Our “FLUX: Disruption” event video coverage

FLUX is a series of moderated panels that includes some of Australia’s highest profile business people primarily sourced from the media, marketing, investor and entrepreneurial communities. The first FLUX ‘episode’ was focussed on disruption. What is it, can you resist, can you use it? Where is it happening now and next?In terms of format; think Q&A meets Insight.

Here are some conversational vignettes:

The panel included:

• Bruce Buchanan, CEO ROKT, Ex-CEO Jetstar
• Andrew Jaspan, Founder of The Conversation, Ex-Editor of The Age
• Ed Smith, Executive Director, Sales and Marketing, Foxtel
• Grace McQuilton, Co-Founder of The Social Studio
• Chris Hitchen, Founder getprice.com
• Dave King, Innovation Director, The Royals

Thanks to everyone who came along. It was a great night with lively conversation and many interesting ideas came to the surface.

Let Claire know if you’d like to be invited to the next event.

Did Samsung just win SXSW?

SXSW is an iMecca for brands. Big corporations, startup and even Kickstarter projects are looking to lure in and convert influential consumers to evangelists, demonstrate and entice, and often get stuck into recruiting from a feast of talent that pours into Austin. Interestingly, many people I asked (and maybe it was a biased creative industry audience getting the questions) seemed to recall more prominent highlights from brand activity rather than new startups or technical innovation they’d never heard of before. Clearly, now in 2014, there is a habit of people staying up to speed with the tech-all-and-sundry all year round. It’s difficult to do a surprising new reveal so, much of the impact is from touching, trying and being exposed to different ways that companies are trying to tell their story.

Some of the more notable efforts from brands were Oreo who built a custom 3D printer that can customize frosting designs onto already baked cookies.  The various customizations were based on trending tweets. So for instance if Fourth of July is trending your cookie would most likely be covered in stripes of red, white and blue. Chevrolet recognised that with over 70,000 people flocking to the Texas Capital each March, it’s hard to find a taxicab. So they ferried people from place to place, free of charge using a range of highly visual new models (very popular on the rainy Friday). Microsoft had one of the most popular parties with their Xbox One “Titanfall” launch event attracting huge interest, and massive queueing. Of course, a queue is a great expression of brand fandom – not so much brand satisfaction.


.. for me, the brand that smashed SXSW right open on a number of levels, was Samsung. The consumer electronics powerhouse hit Austin with a multi-pronged effort to excite attendees, assist conference goers with real utility, bring the big names.. and importantly, stealthily bridge the Interactive and Music parts of the conference. Lead by those at Cupertino, companies now get that smartphones play as big a role in people’s hunger for music, social and other content services as they do traditional telco features. So if you’re you’re a company like Samsung, how do you approach SXSW? You hit it by being socially-inspired across the Interactive and Music weeks, thus further providing evidence of your mission (and aspirational brand equity).

Here are just some of the Samsung activities at SXSW this year:

Loveable Functionality: If you were a Samsung Galaxy owner, Snapchatting n Skyping and creating battery discontent, you were in luck. Samsung had teams roaming the streets offering free swaps for fully charged batteries. If you tweeted #PowerOn you would get the @SamsungMobileUS team rock up to your location and make all your iPhone and non-Samsung Android peeps feel like lesser beings. Needless to say, in this kind of campaign, where the utility is played out over Twitter, the social audience is more than happy to tweet/boast about the benefits of being with Samsung.

Happy bloggers are ever-so slightly more influenced bloggers: Samsung created one of the best blogger-type lounges at SXSW featuring top food and drink, some of the better WiFi going around, journalism pods (for live crosses etc) and featuring visits from everyone from Shaquille O’Neal and Webby Awards founders to CEOs and the world’s leading creatives.

Inspire and educate: Samsung sponsors a Solve for Tomorrow education contest, which gives schools across the U.S. the opportunity to raise interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) subjects among students by awarding their schools with a share of more than $2 million in technology products. It decided that SXSWedu 2014 would be a great place for finalists to present. Voting took place online and Twitter went crazy with folks trying to garner votes for their local schools and projects.

Hey, let’s launch a NEW MUSIC service. With bigness: In Austin, Samsung times its launch of Milk Music to hit the cusp of the interactive and music schedule with full effect. Promotion for the Samsung-only service was prominent streetside during the first few days but the buzz about Milk Music hit fever pitch in the parties and conversations when news broke that Jay Z and Kanye West were coming. There was a ticket draw for the show which gave badge holders potential entry. But if you had a Samsung Galaxy with Milk Music on it, you got in free. No problem.

