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#HavasSXSW 2018 Takeaways


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Don’t let the breakfast tacos, parties, brand houses, and activations fool you. SXSW is growing up.

The festival has shifted from a place of discovering the next big digital innovation to a place for reflecting on how technology (e.g., AI, AR vs.VR, and Blockchain) can impact society, along with focusing on social responsibility and ethics.

Five days and hundreds of panels later, here’s a look at the trends and emerging tech that’ll be shaping the future.

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#HavasSXSW 2018 Takeaways

  1. 1. #HavasSXSW 2018:
  2. 2. SXSWi GROWS UP Don’t let the breakfast tacos, parties, brand houses, and activations fool you. SXSW is growing up. The festival has shifted from a place of discovering the next big digital innovation to a place for reflecting on how technology (e.g., AI, AR vs.VR, and Blockchain) can impact society, along with focusing on social responsibility and ethics. Five days and hundreds of panels later, here’s a look at the trends and emerging tech that’ll be shaping the future.
  3. 3. THE FUTURE IS FEMALE The most talked about topic at this year’s festival wasn’t about a new kind of technology or new company, but about women in tech. Women were kicking proverbial ass at SXSWi from Melinda Gates’ keynote address being dedicated to “Time’s Up”, and to supermodel Karlie Kloss for breaking stereotypes and developing her educational charity, Kode with Klossy. The all-female “Mo’ Data Mo’ Problems” panel revealed that while men represented the large majority of SXSW panelists overall, this year it was split 50/50 (male/female) during the interactive portion. Even if the sessions weren’t about gender equality, female speakers often included anecdotes, such as the importance of women empowering one another instead of trying to tear each other down. Kloss echoed other female speakers, like Audrey Gelman, CEO and co-founder of The Wing, about building up female-owned businesses and giving them the tools and safe space to succeed. There was also an influx of female-driven sessions focusing on equal representation in the workforce. Smart, sophisticated females, at every turn, led meaningful discussions. Advertising has long struggled with a “boy’s club” reputation, but the industry is taking a concerted effort to improve by the minute. Obviously, we have a long way to go, but the future is most definitely female.
  4. 4. IT’S MORE COOL TO BE KIND... That’s a quote from Adidas CMO Eric Liedtke during his session on creating the world we want to live in. As marketers and brands, we are responsible for taking a stance on social issues and working toward changing the problems affecting our generation. This session wasn’t the first time the topic of corporate social responsibility came up either—a panel on Gen Z also discussed the importance of brand integrity on influencing a customer’s intent to purchase. As we move forward, each generation becomes more and more socially conscious, and brands are slowly making moves in the positive direction (like Eastern Bank’s wonderful CSR efforts!). The importance of creating a brand your consumers can be proud of was the focus of many speakers at this year’s event.
  5. 5. ...AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY IS DRIVING THE TECH BUSINESS MODEL Tech companies are driving the conversation about taking more responsibility for their actions. As their products become embedded into our lives, companies have been forced to police themselves and communicate their commitment to protecting consumers more and more. Apple’s Eddy Cue explained: “It’s about quality, about filters and focus, and about taking responsibility for what gets into the Apple ecosystem.” As a result of the scrutiny tech companies face, brands are also becoming increasingly aware of their impact on society and are finding a purpose that serves the consumer beyond products and services. Millennials, as we know, will not stand for anything less. R/GA Chicago’s ECD AJ Hassan, who helped create “Like a Girl” campaign for Always, explained that brands can build a purpose into their ecosystem over time— even if a social mission wasn’t in their original DNA. “Speaking out is becoming table stakes—it’s not a nice-to-have anymore. It’s becoming a must-have,” said Latia Curry, an executive for Rally, an issue-driven communications firm. A brand can’t pay lip service to a mission. It has to take action and motivate others to do the same.
  6. 6. AI IS CLOSER THAN WE THINK... Artificial Intelligence and Augmented Reality were yet again key themes, especially since they are steadily being integrated into almost everything we do. For years, media superpowers like Google and Facebook have been using AI algorithms to group, target, and enhance their product stack. Still, the manifestation of AI into the modern lexicon has only gained traction in the past couple of years. There were over 100 panels on these two topics. The panels discussed the use of AI and AR in a variety of areas, such as automotive, content, paid media, art, and commerce. Predominantly, creators and media companies alike approached intelligence as a human task. But it wasn’t until Uber Experience Design Lead Molly Nix’s session where you saw how close we are to having artificial intelligence fully integrated into our daily lives. The session looked at how the company already has self-driving car technology, to the point where these cars could be rolling out to Uber users extremely soon. They are currently testing self-driving cars to ensure strong user experience, and are familiarizing users with the product so it can release officially on the app. Are we all ready for self driving cars? Who knows. But they’ll be here sooner than we know!
