Our Top 10: Day 2 at SXSW

March 10, 2018


With a few more sessions under our belts, we’re starting to see some content themes emerge. But what’s been really interesting is seeing the shifts in who’s participating in the panels. There’s still big names popping up – Bernie Sanders, Elon Musk, Dan Rather, Melinda Gates, to name a few – but the most popular panels are led by emerging innovators and disruptors. In previous years,  big brands took the stage to share what they did in the past, and now we’re seeing panels talk about the future and the problems they want to solve.

To that end, here’s Our Top Ten from Day 2 of SXSW:

  1. Problems Without Solutions

From our (maybe) dystopian AI-future to solving the global trust/authenticity crisis, there are some big questions being addressed at SXSW. And some incredibly smart people working on those answers. But we’re not there yet. We left several panels thinking, “OK, so what now?” despite the fact that they featured engaging conversation and world-renowned experts. Expect these topics to be mainstays at SXSW (and our public discourse) for years to come.

  1. Synthesis

One of the key AI terms that’s popping up over-and-over again is “synthesis.” Think of it in this way: the power of machine vision isn’t that it can look at a photo and point out all 10,000 things in it. It’s that it can look at a photo, point out all 10,000 things in that photo and then synthesize it all in the end to say “this is a photo of 3 dogs running on the beach on a sunny day.” As AI integrates into all that we do, it’s important we think about what outcomes we want and need, not just the fact that AI can do tasks.

  1. And the Winner Is….

Everyone wants more of the same thing…. influence. As machines get smarter, AI is getting better at serving up things we didn’t even know we needed. So who will win the hearts and minds of today’s consumers? It’s probably a combination of both. AI helps people overcome decision fatigue and provide advice, making an influencer’s value their unique point of view, not simply their volume of content.

A shot of the panel at “Influencers of the Future: Tastemakers or AI”

  1. The Ripple Effect

Yes, Facebooks’s ever-changing algorithm is fueling a rise in paid social but have you ever thought about its impact on the rise of influencers? When brands can’t get reach via they own channels, they have to look elsewhere to make those consumer connections. Influencer channels don’t face the same reach issues and already have trusted relationships with the consumers.

  1. Mental Health

A hot topic this SXSW, mental health is being tackled from a number of different angles – the convergence of tech, healthcare, and modern day thinking.  For starters, physical and mental health aren’t independent and we need to look at the whole picture. Physical injuries can affect a person’s mentally. Psychotherapists can (should?) be brought into primary care. And that just scratches the surface.

  1. Shifts in the Workplace

Companies and workplaces are being held at a higher standard to improve the health and emotional well-being of their employees. Mental health issues are being tied to workplace interaction, building infrastructure, and environmental health. Think about it: people spend most of their lives inside, making the workplace a potential detriment to mental health. Millennials and Gen Z are leading the charge in calling out workplaces they feel aren’t healthy, but human connection in the workplace can be a primary driver in combatting the issue.

  1. Creating Personalized Experiences

Brands at SXSW this year understand it’s not about them. From Sony’s ‘Wow’ experience where you star in your own superhero movie to Starz ‘Sensory House’ where you could customize your own scent or pick a drink based on your personality to HBO’s Westworld installation where you were part of action, this year’s activation made participants the center of attention.

  1. The “I” is for International

SXSW has always had an international presence, but it seemed especially pronounced this year. No matter the topic – fashion, fake news, futurism – every panel, session and event has felt global. And that’s in addition to the more traditional presences that national tourism and economic groups have, from hosting parties, sponsoring panels, and creating their own event spaces. Countries across South America and Europe have shown up bi in 2018.

  1. It’s Hard to Let Go

Influencers are still complaining that brands don’t want to relinquish control. The most compelling content comes when influences can do their thing and infuse their own point of view into the project. We know it’s scary but the magic of Chrissy Teigen saying “Smirnoff is a little bit trashy and a little bit classy, just like me” only happens when brands trust their influencers and give up a little control.

  1. DONUT Be Jealous

Yesterday Greg fell for the Austin cliché of tacos for breakfast, but today he was lured to the sweet side of Austin by Little Lucy’s Mini Donut truck. Austin’s food trucks are in full force this year and it hard to pass up the smell of maple bacon rum donuts. But donut worry, they were mini ones, and we did a lot of walking.