Newbie: SXSW, the Metaverse and Me

Beth Johnson / April 2022

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To say my inaugural visit to SXSW was amazing just doesn’t do it justice. When I returned, I wanted to give team hugs, high fives and shout ‘FUCK YEAH’! My team however put this down to my innate American tendencies of exaggeration and excitement (which is probably true)! I’m not sure what my children put it down to – but they definitely thought I returned more bonkers than before. However, the trip did fundamentally change me…

I entered the world of Web3, XR, Metaverse and NFTs.

I’m a convert.

I can now picture the possibilities. They are far and wide stretching in ways that will change our lives and not just from a marketing perspective. I thought I got it before. I really thought we had some new on-line currency and a new way of coding which would make the internet and the way we shopped better. I WAS WRONG.

Blockchain will fundamentally change our daily lives: house deeds, employment contracts, finance agreements, hospitals, education, politics, government and so much more.

I was able to sit in on seminars with Todd Kaplan the CMO of Pepsico, Angelica Munson CDO of Shiseido, Liz Bacelar Head of Global Innovation for Estée Lauder and none other than Mark Zuckerberg. Their Web3 vision, roadmap and inevitable struggles were laid bare and shared with those in attendance. Todd Kaplan described the journey to Web3 as one where all elements of the business need to be on board and how they have set up a cross function task force to lean into the future so that they can begin to engage with communities now.

Not all that I learned was from heavy hitters. I attended panel discussions with inspirational women in Web3 and found that they are demanding a seat at the table and are not only creators but strategists and innovators that are happy to share their knowledge and help each other. If women want Web3 built to suit them, then they need to be part of journey from the ground up and none said it better than Shelley Zalis of The Female Quotient.

Our small group of brollies attended amazing XR experiences (including award winning experiences of GOLIATH and David Attenborough Green XR).  We also downloaded wallets and bid and won NFTs of upcoming artists. We experienced the Fluf Haus after dark and entered a parallel world between live music and the metaverse. However, most nights we grabbed a beer and headed over to the British Music Embassy to listen to the hottest artists from the UK making their debut appearance in the states. These young people were sponsored by the UK Department of International Trade and supported by UK Advertising Export Group. They truly put on an amazing event.

Whilst I am still very much a novice, I do feel that spending hours in conference seminars and experiencing all that SXSW had to offer, was an epoch in Web3 and all it has to offer the world… and most importantly to marketing.  How brands and we as agencies need to pull up our sleeves and get started, how and when to dabble/test and what the timeline is for change. To this end I’ll be giving small 15-minute sessions on various topics in coming weeks.

Please message me if you’d like to be included. I am not claiming to be an expert but am really happy to share what I know so we can all be part of journey ✌️ I will be covering the basics for anyone wanting to explore what these are and how we might see engagement with them within communities in the immediate future.