SXSW Interactive had something for everyone. From AR to AI, data visualization to interactive surfaces, this special edition of our SXSWi Nightcap series has four of our team members share their biggest takeaways from the festival.
1) A common theme among SXSW’s most prominent entrepreneurs was stepping out of your comfort zone and being unafraid. Mark Cuban spoke to the importance of never giving up, trying new things, and pushing past regulations if you have a really great idea to share with the world. Casey Neistat also spoke similarly about the “Tarzan method” and always looking to swing to the next stage in your life. His quote, “Do what you can’t,” was a common theme among all the very impressive speakers we saw at SXSW. – Gabriella Kaplan, Senior Associate, Digital Analytics & Insights
2) Augmented reality was another trend we saw everywhere – and the use cases for it are vast. National Geographic combined art and tech with a still photo exhibit that was brought to life through AR technology. The Japan House in the Sony experience had an installment that scanned and identified, and then personified beer cans with cartoon characters that spit out facts about the products. Brand applications range anywhere from OOH digital placements to experiential events or mobile apps. – Alana Diehl, Senior Associate, Social
3) Female roles across the digital and physical worlds were another trend that marketers can’t ignore. From the session with trans-rights activist and “bridge builder” Jessica Shortall to singer Kesha’s panel on women reclaiming their space on the Internet to an entire physical space dedicated to feminist discussions called the Girls Lounge, SXSWi had major themes of women’s roles in modern culture. With increased conversations around female empowerment in not only government, but also a variety of industries, brands should take note and explore what that means for their messaging. This could mean increased transparency in supply chains, forming partnerships with equality-focused organizations, or activating on moments in culture that highlight gender parity. – Rachel Lowenstein, Manager, Strategic Innovation, Life+
4) Not every SXSW session that sounds cool – was cool. We heard from a variety of speakers and panelists, with varying levels of industry experience, but regardless of clout, some presenters and sessions didn’t live up to the hype. Similarly, demo’ed tech products were neat to see, but less practical for brands. Clients need to be picky when entering certain emerging technology spaces as not every single new shiny object makes sense for brands to play in. Additionally, new product iterations are always in development, so brands should wait until a later phase to activate campaigns until all the tech kinks are fully flushed out (caveat: unless there’s a strong agility play). – Amanda Hechinger, Manager, Strategic Innovation, Life+
5) Interactive surfaces were a huge trend we saw that wasn’t in our predictions but extremely well-executed. At the Sony House and in the Showroom we saw numerous applications of projections that functioned as interactive software. One at Sony was a projection that responded to touch on a surface and played a full piano. Another from American University at the Showroom responded to light waving motions in a Star Wars-esque way that moved small balls on a screen. Brand applications are endless for experiential activations or for amplifying out-of-home to be more interactive. – Rachel Lowenstein
6) Artificial intelligence was a huge trend, and the implications for marketers are growing every day. A session with Stylus covered the concept of how “Invisible Marketing” is the future of AI. It’s all about using environmental triggers to advertise through providing relevant and useful content (i.e. life hacks) so that consumers willingly engage with brands because it doesn’t feel like advertising. – Alana Diehl
7) Data points can not only support brand campaigns, but also philanthropic initiatives centered around doing good in the community. Jessica Shorthall, a leader and self-proclaimed “Bridge Builder” from Texas Competes, depicted this firsthand when she discussed her extensive use of data as the core proponent in shutting down discriminatory legislation in the state. She drove home that consumers appreciate and are more loyal to brands that give back. – Amanda Hechinger
8) Almost every session touched on data in some way, but “The Role of Dataviz in Persuasive Presentations” showed how data makes sense, but story makes meaning. The main SXSW data takeaway was that data visualization should be constructed based not only on the information that you’re trying to present, but also on the audience to which you’re presenting. While Nancy and Scott’s session actually focused on data, in essence, every SXSW session was an exercise in data presentation, and some did it better than others. – Gabriella Kaplan
9) No surprises here but VR was everywhere—but it was the context that was surprising. While we have seen applications of VR in gaming, cinema, and entertainment for the last two years, art and design are now weaving their way in to applications for mixed reality experiences. Google created virtual reality art for Wonder Woman to be viewed in Daydream at their Fiber space and many developers had interactive reality art at the Virtual Cinema Trade Show at the Marriott. – Rachel Lowenstein
10) Although advances in technology were hot topics, the effect of social media and influencer marketing was not forgotten. When I spoke with thought leaders Ben Lerer, CEO of Group Nine Media, and Mick Purzycki, CEO of Jerry Media, both had different opinions on how brands should best leverage influencers; however, both agreed that if influencers are properly connected to the DNA of a brand, the results can be massive. Since VR was such a huge trend at SXSW, it will be interesting to see if influencers will be able to break into that space and how new technology in general will affect the social media market.