  7. 7. ...BUT THERE NEEDS TO BE A BALANCE IN AI As discussed in the “Will AI Change the Future of Creativity” panel, we must find ways to use AI as a tool to advance our successes while balancing its “authored” and “generative” qualities. Creators of AI can still hold on to control through authorship and directive inputs. Though the feeling is that generative qualities of AI are moving quickly beyond structured control. The clearest example is in our Smart Homes where, for example, the AI from a front door camera can speak to the AI for the speakers inside a house, which can then speak to the lighting fixtures, or even the refrigerator. The possibility of all AIs speaking to one another, beyond authored control, looms in the not-so-distant future. The conversation at SXSW focused on how we work with the everyday digital intelligence to focus on tangible ways we can use AI to enhance our everyday lives. AI is currently a passive process (i.e., as we talk into a speaker, a thought or recommendation comes out). Though it’s quickly moving toward an active process. An active AI world includes one where an expressive, emotional, and more “humanlike” connection is made, much like having a friend who can understand your moods, know your surroundings, and help enhance your experiences (e.g., picking the best music for your rainy car ride home). Though this future feels collaborative and universal, AI has a long way to go to make it inclusive of all members of society. Artist and professor Stephanie Dinkins said AIs and lifestyle bots currently struggle to recognize race, social status, and disability. Creators, tech partners, colleagues, and citizens alike have a responsibility to enhance and author AI in a way that is useful, inclusive, and interdependent. We all have a duty to interact with AI in a way that pushes the technology toward what matters most for ourselves. Our everyday use creates more and more data sets, the AI “food” that will make it smarter and more apt for use. We also have a duty to champion companies working toward making AI inclusive and accessible to all. To quote Elon Musk, “We have to figure out how to make the digital superintelligence symbiotic with humanity.”
  8. 8. Using technology to drive empathy seems like a very exciting path to follow in the healthcare environment. VR experiences to better understand the symptoms of a rare disease or how a patient might cope with it, or how the use of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence can predict the behavior of diabetes patients, are just a few applications presented this year at SXSW that can help us deliver solutions more deeply integrated into people’s’ lives and needs. Although we can always research and interview patients to understand the burdens they face, technology allows us to put ourselves in their shoes and experience their drama, and to better understand the emotional drivers that help us communicate with them. This could even lead to developing better products for these patients. The exercise of empathy can ultimately drive better outcomes in treatments, and technology is playing an important role in this process. LET’S TALK ABOUT EMPATHOLOGY...
  9. 9. ...BUT, CAN HEALTH BE COOL? Although the Health track at SXSW has gained prominence in the last few years, it still lacks keynotes and themes that go beyond the technical stuff. Of course, we want to know the latest cases of VR, AR, AI, Big Data and so on—and this year the number of practical cases was certainly high, helping us in the industry to design solutions inspired by these successful cases. But where are the health visionaries? Where is the thinker that can give us a glimpse about what the future of health can be, beyond the technology? We’re all overwhelmed by the tech possibilities and the changes they could bring to the industry. But we’re missing speakers who fill us not with answers and examples, but with new questions. After all, that’s what SXSW is all about. The word “health” was mentioned in more than half of the presentations. It seems that every single tech innovation will potentially revolutionize the healthcare system for good. Healthcare is definitely demanding urgent transformation, but we’re already full of tech-for-health ideas and products that just don’t work. The problem is not always with the product itself. Most of time, it’s that the innovation is not user-oriented. The wearables frenzy has passed (at least at SXSW), but there are still tons of devices and solutions being created to help you “track”, “understand”, “discover” or “predict” health issues—but who’s really asking for them? Are patients, physicians, or caregivers ready for all these innovations? We’re missing a real dialogue between the innovators, specialists and users of these products, in order to focus on what’s really important.
  10. 10. Laura Alesci Content Director Havas Sports & Entertainment Nathan Joslin Mobile Supervisor Mobext Jessica Galoforo Associate Media Director Havas Media Ze Roberto Pereira Chief Strategy Officer Havas Life Sao Paulo Sofie Guariglia Social Media Specialist Socialyse Jessica Santini Communications Havas Media CONTRIBUTORS:
  11. 11. @havas @havas/havasworldwide CONNECT havas