American Greetings eyes analog disruption at SXSW

The greeting card giant's message: All digital development begins with a creative process that is analog.

CLEVELAND, OH: American Greetings is bringing a message to thousands of technology geeks and digital gurus that descend on Austin, Texas this month for SXSW—everything digital starts with analog, and people are still buying physical birthday cards.

At SXSW – from March 12-14 – the Cleveland, Ohio-based greeting card giant is setting out to be the great disruptor of the country’s largest interactive creative technology conference, said Alex Ho, the company’s executive director of marketing.

American Greetings will transform a large pre-existing space at 6th and Trinity Streets in Austin into a trove of analog ideas and processes.

"We're turning it into an analog space with a stage up front, where we’ll conduct workshops with work stations where you can try different analog technologies," said Jon Ruby, SVP and creative director at Mullen Lowe, the card company’s AOR.

Digital selfies will be stitched onto pieces of cloth and a five-second video will be broken down frame by frame into paper photographs. Attendees will also be able to write and send a paper card to a friend, with postage provided.

A vinyl record station will be on site, along with a coffee bar where people can meet and talk without texting or emailing. The team has lined up speakers to talk about the digital revolution and its impact on the analog way of life.

"Disruption can occur beyond digital, and we have the voice to be the analog disruptor in a credible way," Ho said. "The human brain creates in an analog fashion."

But American Greetings is not taking an anti-digital stance. "We realize digital has a purpose and solves a ton of problems," Ruby said. "But maybe we need to stop and slow down and approach each other in a different way."

It’s about the human connection, said Enrique Camacho, VP and creative director at Mullen Lowe, and project lead.

"Texting is not enough," Camacho added. "There’s nothing worse than someone on Facebook that sends ‘hbd’ as a birthday message."

Ho said sending a card has turned into a lost art for newer generations, though he added the traditional greeting card side of the business is stable amid the rise of social media. Birthday cards are the most popular cards, he said.

American Greetings has launched a mobile app for personalized e-cards called justWink, targeted toward Gen Y, Ho said.

Wired magazine is helping American Greetings advance its message that all digital development begins with a creative process that is analog.

Mullen Lowe was responsible for American Greetings’ #Thank List: Spreading Gratitude campaign and the World’s Toughest Job ad for Mother’s Day, which was named PRWeek Consumer Launch Campaign of the Year 2015.

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