Meerkats & Squirrels: No Monkey Business at SXSW 2015

03/17/2015 03:38 pm ET | Updated May 17, 2015

Now in its 28th year, the South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference & Festival is considered ground zero for sampling everything new from tech innovations to films to corporate parties galore, and featuring international, national and regional music acts. New ideas are flowing, and business deals are made hourly here in Austin.

If Mark Twain were around today, he would probably use the service that became popular during SXSW 2007 to Tweet, "The reports of #SXSW 's death have been greatly exaggerated - over 33,000 people here!" and as a 9-year attendee, I would have retweeted his message, and many brands would agree with me. Then again, SXSW 2015 may go down as the year of the Meerkat. Even multiple Emmy Award-winning actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus of the HBO show "VEEP" started her panel discussion today using the new video app that allows anyone to launch a live stream using his or her iPhone. (Sorry Android users, no Meerkat for you)

"SXSW has continued to be the best place for Adobe to connect with a wide range of people in the creative community and they have told us they love getting to see our newest products here," said Heidi Voltmer, Director of product marketing for Adobe Creative Cloud.

"Attendees learn about new technologies, how leading designers tackle projects, how to promote themselves and advance their careers and more. This year we had sessions about getting started with 3D design, social media video ... even sessions with leading designers like Erik Natzke."

Having two days of back-to-back sessions in the same venue made it easy for those of us who wanted to learn from Adobe. Besides the social media session, one that I made sure not to miss was one on latest Photoshop techniques for screen design.

SXSW Means Business

After its world premiere here, Magnolia Pictures has acquired North American rights to Alex Gibney's documentary Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, a look at the co-founder of Apple and the Silicon Valley culture he helped shape.

Announced on site, a surprise screening of the film Furious 7 before its nationwide release next month, was held to a packed audience.

More than 145 feature films will be screened here -- an all time high for the festival. Over 120 of the films were made using Adobe video applications, including 60 that used Adobe Premiere Pro, according to Anita Engleman, Product Marketing for Adobe Creative Cloud Video Segment. These films include 25 feature films, 29 short films and 6 music videos. Additionally, over 80 of the filmmakers utilized Adobe's visual effects tool, Adobe After Effects.

Brands also understand that there are opportunities to engage with attendees and influencers by creating memorable experiences during the 10-day festival, which started March 13. While you still see many gimmicks, such as giant squirrels reading books to promote, a service to discover book locations, other brands are working with their agencies to reach out to influencers. Some of the outreach programs I have found interesting include:

  • Roca Patron Tequila used the SXSW opportunity to create a special weeklong event called Techquila, where select guests are being treated to a special three-course meal paired with specialty cocktails. The dinner is served at a pop up restaurant on the railroad tracks, where The Patron Tequila Express, a 1927 private railroad car owned by John Paul DeJoria, cofounder of Patron Tequila and Paul Mitchell hair products, was stationed. The meal is prepared by chefs from local foodie hot-spot Barley Swine.
  • Wearable Camera maker Narrative reached out to several attendees to test their small Narrative Clip device that takes a photo every 30 seconds. While it takes great photos in the light of day, I eagerly anticipate the Clip 2, being released soon, which promises better photos in the dark and Wi-Fi will automatically upload and store my photos.
  • My home state of Florida, thanks to Film Florida, the not-for-profit entertainment production association, is hosting a Tuesday block party on the exhibition floor celebrating tech, film and music by Floridians timed for the release of a new, original streaming series filmed in the Florida Keys. (Hint: "blood" is in the title).

I hope the above information will encourage companies to send staffers to SXSW 2016. Attendees learn as much from speakers as they do from other attendees. And as I start making plans for my 10th SXSW next year, I would love to learn even more from those that read my HuffPost articles.

Julio Fernandez is Vice President of Search Marketing & Analytics for, a marketing agency that combines search engine optimization with social business intelligence to deliver measurable results. His previous posts covered Google's Knowledge Graph as well as Facebook graph Search and privacy issues. If you see @SocialJulio at SXSW, ask him for his brunch recommendations as well as how to get invited to the best parties.