Mindshare@SXSWi: Nightcap, Day Two – featuring GroupM’s Cary Tilds

By Rachel Lowenstein and Amanda Hechinger, Managers, Life+, Mindshare NA

Rachel and Amanda here! Despite some rainy conditions in Austin, there were numerous shining moments from SXSWi day two – from sitting on a panel, to interviewing GroupM’s chief innovation officer Cary Tilds, and more. Check it out below!

This morning, Amanda sat on a SXSWi panel about iMessage and marketing, led by messaging company Snaps. Also featured on the panel was Nike’s Kelly McCarthy and Dunkin Donuts’ Nicholas Dunham – together the trio explored current and future capabilities of the messaging space, chatbots, and how advertisers and brands can leverage this medium to engage their consumers in intimate, culturally relevant dialogue. With over 700 individuals in attendance, there was great feedback with many great questions during the Q&A session, placing Mindshare’s insights front and center. Way to represent #TeamMindshare, Amanda!

In another session, The Role of Dataviz in Persuasive Presentations, speakers Nancy Duarte and Scott Berinato discussed data usage in presentations and how it needs to serve a specific purpose as statistics themselves aren’t very memorable. To support this claim, they provided data of their own: 63% of individuals remember stories, but only 5% remember statistics. From a scientific perspective, stories trigger and engage more parts of the brain, which indicates that individuals are processing information at a chemical level. While analytics prove a point, learning about a creative process moves an audience to act. When building out future presentations, we should all use strong visuals that speak for themselves rather than depend on the structure of the data.

Later on, in another great presentation (Myth Busters: How IBM Watson Really Works), the CTO of IBM Watson Solutions gave attendees an inside look at the AI systems behind IBM’s groundbreaking technology. He explained how cognitive computing is about amplifying human cognition, as by nature, humans have physical limitations. Bias and narrowly-focused decisions are made based on limitations. These decisions are being made in conjunction with our limits to process the wealth of data and communications we consume (we take shortcuts when our brains reach capacity). These systems will introduce a perspective that will make us relatively better human beings. In summary, AI has the capacity to augment and improve human intelligence rather than replace it.

But ultimately, the top highlight of our day was interviewing GroupM’s Chief Innovation Officer, Cary Tilds. As two women rising the ranks of strategic innovation roles, we were excited to chat with Cary, one of the most prominent women in emerging technologies in the media industry, at WPP’s Stream.

Despite making a career out of evaluating the hottest crazes like chatbots, AI, mixed reality, and messaging, Cary has a refreshing point of view on predicting the next “it” moment in media for brands. She says, “The most important thing any business must focus on is creating value for the consumer.” Regardless of all the shiny objects we’re seeing at SXSWi, “the next major way a business can do that is by harnessing a Cognitive future where technology better anticipates consumer needs.” A Cognitive future by way of autonomous living is arguably the single theme we’re seeing at SXSWi.

Being two tech geeks, we couldn’t help but press her for a prediction of what’s truly next. Her answer surprised both of us. She gave us a quick lesson in Blockchain and Bitcoin, predicting that they will be largely significant in 10 years. After our 101 on Blockchain, we realized have some serious homework to do on this topic.

Cary has built her career in media long before we started taking a serious look at gender disparity in tech roles. Knowing this, we actually first spent most of our time talking about female empowerment in our industry. With panels like “Women in A&R, Navigating the Stereotypes”, “Female Investors Talk Investing In Women,” and “Empowering A Billion Women By 2020” at SXSWi, we asked her what this increased visibility on gender equality means for brands. She broke it down for us in three parts:

1.       Brands need to better represent the customer. Women are over half the global population but are still largely underrepresented in advertising decisions.

2.       Organizations that have women in leadership roles, including board positions and executive roles, are more profitable.

3.       Diversity in thinking is crucial and helps the way businesses solve problems, whether that’s male vs. female or other dichotomies.

According to CNET, the percentage of women in leadership roles in STEM fields is less than 23%. Being a prominent female leader in the technology and innovation space, Cary has a clear vision for what it takes for women like us working our way up the ranks in technology roles.

1.       Everyone should learn how to code to understand “what’s under the hood.”

2.       Learning not only STEM but the business behind STEM. Learning coding isn’t enough.

3.       Raw talent – Do the work and work hard.

4.       Have a scrappy approach: look at problem solving from all angles and choose alternative angles if it’s beneficial.

5.       Never settle: make the future you envision and don’t settle for the future someone else envisions.

At this point, we were fervently taking notes, typing furiously in our iNotes app, careful not to miss a word of this invaluable advice from a serious #girlboss. Notes taken, Cary!