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12 Snapshots from SXSWi 2016

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Y&R once again sent some of its brightest minds to the interactive portion of the annual event and here’s what they had to say about the trends at the intersection of technology and advertising, and what they mean for brands today.

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12 Snapshots from SXSWi 2016

  2. 2. A tortilla you could have your face printed on? A 10-foot tall robot that gives out free hugs? A VR experience that allows artists to work inside a 3D space and draw life size images? And cocktails created based on your taste prefer- ences, hobbies and lifestyle? Ah, SXSWi – the tech industry spinoff of the annual film and music festival in Austin featured four days of technology, innovation, creativity, and, of course, barbecue and tacos. Y&R once again sent some of its brightest minds to the interactive portion of the annual event and here’s what they had to say about the trends at the intersection of technology and advertising, and what they mean for brands today.
  3. 3. In years past, SXSWi has been the place where people launched “the next big thing,” surrounded by lots of fanfare. But this year, there was no Meerkat or Highlight to generate buzz. As a result, some industry observers have declared SXSW 2016 a bust. SXSW this year felt more grown up. More corporate and more branded, to be sure. But also more introspective and philosophical. Sure, it is still a tech conference, just like CES is still a gadget conference. But the tech conversations felt more anchored to a sense of purpose. So maybe, SXSW has become more about the long view? After all, last year’s darlings Meerkat and Highlight are already irrelevant. So maybe, like the millennials — who make up growing percentage of the attendees — SXSW is simply growing up. But it is too early to tell. We’ll find out next year if introspection is a new trend, or simply the latest flash in the pan. SXSW Grows Up? Alan Vassberg, Vice President, Communications Planning, Y&R Austin
  4. 4. The Medium Becomes the Greater Part of the Message Sam Stein, Sr. Data Strategist, Y&R NY Deep consumer engagement can no longer be achieved strictly through great storytelling. Sophisticated storytelling now requires genuine content, relevant platforms, and eye catching technology. Virtual Reality was all the craze at SXSW, with every tech (and non-tech) brand showing their newest capabilities, but brands still need to further develop their presence on already established platforms to create a full connected brand expe- rience. With major digital publishers admitting that most of their content is not consumed on their website, brands should take a cue and prepare for the majority of their content to be consumed on non-brand platforms. This challenge requires creating content true to individual platform experiences will being true to the bands voice and message across multiple platforms.
  5. 5. From start-ups that solve complicated food decisions for the poor to aggregated concierge services for Airbnb, the idea of “mobility on demand” was a strong presence at this year’s conference. To me, the pick of the bunch was a start-up named Integrated Roadways. Consider first that 40 percent of U.S. roadways are in need of immediate repair, at an estimated cost of $2 trillion and growing…and you quickly understand it’s not a conversation government wants to have. Combine this with the upcoming launch of the 5G networks and Telco’s resistance to invest in cell tower infrastructure, and you now have the kernel of an inspired new business. Integrated Roadways builds precast Lego-style roadway blocks that contain embedded Telco technology and sen- sors that facilitates a public + private partnership that drastically reduces cost to government, and eliminates the need for Telco tower investment (plus it makes for a smooth ride; currently used in German autobahns). The product improves cell services in remote communities, eliminates the need for tower construction and main- tenance, aids live traffic analysis and is increasingly appealing to brands. McDonald’s, for example, is considering push notifications to drivers via the roadway as they approach a drive-thru and encouraging pre-orders via mobile. As governments increasingly look to outsource and avoid asset ownership, I sense Integrated Roadways may be on the cusp of something big. Mobility on Demand Julian Bell, Managing Partner, GPY&R Melbourne
