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Fyre Fraud, AI Revolution, Hometown Brands and more…

SDX’s 2019 Interactive Day showcased the greatest marketing minds San Diego has to offer.

By Hunter Ricci

What follows is a brief account of the many stories, experiences and ideas shared at SDX’s 2019 Interactive Day.

“A lot of agency people like to tell me they would have seen this from a mile away. I’ve worked for some of the best agencies and start ups you can imagine. This looked as real as you could imagine until when I got there. Don’t get cocky.”




Fyre Festival’s Creative Director Oren Aks Gets Real About his Monumental Marketing Failure

Oren Aks held little back as he discussed his role in the fraudulent Fyre Festival before an audience of several thousand. Aks, a young ad prodigy at the time, was himself duped by the grandiose delusions of Fyre Media Inc. CEO, Billy McFarland. Oren’s agency at the time, Jerry Media by @fuckjerry, bought into McFarland’s outlandish designs hook, line and sinker, without a second thought about the legitimacy of the project. “You don’t question your CEO, and you know a project with Ja Rule must be legit,” Oren noted retrospectively over two years later.

Fyre Festival, which started as a proof of concept for the Fyre app, quickly spiralled into one of the most monumental business failures in recent history. Oren had crafted a stellar brand for a fraudulent nonstarter. Upon arriving on the island his team quickly realized that the entire enterprise was little more than a facade. “We quit 24 hours after landing,” Oren stated wryly.

After the sensational headlines broke, Oren’s personal and professional reputations were all but ruined. He initially ducked the worst of the media firestorm by going dark online and briefly leaving the country. As time passed he was slowly able to come to terms with what happened and even take pride in the caliber of his creative work for the brand, despite its distasteful implementation. “Originally I was really offended by the internet taking my work and memeifying it. But now it’s like I get it. It’s how the internet flows. I’ve detached myself.”*

Major Marketing Takeaways

Oren refers to the emergence of the popular idea of JOMO as a direct result of the Fyre Festival debacle. The Joy Of Missing Out is very much a backlash against the great societal Fear Of Missing Out, a tool often used to generate consumer interest. “People want to get offline, people want to be back in reality.”

Oren’s team relied heavily on influencers like Kendall Jenner to promote Fyre Festival on their social media channels. When asked if he thought if the term ‘influencer’ had become a dirty word, Oren responded “I don’t think so. You get what you put in. You work with them on their platform, you have to trust what they’re doing.”

After telling his story Oren opened up to the audience for a short Q&A. Most of the audience members who stepped forward mentioned rumors they’d heard about a possible brand revival and a second Fyre Festival, a notion which made Oren visibly cringe. One conference goer asked Oren, “what is your biggest take away from the catastrophe that was Fyre Festival 2017?” After taking a second to think Oren responded, “now for me it’s like management has to be top notch. It used to be like who has the best office in town, now it’s like who’s the smartest guy in town?”

*Continuing into a brief side tangent on the changing nature of memes, as they’ve evolved from a form of expression into a marketing tool, Oren noted, “Memes used to be comedy. Memes are now branding.”


“Humans are data. Data is the new oil.”

What the Bronx Can Teach Us About the Impending AI Revolution IMG_8305.JPG

Miguel Sanchez gave an absolutely mystifying talk about the rapidly evolving capabilities of AI which, for a room of industry creatives, was like something out of a sci-fi horror film. We’ve long suspected that artificial intelligence could soon replace unskilled laborers. Far less of us have considered the possibility that AI could also take over creative and technical professions. Sanchez’s presentation cited examples of already existing AI enterprises which promise to do the work of graphic designers, videographers and coders for a fraction of the cost. And it’s pretty good! He showed us a web service for generating custom logos, a site which creates storyboards from provided dialogue, and a robotic tutor capable of improving children’s comprehensive reading level at a speed which brings shame to the public school system (for only $80 a month). There’s even AI for coding AI! It’s not inconceivable to think that, within the next few decades, artificial intelligence could even replace surgeons. Our society’s most elite professions could one be commandeered by sophisticated lines of code.

We’re presented with a future where technology created to serve humans threatens to render us virtually irrelevant. It’s a future in which a new breed of self generating super-minds have achieved near omnipresence, as they’ve become a central fixture of human civilization.