At SXSW 2014, Samsung made a big impact with an audience hungry for inspiration and desperate to be impressed.
Got Milk Music? You may have soon.


SXSW 2014: The Hacker Wars

“The battlefield is the Internet. Whoever wins the Internet wins the war.”

This intimate SXSW panel (about 20 attendees) was focused on the situation faced by an increasing number of Hackers being pursued by the government for a range of minor indiscretions. On the panel were two of the US’s most famous hacker defence lawyers, Jay Leiderman and Tor Ekeland, both of whom have a number of high profile cases currently going through the courts. Also on stage was Joe Fionda, a journalist working with Barrett Brown, who is facing 105 years in prison for retweeting a link to leaked credit cards.

The panel was introduced by Vivien Weisman, a writer and filmmaker in the final stages of production of a documentary called The War on Hackers (see the trailer here). Her contention is one that appeared in many other panels during this year’s SXSW: governments are desperate to control the public narrative, and anyone that finds or exposes information that contradicts their narrative, will face the wrath of the Department of Justice prosecutors.

One of the key issues facing hackers in the legal system, and those looking to help them, is that the current laws concerning “unauthorised computer access” were authored during the paranoid, early 80s Reagan era politics. In fact, Leiderman quipped that it was only after Reagan watched the 1983 movie, WarGames, that the government became interested in computer crime. There’s an urban myth that the president may have thought the movie was a documentary, but even if that’s not true, reading the legislation you’ll see that the movie is mentioned numerous times. The other thing of note about the age of these laws is that this was a computing era that pre-dates hypertext and the HTTP protocol. The definition of unauthorised access was a little clearer when someone had to dial-in, break in or phone phreak to infiltrate a remote computer. These days, hackers are being indicted under the same laws for linking to things, having associations with individuals or publishing information. This ambiguity, is allowing the US government a lot of discretion in the selecting who it goes after.

Another interesting discussion concerned one of the most famous of recent hacks, by Jeremy Hammond, into a company called Stratfor. This hack revealed, according to the panel, 92Gb of emails containing evidence of much dubious corporate behaviour. Stratfor is one of the many companies benefitting from the government’s gradual privatisation of intelligence activities and contracts over the last 20 years. Part of what surfaced in the leak concerned another arm of Stratfor, Stratcap, which is an event arbitrage and global macro fund that would trade on the basis of Stratfor’s geopolitical and strategic intelligence. So Stratfor finds out what’s going to happen – and Stratcap bets that it’s going to happen. Conflict much?

Interestingly the Stratfor information was sent to The Atlantic and the NYT who both responded in a day saying there was nothing of interest in the material (you would need a lot of resources to analyse 92Gb of emails in a day!). This annecdote appears to support Weisman’s opinion that journalists are not doing their job with relation to leaks of sensitive info. His reasoning was that journalists need access to people of importance and breaking news to do their job. The government has a long history of rescinding that access where it feels that the wrong perspective is being put forward into the press.

To close off the discussion, Leiderman said he had begun to refer to the broader situation concerning surveillance, corruption of intelligence info, spying and prosecution of hackers, as “tin foil reality”. You know those odd, paranoid guys that used to run around saying the government’s listening to everything we say and is out to get us? They might have been onto something.


SXSW: Weird Rules

My final session at SXSW14 was a cracker: Michael Lazerow, CMO, Salesforce and Buddy Media Founder presented “The Science of Weird: Why Weirdos Outperform Normals”.

Lazerow was super casual and could hold a room… the type that’s as comfortable hanging out with film makers and billionaire VCs as with hippies and dominatrices. His premise was that from a very young age we are taught to be normal. And to make things worse, our ‘standardised’ school based system crushes critical life requirements such as: interest in learning; preference for challenging tasks and quality of thinking.

But then we hit the real world and discover that normal is boring. Boring people are forgettable. Lazerow reminded us that in order to succeed as a person – or as business or brand – you can’t be ‘blah’.

Lazerow believes that ‘Weirdos’ outperform ‘Normals’ because:

• Weirdos question common beliefs – often publicly.
• Weirdos have conviction and will defend their ideas.
• Weirdos are self-directed, self-motivated & fearless.
• Weirdoes learn to listen to their gut.