  6. 6. Nolan Bushnell, co-founder of Atari, spoke of a future where technology will offer us a lot of fun and added value, albeit as invisible as possible. “Reality has the biggest resolution,” he said. And indeed if I saw any trend, it’s how technology is blending with reality faster and faster. With AI, sen- sors, robots, big data, etc. not being an end in itself, but merely being instruments to give us an as smooth and as human as possible ride. Human experience instead of user-experience. Don’t misunderstand me: there’s still a lot of mucking around. Earphones with pads that stimulate your vestibular system while gaming in VR so that your body thinks it’s really real (really!), haptonomy built into mobile phones so you can add a tactile “score” to your video on top of graphic and sound effects…But in the long run it’s clear: devices, screens and buttons are just an in-between phase. We’ll have a thousand invisible computers in our homes and lives, all performing simple tasks, all costing less than a dollar and all working perfectly together, running on AI fuel. And all enriching our lives. I tend to believe Nolan. After all, he brought us Pong. It’s certainly something to keep in mind, especially while working for brands. Technology is great, but it should never get in the way of a great idea or make things more complex. That said: while we’re waiting for invisible technology, those VR goggles are ridiculously visible. Tech Should Never Get in the Way of a Great Idea Samuel De Volder, Executive Creative Director, These Days Antwerp
  7. 7. When your tech festival kicks off with President Barack Obama imploring tech professionals and tech-minded citizens to apply their talents toward solving some of the country’s biggest societal challenges, you know this is going to be a different SXSW. Perhaps it’s only fitting that on the eve of the festival’s 30th anniversary, SXSWi is maturing. Sure, it’s more of a brand experience than the tech conference it used to be, but with that shift comes a renewed focus on putting people first. Government is slow, big, bloated and risk-averse, while the tech industry is sleek and willing to take chances. “Culturally unalike,” President Obama remarked. “How do we get them to work together? It’s not enough just to focus on what’s the cool next thing. Part of what we have to do is to figure out how do we use and harness the cool next thing to make sure that everybody in this country has opportunity.” The tech and innovative thinking this year had less to do with hardware and software (do we really need another photo-sharing app?), but more to do with physical prod- ucts bettering consumer’s lives. There was a stronger push for products that would, for example, make us healthier like advancements in clothing, nutritional drinks, and coffee. It’s this kind of thinking that will really resonate with people. People Come First Sulaiman Beg, Director of Global Digital and Social Communications, Y&R
  8. 8. For me, the most memorable, insightful and downright necessary session I attended was the closing keynote “Why Happiness is Hard and How to Make It Easier” by Headspace Co-Founder Andy Puddicombe, a former monk-turned-entrepreneur. In today’s world, especially in business, stress and non-stop movement are constants in the lives of many of us. We tend to overwork ourselves and forget to step back and relax, to allow for a more joyful life as well as the opportunity to clear our minds and make better business decisions. “Meditation is not about clearing the mind,” Puddicombe says, “Rather, it’s about stepping back and seeing your thoughts more clearly.” At one point in his keynote, Puddicombe had more than 1,500 people meditating at the same time for five minutes. Many for the first time in their lives. For those five minutes, he brought every single person in the room into a state of relaxation and mindfulness. That moment of pause is something we all forget to do in our daily lives, and if we all just took a moment to just stop, let go, and relax, we’d have a world full of smarter, happier, more efficient, clear-minded, more productive and straight up friendly business people. Enjoy the Silence Skye Duster, Account Supervisor, Y&R Austin
  9. 9. One of the greatest takeaways is the self-driving car movement and how close we are to it becoming a reality. Self-driving cars will open up so many opportunities and as a marketer, the idea of a captive audience inside a car that can be fed very powerful advertising in a way that was never before possible. I envision cars with an app store and apps that make mobile phones pale in comparison. Imagine if your car could get your tires rotated while you are at work, but before it drove off, it would price compare the local shops and estimate the required gas to complete the journey in order to find the best offering. Delivery of anything will completely change when your car can do the pickup itself. The experience of driving could be paired with so many other experiences like movies, gaming, commu- nication, and business. The Car of the Future Marc Fischman, CEO and Co-Founder, Hyperactivate
  10. 10. Algorithms are important factors in the decision making process. We trust them because they make a promise to make our lives easier by decreasing the amount of decisions we have to make, thereby decreasing our “cognitive load.” There are two types of algorithms of which to be aware: closed (help you decide) and open (help you discover). As a brand, you do not want to be left out of a closed algorithm. In other words, you don’t want an algorithm to make the decision that you are not needed in a person’s life – think Google deciding that you are not relevant to a user’s search query. However, you do want to be a brand that is included in an open algorithm, i.e. people are able to discover you – think Spotify’s discovery playlists where you can listen to new artists. The Future is Algorithms Danica Ferrell, Media Manager, Y&R Austin
