW anyway?

Digiday is at SXSW giving you the latest industry news out of the festival at Austin, Texas. More from the series →


If you follow five people on Twitter, chances are three of them are tweeting about SXSW. It’s that time of year again: The annual brand-and-agency hajj to Austin for the interactive portion of the two-week affair. People love nothing more than complaining about the ordeal. The lines, the crowds, the Uber surge pricing. It’s a wonder why any of them come. With that in mind, we asked a few high-profile conference-goers — vets and first-timers alike — what it is that brought them to Austin this year. (Spoiler alert: It’s not really about the panels).

David-Michel Davies, CEO, the Webby Awards Media Group
I’ve been coming here for 15 years. For me it’s just a chance to see the people who I’ve worked with over the last 15, 20 years. People have had kids and moved off to different places. They come back to Austin in March and it’s a great time to connect with them and meet with people. I go less and less to panels than when I first started coming here. Just because the interaction and conversations with people that I don’t get a lot of face-to-face time with is so valuable.

Duncan Watts, principal researcher, Microsoft Research
I’m on a panel, then I turn around and fly home. I actually applied to be on panels a few times several years ago and never got in. I gave up for a while. I sort of figured we wouldn’t get in this year when I agreed to do this, but we got in. It’s sort of a whole jamboree, all these people, and I don’t much care for these sorts of things.

Lindsay McCallum, global communications manager, Publicis Groupe
I am here to figure out why SXSW is such a big deal. What’s going on? Who are these people? Where does everyone go; what do they talk about? It’s only been a few hours but I would say brands are king here.

Eric Moore, president of client services, Huge Brooklyn
I’ve never been. I just thought it was a great opportunity to meet many of our clients. For me personally, I’m in a new position. We’ve never had the position. It just seems like a great place where everyone comes together. It just facilitates so many meetings. Clients from the West Coast. Clients from Rio, Brazil.

Rachel Kaplowitz, CEO, Honey
People are a different version of themselves when they’re here. Whether they’re your co-workers or clients or people you work with in the industry, they’re laid back. They’re having fun. They’re their true authentic selves. So it’s fun to connect here outside of the craziness of New York. The panel I’m on might be the only panel I go to.

Chapin Clark, evp and managing director of copywriting, R/GA
To get out of New York.


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