Weirdos like “Count Cecino” who was the Brazilian billionaire that buried his Bentley in the name of organ donation:


As Lazerow was talking I couldn’t help thinking that us Aussies are guilty of pushing ‘average’ now more than ever. In the US, you only need to go to places like Austin or Venice Beach or Greenwich Village to see just how much American’s celebrate diversity of cultures, interests and creative talent.

So thanks, Michael Lazerow, for an unconventional reminder about the beauty and genius of misfits. Now onto the after party featuring Lady Gaga and DJ Shadow… I wonder if they serve Budweiser?!


See more of The Royals’ coverage at SXSW Live and Fresh, a collaboration with B&T.

SXSW 2014: In Conversation with Edward Snowden

Today saw Edward Snowden’s first broadcast interview into the USA since arriving in Russia on temporary asylum. It was a massive coup for SXSW, and it did not disappoint, with four of the largest ballrooms here full to the brim (one live and three spillover rooms streamed onto big screens)

The panel was hosted by two representatives of the ACLU (American Civil Liberty Union), Ben Wizner and Chris Soghoian, who did a tremendous job driving the discussion whilst the virtual Snowden, introduced to huge applause as the biggest whistleblower in history, took a “special comments” role. Snowden discussed his belief that suspicion-less surveillance not only fails to make us safe, it actually makes us less safe. By squandering precious, limited resources on “collecting it all,” we end up with more analysts trying to make sense of harmless political dissent and fewer investigators that are running down real leads.

When referencing possible solutions to halting mass surveillance, Soghoian quoted part of Snowden’s testimony to the European parliament.”The good news is that there are solutions. The weakness of mass surveillance is that it can very easily be made much more expensive through changes in technical standard.”

He went onto to say that encryption makes bulk surveillance too expensive. The goal isn’t to stop the government from going after legitimate targets. The goal is to make it so that they can’t spy on innocent people. If we start using encrypted services, it becomes too expensive to spy on everyone, and they’ll have to go after the people who really matter.

Ben Wizner then discussed the role of the digital platforms as part of this (e.g.. Google, yahoo etc) emphasising “So many of the services we’re relying on are not secure by default. We need to make them secure out of the box. That means that developers are going to have to think about security early on in the development process.”

Snowden then moved on to explain his choice of the SXSW and the development community to speak out for the first time like this, describing it “as a “call to arms” for technologists to create user-friendly, secure tool adding that the various security tools already embed in the major platforms need to be turned on by default.”

The panel then went to twitter for questions with the first coming from Tim Berners Lee, The inventor of the world wide web, who asked “how we can make oversight more accountable”

Snowden explained that there needs to be another side to the argument and that a good start was to ensure trusted representation for the defence in the secret closed courts that were currently making those surveillance decisions. When asked about whether he was satisfied with the global response to his actions…. he responded that he was comfortable with the level of debate that had been created ….”what I wanted to do was inform the public so they could make a decision about what we should do”

Overall a fascinating discussion, that was managed seamlessly by the ASLU representatives on stage, and served to reinforce our earlier position that personal privacy is going to be something consumers (and by default, marketers) are going to care much more about.


See more of The Royals’ coverage at SXSW Live and Fresh, a collaboration with B&T.

SXSW 2014: Bridge the Gap, Bringing Together Code & Creativity

Today Ben Malbon and Aman Govil from Google Marketing revisited and updated their perspectives on Art, Copy and Code. Although this project was launched at last year’s SXSW, the guys provided additional tales about how to use data and human insight to bring creativity and code together. Much of this was about using search as a database of intent and as creative fuel in the planning and insight phase of campaign development.

One example they used was inspired by the (legendary) Dove “Real Beauty” campaign. They had decided to pull search data that evidenced changing levels of self esteem over time and place in the US. The process simply aggregated volumes of search terms like “how to be more pretty”, “how to be more popular” and more. They found that this kind of search had increased by five times over the last five years. There was no suggestion that this was a particularly scientific part of a potential planning process, but hunts like this can be indicative of a potential creative opportunity.

One of the other key themes was that there is plenty of opportunity to innovate in art and code with some of the less recent technology. Search, YouTube and location data can all be mined effectively without needing to mess with Google Glass or self driving cars. It’s just that sometimes it’s tempting to gaze into the future rather than look at what we can do cleverly today. Sometimes we fetishize the ‘new’ and miss the forest for the trees.

Finally, Ben barely contained his cynacism for the current marketing trend du jour, ‘real time marketing’. He reminded us all put our ideas through a filter of “people don’t care about your brand or your ads”. This is of course good advice in general, but in real-time activity it’s particularly pertinent as you try and find pride of place in people’s streams. The lads suggested that what people want in this context is emotional reward, immediacy & relevance and snackability.

