Rebekah Gierlinska’s SXSW Sydney wrap-up

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Rebekah Gierlinska’s SXSW Sydney wrap-up

Rebekah Gierlinska, managing director of New Zealand’s fastest growing media and digital agency Hearts & Science, shares her quick wrap up of what we need to consider heading into 2024…


Having been blessed with an amazing opportunity to head over to SXSW Sydney – I thought I’d share some of my learnings from what to do next time round through to what to look out for in 2024. Let’s kick straight into it:

First up – wear sneakers and not just any sneakers, wear the most comfortable ones you own. I was amazed by the over whelming size – physically and mentally of all I was about to experience. Coordination is key so get ready early and in advance, and charge your phone up for a inordinate amount of Google Mapping.

While the all the content was impressive and vast, there were four key themes that really connected to me and what we stand for at Hearts & Science. 

Rebekah Gierlinska’s SXSW Sydney wrap-up

Step outside the algorithm

Without doubt a key session for borrowable phrases, that will start to come out in presentations across the tasman in upcoming weeks, Rohit Baraghava reminded us, we are in a modern believability crisis. Expecting people to give us attention when we have created an audience of people who are sceptical, of what we say, what we do and what they can believe is hard. How do we now stand out in this low trust world?

By being non obvious. By being the person who sees things other people don’t. And by not waiting for everything to be right to take action. From someone pretty successful – Cal Henderson from Slack; Intuition plus Iteration is the winning strategy.

So how do we step outside the algorithm? Here is perhaps my favourite takeout from this session – pick up a print magazine for an audience that is so not ‘you’ (men’s health maybe??)…read it, look at the ads, look at the products and look at the language. Understand what is in their world, to try and stand out. Think as they think, because the people that understand people, will always win. Connections that matter are ones that are cemented in real people.

And taking this one step further, is my newest goal, to ‘be a speed understander not a speed listener’ Issac Asimov (via Rohit Bhargava)

Rebekah Gierlinska’s SXSW Sydney wrap-up

Invest in Women

Cindy Gallop – wow! Reinventing Aspiration and through a female lens. Striving for the aspiration of a gender balanced view of the world.

With some of the most powerful ideas and ability to make real change sitting with female founded companies and female leaders, the rate of those leading startups that are invested in is disproportionately low. This has to change for our future to change. “In order to predict the future, you have to invent it”(Alan Kay), and if we at Hearts can show even 5% of the commitment to change Cindy has, women will be a more substantial part of this.

Why? Because women always challenge the status quo – because we have never had it (Cindy).  #goalsforsure.

Using AI to get rid of the Mediocre Middle

No modern media festival is complete with out AI, but my view on the key theme around AI was one of acceptance – yes with a significant efficiency benefit, but not in any way replacing or excluding empathy and creativity.

As the legend that is David Droga said, ‘creativity thrives under the change and duress that technology brings.’ The true balance of Heart & Science.

AI will get rid of the ‘messy middle’, lifting the productivity floor and driving expectations higher and creativity wider. It is about addition, not replacement. Alongside this, ethics and a commitment to making responsible technology our future is essential. Safety in the tech and online worlds is not a matter of viability, it is a matter of will (thanks again to Cindy).

Rebekah Gierlinska’s SXSW Sydney wrap-up

Be optimistic people, people;

What struck me most was the overarching feeling of optimism about the future and what we can expect from it.

People will always be at the core of our industry. Being optimistic about creating connections that matter – ones that come from knowing the people we want to talk to, what drives them, who their people are and what matters in their lives, will always keep us future facing and connected to success.

Through technology, through looking up, through stretching ourselves and re-connecting with people, the future looks bright and exciting, and this industry is an awesome one to be a part of.

Some amazing speakers, amazing experiences and great learnings to consider as we plan for the year ahead.