Every March, Austin prepares itself for tens of thousands of wide-eyed creatives, techies, movers and shakers from all over the world converging on the city for South By Southwest (SXSW). Given the endless smorgasbord of speakers, panels, music showcases, film screenings, experiential marketing campaigns and technology innovations, there’s bound to be something for everyone to enjoy. This year, the Kennedy team braved the downtown traffic (and semi-naked models promoting Bravo’s new TV show, Stripped) to experience it all in a role we don’t get to experience all that often given the rigors of our profession: as an attendee. Over 200 business cards and many naps later, we’re finally ready to decompress our thoughts, review our notes and share our favorite moments from SXSW 2017.

Favorite Party: Bazaarvoice

We partied like it was 2002 with Bazaarvoice and Ja Rule during the #BVatSXSW happy hour event. Sellers on West 4th Street was the perfect location — a fairly new cocktail lounge with a great location in the Warehouse District. What more could we have asked for aside from impeccable ambiance and an epic musical performance? Of course, BV provided even more entertainment with a custom leather goods activation and authentic Austin eats. Before Ja Rule’s performance kicked off, three panels took place that encompassed the authenticity of brand storytelling, creative content and consumer connections. Livin’ it up, indeed.

Photograph by Matt Charnitski. (@mattcharnitski)

Favorite Local Musical Act: Spoon

The Austin Convention Center is hardly a typical setting to find a local indie rock band, but the venue was a mere backdrop as soon as Spoon hit the stage. The amount of energy Britt Daniel and his fellow rockers bring during a performance is always mind-altering, but here, the band’s vivacious onstage persona was accompanied by the excitement of the Austin band’s newest release, Hot Thoughts, making it a no-brainer to highlight their show as a favorite of ours.

Favorite Technology: “SXSW Go” App

Technology is truly changing the way we experience and plan events in an already constantly evolving industry. Partnering with Eventbase for the SXSW Go app for the last five years, SXSW improved its official mobile guide for festival-goers to navigate through the ten-day event, network with valuable connections and discover new content through their user-friendly app. The partners pushed the envelope even further by assembling the app to be extremely personalized and interactive by developing the artificial intelligent chatbot, Abby. Abby served as a primary tool and concierge for attendees to receive answers in a timely fashion about all things SXW. (Think Siri, but specifically for SXSW.)

Favorite Speaker: Adam Grant

Although it was difficult to choose a favorite speaker after listening to so many motivational and informative panels and keynotes, Adam Grant really stood out to us as we walked out of the Austin Convention Center feeling exceedingly inspired. Author of Originals: How Non-Conformists Rule the World and Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success, one of the world’s 25 most influential management thinkers and a top-rated professor at Wharton, Grant provided heaps of insight, sharing ways to expand creative processes by being self-reflective.

Honorable Mention: Los Pollos Hermanos SXSW Pop-up

The week would not have been complete if we didn’t visit Los Pollos Hermanos, the restaurant associated with AMC telection shows Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul. As huge fans of Walter White and Jesse Pinkman (and impressive experiential marketing campaigns), we knew we had to check out the pop up activation while we had the chance. Promoting the third season of Better Call Saul, actors from the show surprised fans at the activation. Although we weren’t lucky enough to meet Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) and Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito), we did get some mouthwatering curly fries.

Interested in partnering with Kennedy for your SXSW event in 2018? Get in touch with our team today and start planning with your on-the-ground experts of Austin!