April 15, 2019

Solving with Soul at South by Southwest

South by Southwest (SXSW) is many things: a conference, a film festival, a music festival, a tradeshow. Focusing on innovation, technology, and leadership, it attracts a wide range of people, from gamers to entrepreneurs to large business owners. Ric Fedyna, Executive, VP Creative at WS, feels fortunate to have been able to attend this year with Graham Kahl, VP, Analytics and Insights.

SXSW is a “little bit of everything,” says Fedyna. “But, I guess if I had to narrow it down, it really is about the next thing now.” It’s all about “what’s going to unfold in the near future.”

While the future-forward event isn’t primarily for people working in advertising, it offers a lot of value for those who do. Fedyna attended seminars on the future of food production, and creativity and design. One of the highlights for Fedyna was the opportunity to see the president of one of our clients, Vive Crop Protection, speak. “Many of our clients are at the forefront of new technology in agriculture; food production has never been more relevant, and SXSW is an ideal event to showcase it,” says Fedyna.

Fedyna believes that any business would benefit from sending people to SXSW to “fill their minds with the potential of what’s happening in the world and what’s about to happen in our industry. Like every industry, technology in marketing is rapidly evolving. A lot of what we saw at SXSW validated our approach with our clients located across North America. While new tools become available it is critical to have an overall plan that uses data to drive creative approaches,” he says.

Fedyna believes strongly in helping the clients at WS help themselves, which is why one of the seminars that really stood out for him was Can Brand Advertising Survive in the Era of 1:1 Marketing? led by Margaret Coles, Associate Partner, Head of Data, Research & Analytics at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. “She spoke about how what we do has to be interesting, has to be creative,” he says. “And I liked hearing that, because I’ve heard so often that ‘creative is king’ and now it’s ‘content is king.’ But content has to be interesting, it has to be good for people to pay attention.”

A big take-away for Fedyna was that advertising agencies have to help their clients be more interesting to their customers. It’s only by being interesting that the customers will pay attention to their message. “We’re the last defense for the customer,” he laughs. “We need to protect them from our clients who just want to talk about product features and benefits.”

Another key take-away for Fedyna was the importance of good leadership. Leaders also need leaders: leaders that allow them to lead and to make decisions and make mistakes and learn from them. “One person I saw was an ex-Marine who went to Afghanistan and Iraq and came back and started a business teaching companies leadership. I’ll definitely be, in my own day-to-day work, massaging my approach as a leader in this company, because of what I learned at SXSW.”