Media in Canada: The battle of AR and VR, and how brands are using AI: SXSW recap

by Bree Rody-Mantha

Alana Diehl, senior social associate with Mindshare, wasn’t quite sure what to expect at her first South By Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival.

Diehl began her media career in mid-2015 and has been with Mindshare for just over a year, but was selected to represent the Toronto offices following a brief challenge at the agency’s annual Mindshare Day. She, along with representatives from Mindshare Montreal, Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York, as well as a rep from Mindshare’s North American HQ, were dispatched to the week-long advertising and technology festival in Austin, to report on the festival and see what they could bring back for clients.

She caught up with MiC upon her return to share the highlights, including how the former Tumblr account known as FuckJerry became an in-demand social content empire, how artificial intelligence is remedying anger with candy bars and whether or not 2017 will finally be the year VR breaks out.

With this being your first SXSW, what were your initial goals and missions with the trip?

Right now, everyone’s talking about AR, VR and AI. Actually seeing how it could be applied in practice helped me get a sense of how clients could use them and what kind of conversions you see.

What are some examples of artificial intelligence applications that you saw?

One particular session on AI that was with a rep from Stylus really stuck with me. He talked about how marketing is going to essentially become invisible through the execution of artificial intelligence. It allows customers to interact in a way that doesn’t feel like advertising, because it provides a meaningful utility. The best example was Snickers. They had this really great activation where it used AI to scan the internet for how people are feeling that day — because their whole thing is, “Maybe you’re not really angry, maybe you’re just hungry.” So it looked for keywords on articles and comments, and the angrier it perceived the website user to be, the lower the price of the Snickers went. They’d look at patterns in the weather, or things that were in the news, and it would serve an ad that also presented an offer and lowered the price. So it used AI to not only connect a brand but essentially drive a conversion. That drive to conversion really shows how adaptive brands have become.

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