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03/17/2011 The State of Interactive - #SXSW1

Whew. Finally coming down to earth after a weekend in Austin at SXSW. It was my first time there and there were a lot of people attending. There were a number of key points I took away from the panels and from my discussions with people there. In this first post about SXSW, I wanted to address the “state of interactive.” 

I went to a number of panels where the discussion still involved questions of how companies and agencies can focus more on interactive ideas rather than the usual traditional marketing. For all the talk, traditional marketing is still king of the hill and, despite solid inroads, interactive thinking and social programs are still afterthoughts in the grand scheme of things. 

The panels talked about the challenge of bringing new ideas to the forefront and convincing clients to do them. They talked about internal challenges of having the right technical/digital people to influence marketing thinking. In both cases, it seemed like a slow slog, if not a downright losing battle. 

I also talked to a lot of people in charge of embedding digital changes to their organizations. These people came from all over, from the very, very big, to the medium and small. They had the role of inspiring the internal culture to make it a more digitally focused, innovative company. I found an overstretched under-supported group. I met more than a few that were ready, or had, given up trying to change the traditionals and who were ready to do something more digitally focused.

They reminded me of myself 3-4 years ago when I received titles like Chief Digital Officer but no mandate or authority to actually hire new digital people. When it comes to making companies more interactive, it seems like we still faced with the Sisyphusian challenge of trying to change something that, really, doesn’t want to change.

I think that’s why you see people like John Winsor starting Victor & Spoils and Ty Montague starting Co. It’s why Howard Draft, chairman of DraftFCB told a panel at the latest 4A’s Conference that if he were to start over today, he’d start a small, solely digital shop.

Don’t get me wrong: There were a lot of great digital and interactive thinkers and thinking in Austin. But when it comes to shifting business and agencies to interactive and digital marketing, we’re not as far ahead as we think.

It points to a potential huge advantage in the coming years for those who have made the shift. And it shows that once the big marketing shift actually happens, if it does, the ones who are talking about it rather than doing it are going to be in a very, very tough spot.



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