SXSW is technically not over – but every year, it seems we know the clear darling way before the festival ends. 2016 hasn’t offered any obvious fan-favorites like Meerkat or Secret (RIP x2), so I’ll just go ahead and nominate Pied Piper for the win.
Pied Piper is a fictional startup from the HBO series “Silicon Valley.” In the show, Pied Piper has built a compression algorithm, and successfully implemented it to improve video stream speed and quality.
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If you’ve never seen the show, however, you might think of Pied Piper as a totally different app based on what its promotional materials in downtown Austin would lead you to believe.
The ads, developed by brand agencies Arsonal and Buster Ink, feature Pied Piper’s new, optimistic logo and wordmark, alongside images of people conquering their worlds. It looks more like an old school Stayfree ad than anything.
The tagline “Helping humanity thrive” ties the imagery together, mocking tech industry’s tendency to see itself as overly self-important, disruptive, and life-changing.
It’s the kind of sentiment that was also apparent with President Obama’s festival-opening keynote, who pointed out some of the misguided ways tech ‘improve’ our lives. “It is much easier to order pizza or a trip than it is for you to exercise the single most important task in democracy,” he said, encouraging the tech community to use their innovative minds to increase civic engagement.
Even the cast and producers of Silicon Valley admit to this slight absurdity. During the show’s panel session this past weekend, executive producer Alec Berg openly stated that the lack of diversity onscreen is intentional because the tech industry is as white-washed and male as the show depicts.
“We’re satirizing a real world,” Berg said. “That real world, the people who do what our guys do, are 87 percent male. Venture capitalists at the partner level are 96 percent male and white, so the world we’re depicting is every bit as off-kilter as our show is.”
For your excellent social commentary work, Pied Piper, you win SXSW.