Jay-Z Hits SxSW; A 340-ton Rock Star; The Homeless, Robots & Wifi; A Video Game for the 99%

This week’s theme music: Tweet your favorite Jay-Z song (#title) with #JayZSyncShow and maybe he’ll play it live from SxSW later today (3/12/12). Details here

What’s going on at SxSW?
Y&R is teaming up with several of our sister agencies to provide on-the-ground commentary of all the happenings in Austin. Check out the lowdown on the panels, parties, food and general zeitgeist here.

“The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed” – William Gibson
As marketers, we usually focus on the content that is available on the Internet. This week I was intrigued by two clever approaches to providing access to the Internet.  The first, Homeless Hotspots, is in beta test at SxSW. Created by BBH Labs, Homeless Hotspots utilizes homeless people as mobile wifi spots.  As SxSWers roll through town and find themselves in areas with weak signals, they’ll find Homeless Hotspot representatives from which they can get high speed access. It’s an intriguing notion and novel solution to two problems.

If that solution leverages a low-fi technology (people), then Electronic Countermeasures is something straight from a sci-fi novel – a swam of mini, flying robots create a wifi network. The man behind the idea, Liam Young, descibes it like this: “These drones would fly off and hover above the city, and create ad hoc connections and networks in a new form of nomadic territorial infrastructure,” he says, “a flock of interactive autonomous drones that form their own place specific, temporary, local, Wi-Fi community–a pirate Internet.”

Intriguing and wildly dissimilar approaches to solving a similar problem.

Gender Roles – Shaping Language, Re-inforcing stereotypes
As we come off a week where gender roles and women’s sexuality drove the political conversations, two items caught my eye. First was this care label on a pair of men’s pants. While details of the brand behind this aresketchy, it raises some interesting cultural questions. Is the label meant completely in jest, a thumbing of the nose at the politiclal correctness of this time?  Is it meant as a declaration to men to reclaim the “traditional” gender roles? Is it actually a stab at men, famous for not reading instructions? Is it merely a somewhat obvious grab to garner publicity, any publicity, for the brand? Madhouse, the UK shop stocking the pants has been back-pedaling, so that seems unlikely.  And to what degree should we be upset by this? In my house I probably do about 70 of the laundy – wash, dry, fold & put away. Should I be offended by this? If so, because they are in essence demeaning my wife, or because they are demeaning me? It’s interesting to think how else they (or another brand) could use this space.

Elsewhere, linguistics researchers are looking into the role that women play in shaping our language.  Carmen Fought of Pitzer College, in speaking to the New York Times stated: “If women do something like uptalk or vocal fry, it’s immediately interpreted as insecure, emotional or even stupid. The truth is this: young women take linguistic features and use them as power tools for building relationships.”  

A Social Game from a magazine? A TV show from a car company?
For 19 years, SELF magazine has hosted an event called Self Workout in the Park in New York City. This year, they’ve added a Social Gaming element to the program. According to The New York Times, “The Self game, in addition to bearing the Self brand, will be sponsored by several marketers, including BlackBerry, 7 for All Mankind jeans and Skype, which will be integrated into the social game play. Plans call for the game to be playable on mobile devices and computers.”

For the past several years Ford has done a great job of driving marketing innovation in the social space. That continues with their latest project, Escape Routes. According toMashable, the show will premiere on NBC and mun2 on March 31. The show, which will run for six episodes, features a cast of six teams of two who will vie in a road trip competition. This is a great example of a brand embracing not just Social TV, but Intermedia. We’re moving towards an entertainment landscape that has transitioned from watching a show, to talking about a show online to engaging with a show online – in real-time. As this trend continues, ‘event-style’ shows will keep viewing watching, thus forcing advertisers to up their game as viewers shift between big and small screens. The :30 second will need to be more engaging, not with cute animals and talking babies, but with additional content relevant to the program.


340-ton boulders and a video game for the 99%

Guns N’ Roses, The Doors, Red Hot Chili Peppers. Los Angeles has had its share of rock stars. But none bigger than the 340-ton boulder that made its way to the L.A. County Museum of Art last week. As the LA Timesreported, the rock, part of an art installation, has become a sensation in a town know more for superficiality than being down to Earth (or being part of the Earth), the rock’s 105-mile journey has generated carnival-like parties, parade-style onlookers and well-wishers and of course, the true imprimatur of 21-century celebrity, a Twitter account. This is one of those perfect examples of things that you simply can’t manufacture. Can you imagine an agency going to the museum to pitch this? Or how completely lame it would have been if they had created an official party for the rock? No, something like this just happens, or it doesn’t, and that’s the world we live in right now. The question for marketers becomes – how, if we cannot create these things, do we leverage them?

Equally organic is the video game Keep Me Occupied. An effort from the people behind the Occupy Oakland movement. The game resides in a moving console called the Oak-U-Tron. According to the the game’s programmer, Anna Anthropy (via Wired.com), “The game [marries] the idea of the social movement where everyone who’s playing contributes to the overall success of everyone,” says Anthropy. “Someone who’s maybe not super good at videogames might only get to an early switch, but they’ll still stay behind and hold that switch and help all future players to still be contributing something that’s significant.” Check out the gameplay here, and see the game in action here.

Insight on the creative process from Ridley Scott
Last week we saw the clever trailer for Prometheus, the latest epic from visionary director Ridley Scott. This week I discovered this gem, a video entitled Blade Runner Convention Reel. It’s a look behind-the-scenes at the creation of the world of the depicted in the film. It’s a deep meditation on storytelling, and more importantly illustrates the difference in approaches between a film like Blade Runner – a film that was added to the National Film Registry – and something like this week’s ‘blockbuster,’ John Carter.  


  • Pingback: Sports Geek()

  • Pingback: Plannersphere20()

  • landscaping austin

    How come we never hear of Tonys Family???

  • http://www.octopus.im Octopus.im

    That pants label you’d hope was in jest. Remind me of the 60’s when the sexist ads were so accepted. Now though big brands in particular have to be very careful their ads cannot be seen as sexist in anyway.

    Even the slogon ‘it’s not for girls’ from the Yorkie chocolate bar is no longer.

    Be interesting to see with certain ‘manly’ products whether consumer insight would tell if they preferred a slight jest ad at women.