  11. 11. Diversity and inclusion was a hot topic at SXSW this year. The keynote panel “Elephant in the Valley” led by two of the survey’s authors, provided a deep-dive into the respons- es of more than 200 women executives in Silicon Valley that explores how they are subject to significant amounts of direct and indirect bias in the workplace. • 84% of women have been told they are too aggressive (with half hearing that on multiple occasions) • 88% have experienced clients/colleagues address questions to male peers that should be addressed to them • 60% of women in Tech reported unwanted sexual advances This session was only one of hundreds of gender and racial bias conversations being had at SXSW. It was the key topic for The First Lady, Rev. Jesse Jackson, and big brands like Google, Facebook, AOL and Johnson & Johnson. For me, SXSW underscored that despite all the progress there’s a real need to build ap- propriate support programs for women, minority groups and people of color, to bridge the gap across our industries and enable a more creative and prosperous future for us all. Bridging the Gap Olivia Chamberlain, Corporate Communications Manager, Y&R
  12. 12. The Art of Storytelling Cameron Hogan, Sr. Program Manager, Hyperactivate Video storytelling was ever present at SXSWi with Snapchat the big winner. The introduction of Stories to Snapchat in December 2014 has allowed users and brands to create a narrative that lasts a full 24 hours. This might not seem long but if you think about the average window of opportunity to grab a consumer's attention (maybe just a few seconds?), really this is an eternity and one better - the consumer can view the content on their own time in the course of a day whereas a tweet is "lost to the scroll" after only a few hours. Also, you can't say in a photo what you can in a 6 or 10 second clip or in a 20-minute live stream. This is the very reason brands and influencers have flocked to leverage these emerging video platforms - they allow for better storytelling and people are engrossed. And here’s why storytelling is so important - our subconscious brain can’t differentiate between reality and imagination, or in the case of social media, simply hearing a story and actually living it. It's why we cry during a sad, heartbreaking moment while watching a movie or reading a book - our conscious knows it’s only a movie/book but the subconscious does not. I love this quote from Phillip Pullman - “after nourishment, shelter, and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” How many times have you been on a first date, an interview, or talking to a random stranger and the first question to arise is "so what's your story, tell me about yourself..." We as humans love a good narrative, and these video-focused platforms cater to that.
  13. 13. While we all know the way we engage with consumers is evolving, this year there was a notable focus on the experience brands cultivate with consumers. We have to forget what we know about reaching consumers and think about where they are and how they interact with brands in order to deliver better experiences. As Iris Bohnet, Professor of Public Policy at Harvard, outlined in her session, we need to remember to share information simply, saliently and comparatively. In her perfect example, we have moved from the complex food pyramid to the intuitive and simple plate proportion “pyramid.” Meanwhile, digital analyst, speaker and author Brian Solis presented the examples of the Heinz ketchup bottle redesign, as well as the case of the parking sign redesign. All of these examples clearly demonstrate how we need to evolve our thinking from just saying the right thing or having great design to providing a brand experience that resonates and/or improves the lives of consumers. Evolving the Brand Experience Jennifer Wilson, Group Account Director, Y&R Austin
  14. 14. I noticed an interesting trend as I researched this year’s panels: SXgood. SXSW Interactive 2016 felt less about technology and more about what we plan to do with it. I felt the focus this year was on social good, purpose and intentionality. These themes were clearly evident during President Barack Obama’s keynote, where he told us that it’s not enough to focus on the next cool thing but that we need to figure out what to do with it to help create op- portunity for people. In the closing keynote, former monk Andy Puddicombe, enlightened all in attendance about the importance of mindfulness. He told us that the individual defines mediation in the way we choose to use it. That idea, the way we choose to use our talents, our ideas, and our technology to do more felt refreshing and powerful at a technology conference. It’s interesting that many panels shared an element of social good infused within their messages, considering that the selected panels are crowdsourced by festival attendees. Perhaps these are the themes on people’s minds—as we continue to make strides in technology what will we do with it, how will we use it to do good? The Importance of Mindfulness Divya Darsi, Strategist, Y&R Austin
  15. 15. 20162016 @YoungRubicam @YoungRubicam