Cory Clarke takes the stage at SXSW Interactive

Since its beginning in 1987, SXSW has has gathered tech, film and music enthusiasts from around the world. Specifically, SXSW Interactive focuses on new and creative technologies, and catches the attention of digitally focused brands and media.   

This year, our very own Cory Clarke, Partner, Technology Practice Lead, will speak at SXSW Interactive in a speech titled “Software as an Agency.” With such an exciting opportunity at his fingertips, we decided to sit down and ask Cory what it’s like to present at one of the industry’s premiere events.

Q: You’re speaking at SXSW Interactive on March 13, tell us a little about your topic and presentation? What can people expect?

A: The talk is about opportunities for technology to transform the agency business. Essentially, our work product has changed radically since the tech boom of the 90s, but our actual operating model hasn’t transformed with it. There is an opportunity for a new type of agency.

The audience can expect a discussion of the weak spots within our business, where it is most ripe for transformation via software, and specific examples that hint at how disruption can happen.

Q: You argue that agencies need to change their service model in order to keep up with technology. How is VSA adopting this thinking?

A: As an independent agency, VSA has the nimbleness of a boutique agency, but at 300+ staff we have the scale to create substantial enterprise technology platforms. Those two traits have allowed us to develop software not just for our clients, but for ourselves. Software that augments the way we design brands and create marketing experiences, and that raises the value of our work above and beyond just the creativity and intelligence of our team.

Q: TypologyCMS is one of the pieces of software VSA has recently open sourced. How has that software helped your clients prior to open sourcing?

A: There are tons of CMS options available today—from WordPress to Drupal to Umbraco—but rarely does a CMS meet omni-channel needs, making it difficult to “create-once-publish-everywhere.” What happens when a user needs to publish specific content on a website, digital screens throughout their retail store or office, mobile devices, and the corporate intranet?

That’s where TypologyCMS comes in. Our system is ideal for clients looking to centrally manage content across multiple channels. Clients have seen better management of content and, in turn, their customers have a more consistent brand experience across every touchpoint.

Q: VSA has also built a proprietary Predictive Analytics Platform. Tell us more about that program and how it’s yielding results for clients? Are there specific types of clients that benefit the most from using the platform?

A: Fortunately, our predictive platform is so good I already knew you were going to ask this question and have the right answer already prepared.

No, seriously though, the platform does kind of do that. It takes real-time input from a consumer—anything from an online questionnaire to social media activity—and applies a predictive data model to dynamically deliver highly targeted content, offerings, and social sharing suggestions, post click. This real-time optimization of offerings, content, and actions is yielding incremental uplifts of 25-30% for offer redemptions and purchase intent. These kinds of results are transformative for consumer package goods companies, increasing their ROI on advertising spend and allowing them to increase the average customer lifetime value.

Q: Speaking at SXSW is a pretty big honor—even the Obamas will be speaking. Let us get inside your head a bit—do you have nerves? What are you most excited about?

A: Speaking at SXSW is challenging because the attendees are spoiled with choices—there are at least ten other talks going on at different venues at any point in time, plus all the lounges and social events—and it’s tough to compete for attention. Plus, once you get someone’s attention, to keep that for an hour is a pressure. I’m looking forward to the challenge, but I have a big “free beer” sign in my bag just in case the room is looking a little empty before my presentation.

If you’re attending SXSW Interactive, you can hear Cory speak live on Sunday, March 13th, 11am-12pm at Old School Bar. Visit the website for further details.


Cory Clarke is Partner, Technology Practice Lead for VSA Partners, based in New York City. Cory has pursued a career that bridges the technology and design fields, and he continues to drive innovation as lead of VSA’s Technology Practice. His experience ranges from technology VP at an Internet startup and leading his own software consultancy to academic research and teaching at Columbia University and Pratt Institute. He also holds several patents in software and building design. In 2006, Cory co-founded Tender Creative, which became part of VSA Partners in fall of 2012.