The discussion wandered away from the promise of understanding code vs. art better, but I think the potential insights from data fuelling creative concepts, was a great reminder. Over the next month, I’ll certainly be exploring a range of techniques to better achieve this.


See more of The Royals’ coverage at SXSW Live and Fresh, a collaboration with B&T.

SXSW 2014: Make Yourself the Happiest Person on Earth


If you ever get to speak at SxSW, firstly well done. Secondly make sure you have a short punchy title for your event. I just came from Chade-Meng Tan’s speech on make yourself the happiest person on earth. It was packed. Tan was an early programmer at Google and invented his own title of Jolly good fellow when he moved in to the area of staff mindfulness at Google. He didn’t tell HR about his new title on his business card as he really wanted them to deny him. Which they didn’t. So now he truly is the jolly good fellow that nobody can deny.

Tan’s talk was great he spoke about ways to settle our increasingly busy minds in a hyper connected world. Some tips that make so much sense. Stress and failure are just physical feelings like banging your foot.Meditation is incredible but many of us don’t believe in it. He used the analogy that if you didn’t know about exercise and someone told you if you lift this weight over and over it will build strength, change the shape of your body, lead to a healthier life you would go No way!. Meditation is the same, small exercises that eventually lead to a peaceful mind and happiness along with many other health benefits. He was a great guy working with the likes of Obama and the Dalai Lama and I cant wait to bring back some of his teachings to the rest of the Royals. I recommend buying his book, I will be: http://www.amazon.com/Chade-Meng-Tan/e/B0060EG5EA


See more of The Royals’ coverage at SXSW Live and Fresh, a collaboration with B&T.

SXSW 2014: Conversation with Julian Assange

One of the major themes here this year is privacy and data protection. The conversation is centred around the key SXSW “showpieces” of Edward Snowden and Julian Assange however it feels like it is seeping into many of the other presentations in one way or another.

It is a fascinatingly complex, and at times frustrating, subject to try and get your head around with both extreme sides of the argument ie.  total government control or complete freedom of information clearly untenable positions…… and so the inevitable tug of war for the middle ground begins.

This morning’s virtual interview with a white bearded Julian Assange, not surprisingly, battled hard for releasing control. The dangers from overzealous government surveillance and a range privacy breaches were a focus for a composed, but at times rambling, Assange.

The interview was conducted via Skype and there were a few technical issues that detracted somewhat from the experience – The audio to Assange from the conference failed (allegedly hacked!!) and meant questions had to be typed through which turned it into more of a monolog than an interview.

For us as a marketers, we rely on detailed information from our consumers to be able to present targeted experiences and consumers in the main have been comfortable with allowing access to this data. This was based on their assumption that there was little to no downside but i get a sense that this is starting to change. People are going to get more guarded, they are going to limit access to brands and we are going to have to be very careful with how we communicate with people when we have this information.


See more of The Royals’ coverage at SXSW Live and Fresh, a collaboration with B&T.

SXSW: Riding the Real-time Zeitgeist

Since that famous “Oreo Moment” that turned a Super Bowl blackout into a dubious marketing trend, more brands seem to have failed than succeeded at engaging in the ‘real time’ convo. Not surprising then that one of the first digital marketing panels at SXSW14 saw the coming together of Heads of Social Media from companies such as McDonalds, Dell, Whole Foods and Capital One to discuss the ins and outs of topical social.  Key themes included:

1. Social CRM should not be outsourced to the select few.  Instead of having a “social team”, companies should have a “social organisation” with everyone responsible for engaging with customers via social.

2. Constant and ongoing connection with customers is preferable over ‘one-off’ campaign impact.

3. Brands should aim to occupy the sweet spot that exists between consumer conversations and brand stories. In other words, brands should connect with people around things they’re passionate about but also have some relevance to the brands themselves.

4. If you want to create a social organisation that’s capable of responding in real time then you have to accept the risk it presents.
You can’t stop all issues from ever happening. All you can do is put plans in place to mitigate the impact when the inevitable happens.

It was inspiring to hear how some of the world’s most influential marketers – many of whom are responsible for multi billion dollar brands – are thriving in their use of real-time social media strategies.  Surely we can too.. (?)

For more on ‘hacking the moment’, check out The Royals’ blog, Hackvertising.com.


See more of The Royals’ coverage at SXSW Live and Fresh, a collaboration with B&T.