OUR TAKE Leslie Fines
A Love Letter to SXSW 

I think I’ve done pretty well in my career so far. I’ve worked on big brands and small brands, at big agencies and small agencies, on crazy pitches that feel like second jobs, had an ad in the Super Bowl, traveled to amazing places for client asks and met some pretty cool people along the way. Despite all of this (what a 20-something communications major would consider) success, there’s one thing missing. I’ve never been to SXSW. I’ve come close a few times but somehow, this elusive conference remains a mystery. Therefore, I’m writing a love letter, an ode if you will, to SXSW in hopes that one day it will notice me.

(SouthBites - SXSW Exhibitions - 2016. Photo by Alexa Gonzalez Wagner)
(SouthBites – SXSW Exhibitions – 2016. Photo by Alexa Gonzalez Wagner)

Dear SXSW,

Why do I love thee so much? Probably because ever since I started working, my boss and the people I admired most at my agencies would say something like, “Did you see that start-up at South By? I heard the founder speak and he/she was amazing.” At first, I had no idea what “south by” was. Then I realized that everyone who was considered an “innovator” and doing really cool stuff all the time was being sent to Austin, Texas, for a week. Usually to live in a mansion, rented by their agency, and hang out in between listening to really freaking smart people talk and getting free branded swag left and right. Not to mention the food trucks. There are food trucks EVERYWHERE. I don’t know about you, but I’m still not over how much I love food trucks. It’s like a festival of food trucks. (Side bar: what is a taco meet up?! Will I ever know?!)

 Even after I realized that traveling for work can be exhausting, going to conferences and standing in lines can be terrible, and networking is the work of the devil, I still have an undying devotion for you. Seriously, will I EVER understand what it is like to watch 1,000 marketing “gurus” who have only heard of Drake because they paid for the rights to use his song in their :30 second spot hold up lighters as he surprises them on stage and serenades them with “Best I Ever Had”? Tell me where to sign and I’ll pick up a lighter on the way to the airport.

This year, there’s going to be a lot to talk about.
The lucky folks who attend will get to experience awesome VR and talk about if it’s here to stay (I say no, unless Snapchat integrates it into the platform seamlessly). Marketers will be forced to discuss how everything is political even if it isn’t intended to be. Lately, brands have been forced to take a stance on political and social issues in ways that we have not seen in a long time – what happens to the brands that choose not to participate? Or have an unpopular stance on an issue? The innovators will discuss bots and how they are essential for your brand. There will probably be heated debates about sound-on and sound-off video consumption on social platforms (give me subtitles or give me death). At the end of it all, I’ll read some articles and some tweets about what the trends were and who stood out and pretend it’s the same as being there to hear the panelists cut each other off to get their two cents in. Will anyone mention Gen Z and how marketing to them is an entirely different animal and we better be ready for the shift? Let me know when you get back.

SXSW Create - SXSW Exhibitions - 2016. Photo by Merrick Ales
(SXSW Create – SXSW Exhibitions – 2016. Photo by Merrick Ales)

Maybe it’s just hype. Or fake news. Maybe it’s that I really want to be the first to know what the next Meerkat is. Maybe it’s just because I love tacos. Whatever it is, SXSW, I’ll always love you. And one day we will meet, and you’ll love me too.

Yours truly,


When you’re ready to meet, I promise to capture the entire experience on Spectacles so that other SXSW admirers can watch our love unfold.  



Leslie Fines, Manager, Social Strategy