Making culture and the importance of parties.

Writing my thoughts on SXSW in a plane full of other people writing their thoughts on SXSW.

The latest insights from Dan Bradley, our Creative Director, as he embarks on a creative pilgrimage to SXSW.


Sitting on the tarmac at San Fran with a hundred SXSW attendees because our new plane has software glitches is ironic comedy gold. It’s a shame I’m not a comedian.

While we waited for a techie to come fix the cockpit computer, some of the passengers joked about hacking in from our seats and fixing it for them. They weren’t comedians either.

Just getting to this seat has felt like a heroic journey. It’s already been 27 hours. Wearing one tshirt while doing it, is not quite as heroic.

My bloodshot eyes fit in nicely on a plane full of SXSW folk, many of whom are tapping the finishing touches into their latest pitch documents before landing and diving into the maelstrom.

Having carefully selected my itinerary and — with 800 events in interactive alone — resigned myself to all the things I’ll miss. I’ve slowly begun to realise that getting into the right parties is almost as important as choosing the right talks and workshops.

Some of these parties you pay and have to book way in advance, and others are the money-can’t-buy, industry-only type.

Spotify for instance are hosting Spotify House to launch and showcase their products and to launch new branding. Collins, their NYC Design agency, describe this as ‘pulling the sheet off the car’. Mainstream tech companies have replaced automotive giants as must-haves for modern agency cred.

And Spotify is just one of many heavy-hitter brands who have a rolling programme of not-too-secret-but-made-to-sound-a-little-like-they-are events. Secret enough to build ‘will I get in?’-tension, but not so secret you don’t hear about it or bother to go.

I’ve also been chatting to folk from Austin agency GSD&M about meeting their CEO Roy Spence and Hayley Rushing. They co-authored Its Not What You Sell, It’s Why, as well as creating The Purpose Institute together.

Their mission to educate businesses on how finding a higher purpose drives superior commercial outcomes really hits home for this Kat. It’s what Meerkats is built around, and I can’t wait to swap thoughts on it, and hear how their clients and staff express their belief in purpose.

But, like getting into the right parties, meeting those whose work you admire, takes time and gentle effort.

One of these is a friend from London, Jon Burkhart, who qualifies as the most passionate, pro-digital and social person I’ve ever met or worked with, bar none. He’s one of the writers of Hacker, Maker, Thinker, Their: Advertising’s Next Generation. And he’s launching his new video podcast series where he interviews smart passionate people like himself (mind the plugs).

As author of NewsJacking, he cofounded the Urgent Genius division at Iris Worldwide, creating campaigns which tapped cultural tensions using an overnight newsroom model.

Talking to Jon always gets me excited for the future of digital and social. That, and it’s always great seeing a familiar face. His passion for SXSW was a big part in my finally making it to the biggest culture-meet-tech event in the world.

Unlike advertising events around the world, which reflect existing culture (often, advertising culture) back at itself, SXSW feels more like a peek at culture being made, right before release. Like the beta version of an app.

I’m feeling inspired and I haven’t even landed yet.

I might even wear a clean t-shirt.

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