SXSW Final Wrap: Shatner, The C-Word, BDB, Dolby House, and Amplify x Lego


William Shatner: “I turned back to the earth and it was the white and blue, and that was life.”

William Shatner steals the show in Texas

Despite being a few days from his 92nd birthday, William Shatner was one of the undisputed highlights of SXSW during his keynote, where he was interviewed by Tim League. The talk covered a diverse range of topics, and even opened with Shatner describing his birth and going on to discuss his early career, Star Trek, and space exploration.

The highlight of the talk was when Shatner reflected on his voyage into space on Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space shuttle on Oct. 13, 2021, particularly when he entered the weightless portion of the journey.

“I’d seen footage of Jeff Bezos, he was on his belly, feet akimbo and a kid was throwing candies at his asshole. I knew I didn’t want to spend weightlessness like that.

“I made my way to the window. I looked out the window and for some reason, I was looking back and I could see the wake of the spaceship going through the air. I’ve never heard anybody discussing the fact that you can see a wake like a submarine underwater, it was incredible. I then looked up and saw the blackness of space. When I say blackness, I mean, that blackness you get when you’re in a cave and they close the door and you don’t dare move because the blackness is so powerful. That’s what I saw in space. I am a student of space. I know the Hubble, the web, and the galaxies. I know a lot as much as anybody here, any amature here. It was black, it was dead! 

“I turned back to the earth and it was the white and blue, and that was life. Then what I felt was sadness. I had no idea what it was. I scrambled back into weightlessness. Midway down, I found myself crying out there. Why am I crying? I go to sit down someplace to gather my thoughts and I realised I’m feeling grief. For many years, and decades, I knew because of books that I read and the people, and authorities I spoke to. I knew what was coming this way but a lot of people didn’t want to look at global warming coming. But I knew that it was gathering steam, and I knew that even during the time I was up there. They were entities going extinct. Think how sad, life probably began about 2.8 billion years ago, and life evolved. Clinging to life, the imperative of life, those cedar trees clinging to cliffs, the slim making its way through a maze reaching for the sun to survive. Entities that we don’t know that they existed have ceased to exist and they don’t even know they were there. How sad is that, that this beautiful sacred thing called life has evolved and things disappear in life, and we didn’t know that they were there. How sad. That was my grief.”

Dolby House

Mediaweek visited the Dolby House at SXSW which offered experiences of music, movies, TV, and games using Dolby products and also allowed visitors to engage with the teams and technologies enabling the next generation of immersive, interactive, and engaging live online experiences.

Amplify launches New Global Initative

Amplify, the global creative agency specialising in experience and culture has revealed its latest global brand initiative, worldbuilding the evolution of brand building.

LEGO and Pinterest joined Amplify on stage to explore how worldbuilding strategies can build brands through immersive storytelling and co-creation, creating fandoms and narratives that put audiences at the epicentre. 

Alex Wilson, executive creative director, Amplify led the discussion with Judy Lee, head of global brand experiences and programs, Pinterest; Kris Crockett, global brand development, The LEGO Group and Jeavon Smith, chief creative officer, Amplify. The panel discussed where co-creation starts and stops, whether to make the product or the audience your central hero, if a connected story is more powerful than one that’s standalone, and how to enable a sense of ownership in your world.


Quotes from the panel:
Judy Lee, Head of Global Brand Experiences & Programs, Pinterest, described why diversity and representation is key when architecting spaces and worlds. She said: “Inspiration begins with inclusion. Something we all crave is to be seen and understood. It’s difficult to belong if you can’t see yourself, so we need to focus on positives outcomes and engineering for good rather than growth at all costs.”

Kris Crockett, Global Brand Development, The LEGO Group talked about the importance of putting a brand in the path of the audience, rather than making them work for it. He said: “Memories and immersive stories create deep connections with collective creative communities – let’s give people a feeling of agency and freedom to do what they want.”

Alex Wilson, Executive Creative Director, Amplify, described the power of nostalgia and emotion through the lens of storytelling. He said: “Worldbuilding is about taking a brand, IP or product, putting your audience at the heart of it, and building a world around them.”

How the Creator Economy is Redefining Brands

At the UK House, a panel was hosted on the importance of the creator economy on brands, how beauty brands have been ahead of the curve in how they collaborate with creators, and how Kiehl’s is reconceptualizing its brand identity with creators.

The panel featured, Kiehl’s AVP global social media, Nisha Linnett, along with BDB President Permele Doyle and former Meta creator lead & newly appointed BDB CMO, Becky Owen. 

The panel went in-depth into the value that independent content creators have with brands and Linnett offered an example of the multiple ways that a brand can engage with content creators.

“You obviously have your kind of advocacy strategy where you’re working with influencers, you’re speaking with influencers, etc. What you also need to have is a really strong social listening team that is in Tik Tok every day picking up on trends, whether it’s from your category or without, to pick up on any signals. For example, someone on TikTok made a post about how they went to Equinox, just to fill up their Khiels products. We saw this and we saw it getting a bit of traction and then we spoke to the person who created it and was like, do you mind if we just boost this and see how it goes, and it ended up getting like 20 million plus views. We worked with her to create a part two, where you can actually go into our store because we offer a refillable service, which is a little bit more sustainable and on brand versus kind stealing from Equinox. It is twofold, you have to have a really clear, strong advocacy strategy, but then you have to be living and breathing to pick up on these little trends and peaks that are happening.”

Becky Owen, Nisha Linnett, and Permele Doyle

The C-Word: Advertising’s Guilty Secret

The panel was hosted by Dan Cullen-Shute, advertising CEO, and Ivonne Kinser, Vice President of Marketing and Innovation at Avocados from Mexico and delved into why advertising has become more about saving the world than selling, how the industry can balance politics and populism and where the industry can and should be providing value. Boiled down, this panel was about the areas that the advertising industry just needs to get over itself, and poked fun at the serious nature of brands and purpose-led marketing for things like oat milk and bad sandwiches

One point was that 90% of Cannes Lion Grand Prix winners were purpose-led, yet advertising still languished behind Politicians in a global index of trusted professions. 

Cullen-Shute said: “90% of Cannes creative lions winners were purpose-led and not a single one had a fucking jingle.”

“Advertising could be cool but we are standing in the corner with a sign that says I’m very cool please like me. The industry is too often desperate to be cool and is as uncool as possible as a result.

“We are beating ourselves up massively and recognising the value of capitalism being at the heart of what we do to make it better has disappeared.”

See Also: SXSW 2023: Sparrow’s festival wrap from streaming platforms to AI

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