Sanchez, a Bronx area business owner and philanthropist, believes professionals should embrace AI if they want to avoid becoming consumed by it. “Every company has to figure out how to disrupt themselves, otherwise there will be another company who will disrupt you.” Fighting progress has never been the road to success. If a company can find a way to use cutting edge AI to gain a competitive advantage, they should press that advantage. Not engaging with the technology out of fear for its impact on job security could ultimately lead to a Darwinian style demise. “Most companies aren’t built for innovation.”  

Sanchez’s recurring mantra “it won’t be me” reminds us of the need for proactivity and goal oriented thinking to avoid worst case scenarios. Wishful thinking alone won’t be enough to save marketers from the impending revolution. “I need to join a team that is creating my job of the future so I can profit off of it for as long as possible.”

While AI threatens to disrupt traditional modes of income, Sanchez believes that it’s also opens the door for entrepreneurs and innovators to create in ways never before imagined. For Miguel Sanchez this means pursuing business endeavors which ultimately allow him to improve the quality of living for struggling families in the Bronx. Miguel is the co-founder of MetaBronx, “an entrepreneurship education program created to accelerate startups owned by women and members of cultural minorities addressing an overlooked market of $2.5 trillion by solving the problems of the 99%.” He recognizes the capabilities this technology has to improve life in the Bronx, which is why his company Mass Ideation has invested heavily in AI.

When asked if anything could be done to combat AI’s economic impact on working Americans, Miguel offered an interesting solution. To counterbalance AI’s impact on income security, legislative reforms could be introduced that would stipulate that users were entitled to a percentage of the value of their data. In the cyberage “humans are data, and data is the new oil.”                


Hometown Brands: 5 Biggest Takeaways For San Diego Companies




#1 San Diego’s talent pool isn’t as large as LA or New York, but quality employees recruited from other cities are more likely to stay in San Diego. “Pitching someone the idea of moving to San Diego is a lot easier than pitching Salt Lake City.”

#2 It’s harder to secure funding but easier to compete. That’s the main reason Wrapify CEO James Heller took his company up to Silicon Valley for three years to acquire talent and funding, before returning to San Diego.

#3 Operating a tech company out of San Diego allows for unique branding opportunities. “How do we get as close to the epicenter of cool as we can? It kept us from being just another tech brand from the Bay Area,” a marketing team member from GoPro noted when discussing how the energy behind his brand ties into San Diego.

#4 “We were the only MLB team with less than eighty wins to have consistent attendance growth,” said Padres Chief Marketing Officer Wayne Partello when discussing the team’s unique relationship with San Diego. The Padres’ have gone above and beyond to foster a diehard, local fan base. Petco Park stands as an enduring monument to that special bond. Funded largely by the city, Petco is located in the heart of downtown and is built to be a direct reflection of San Diego, featuring some of the city’s favorite restaurants (Phil’s BBQ, Board n Brew, Oggi’s Pizza), with sections of the park named after the various parts of the county.

#5 “You have to be really good at what you do to post up in San Diego. You’re out of your mind to start an agency here. People start agencies here because they want to live here,” said Mark Newcomer, Chief Strategy Officer at Mirum Agency. Though we’re not one of the countries great epicenters for adwork, a number of local San Diego agencies including ViTRO, Mindgruve,  and Crown and Greyhound, have garnered international success.


“It’s not about you anymore, it’s about the business.”

Making the Jump from Teammember to Leader

Adobe Executive Creative Director, Adam Morgan gave a great talk about the transition from creative to creative director. Though his talk was specific to ad industry creatives, the concepts translate more broadly to describe the growing pains of moving into a management position. Adam drives home the idea that, to earn a leadership position, you have to be able to look at a business and it’s needs holistically, and not just focus on mastering your craft. “You need more people proactively asking what can they get done.” Skilled creatives don’t necessarily translate into skilled creative directors. Employees need to have a genuine interest in leadership if they want to be placed in a leadership position. Adam says, “a good indicator of workplace relationships is not needing to ask to be part of a meeting.”

Throughout his presentation, Adam would invoke the idea of the ego-driven creative primadonna to essentially illustrate what not to do. The primadonna is a self assured master of their craft who is frustrated by their work constantly being stifled by management. It’s someone more focused on their own projects than the ultimate success of the company. Adam’s advice to the primadonna frustrated that they’ve been passed over for another promotion, “it’s not about you anymore, it’s about the company.”



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