Great idea, now what? [SXSW 2017 Recap]

March 29, 2017   |   Yuliya Mycka

Earlier this month we ventured down to Austin for our third annual excursion to SXSW. Again, we came back full of ideas and inspiration from a festival featuring 16 tracks, 300+ speakers and 1,300+ sessions. After stepping back for a few days, we challenged ourselves to come up with our top takeaway to make sense of it all.

“I don’t think we have a lack of creativity in the world. We have a lack of people who know how to champion it.”

                                                                                                                                                                            — Adam Grant, @AdamMGrant

These two sentences from the keynote speaker Adam Grant did a stellar job articulating what we’ve been thinking for the past few weeks. The amount of creativity, innovation and “interactive magic” at our disposal today is absolutely mind-blowing. Nowhere is this more evident than at SXSW. Look at the advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, and new storytelling platforms like VR and AR. Understanding and experimenting with these and other new technologies is only the first step. The problem is a lot of us – dare I say most of us – are stuck here. It’s safe, makes you look super smart to others and often leads to a promotion. Most of us stop here and wait for someone else to change the world. Then we copy and paste it for our own gain.

Leading the way is much harder, scarier and often quite complex. Championing those ideas and bringing them to life in spite of great obstacles can offer a much sweeter reward.

1. Champion Big Data

The amount of consumer data we’re amassing daily is incredible. Data science and marketing technology are one of the most in-demand fields today, enabling brands to truly personalize marketing and products for consumers. We even have best practices on how to do it in a non-creepy way. Then why are most brands still personalizing for customer segments (“personas”) instead of individuals and their actual preferences, interests and behaviors? There’s definitely room to champion.

Check out the PPT presentation by Accenture’s Jeriad Zoghby on “Living Profiles and the Power of Personalization.”

2. Champion VR

Virtual reality has been a red-hot trend for several years now. We’ve seen significant advancements in VR tech and some wonderful niche uses in B2B, healthcare and entertainment. This year there was less “oohing and aahing” about VR and more conversations about how to monetize it. Still, we haven’t seen a killer VR app come out that would trigger behavior change and mass adoption of VR. We’re not there yet. Champion anyone?

Check out the highlights from VR/AR track at this year’s SXSW.

3. Champion AI

Artificial intelligence – along with conversational interfaces – is the trend that’s most exciting to me personally. It’s about technology adapting to us versus the other way around. It makes so much sense. In one of the sessions Google’s head of design, Hector Ouilhet, said, “Conversation has always come first – it’s more natural. If speech has been around for 24 hours, then writing has been around for 8 minutes.” He also noted that if we use this comparison, AI and conversational interfaces have been around for roughly 2 milliseconds. The opportunities are endless for those willing to lead.

Check out a terrific SXSW presentation from Huge’s Sophie Kleber on “Designing Emotionally Intelligent Machines.”

4. Champion Diversity

This one’s not about technology. But it’s the most important one. I counted at least 50+ sessions related to the topic of diversity – diversity of gender, ethnicity, disability, opinion. One of them proposed a revolutionary idea: Should your CEO be your Chief Diversity Officer? It’s an interesting idea. Our industry isn’t doing enough today and many of these sessions offered ideas for how we can do better, from removing bias in our creative process to examining the practice of hiring based on “culture fit.” We need more champions of this issue who are willing to make bold changes.

Highlights from several SXSW 2017 sessions on the subject of diversity: “It’s Not Just About Diversity, It’s About Inclusion.”

This year was also special for us as it was Preston Kelly’s first time at SXSW as speakers. If you follow us on Twitter, you probably saw that we hosted a Meet Up on the topic of “Can Agencies Lead Again?” We’ll tell you more in our next blog post. In the meantime, tell us what you think about this post on our Twitter page.

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